Posts tagged ‘entrepreneur’

A Conversation with Monica Pope: Woman, Chef, Entrepreneur … Inspiration.

Image care of Creative Commons license from Christine Tremoulet http://www.flickr.com/photos/tedxhouston/4701131732/

We’ve been talking with some entrepreneurs to get their story on owning their own business and advice for youth who will be opening their first business, a lemonade stand, across the nation this year. Our first talk is with Monica Pope.

Lemonade Day [LD]:  Did you have a lemonade stand as a child?

Monica Pope [MP]: No, but I began young [as an entrepreneur]. I went around the neighborhood collecting recycling on my bike – even at a young age I was always eco-conscious. I also sold Bubble Yum in school [which was illegal but a great moneymaker].

LD: What was your first business and what inspired you to open it?

MP: It was  April 1992 – The Touqe. I decided as a teenager that I was going to be a chef and have my own restaurant. I worked with my grandma to learn family food traditions. I’m currently writing a memoir. I want it to connect with family; the food system of the 70s – the way we ate in the 70s, the way we didn’t eat … and what was wrong – we need  to get back to the dinner table.

LD: If you could give one piece of advice about starting a business to our young entrepreneurs setting up lemonade stands, what would it be?

MP: For me, it never was about a restaurant, it’s not the ordinary economy, but a Transformation Economy. Be unique, be different, without trying to be unusual; I’m very picky when I go into a another restaurant –where’s the feeling; where’s the person behind the restaurant? At farmer’s markets –  it’s $15 for a table, I say ‘good luck making $100 profit in one day.’ Farmers are there to either  make money or conveying something else – where they grew it … why they grew it. We’re craving real people doing real handmade things.

LD: Youth who participate in Lemonade Day must have a “caring adult” participate with them. How have your parents and family helped and supported you as an entrepreneur?

MP: My father was the first lawyer at my first restaurant. My family was my investors. I started my first restaurants with no money.

There was an agreement in my family. My mom took care of girls, my dad the boys. Mom prides herself that her daughters were successful – my sister created the internship program at the David Letterman show and then became a producer in a male dominated industry. I went to the top 5 restaurants at any city. Mom was creative and gave us freedom – go where you want to go, do what you want to do. I was the  odd kid who went to college and still knew she wanted to open a restaurant. My parents were there to listen: to hear sad stories and success stories; to support me. And, of course,  grandmother let me come work with her to learn family food.

LD: What do you enjoy about owning your own business?

MP: It’s a lot of work, with a lot of tasks but it’s amazing the opportunities that come your way and what you can achieve. You think you’re just barely staying alive. You don’t think you’re doing anything but you look back and you have a reputation. People come up and say “I’m such a fan.”  I did things while I was just trying to survive. It’s hard every single day – it’s what life is about. I want my 8 year old to be engaged in life – even if she sucks at something, she has to do it. Some people start a business and only want to do one thing that they’re good at. I’ve done a lot of things that I’m not good at. If something doesn’t work, you have to figure out how to cook it or who can cook it right. I didn’t want to just cook and make money. I love everything that informs – I want to connect. I don’t want to live in the world and be numb and bored – I want to be excited – my daughter lives everyday to have pure joy – excited about everything. I want to love everything I do and bring joy to everyone. I think, “Is that possible everyday?”

My advice: Go for it. No matter how crazy it sounds.

LD: Name one scary moment you encountered about starting or owning your business.

MP: The longer I go, the scarier it gets. I look back and wonder how it [the restaurant] stayed up.  I have to pay for insurance. We’ve been underwater, had no electricity. There’s not a lot of cushion in this business. 20 yrs ago, I had nothing to lose and it was terribly hard. Now I have a family and people who’ve been with me for 20 yrs; staff, customers –  if I don’t make it now, I lose all that – it’s not the money, it’s all that wonderful stuff. I just cried yesterday. I’m doing something really hard and trying to figure out how to get money for something big in the next few months. It’s because it’s scary, that’s what I’m supposed to do. It’s crazy. I’ve met too many people who did what they were ‘supposed’ to do – what was planned – and my parents let me make my own decisions. It was really hard. For a really long time. I had to find those people to be with me for 20 years. I had to be the boss that they wanted to be with for 20 years. I created a place I wanted to wake up to everyday.

If you’re afraid to do something, that’s what you’re supposed to do.


ABOUT MONICA POPE Inspired to bake and cook by her Czech grandmother, Monica knew that after she received her Bachelor’s Degree with a major in English that she would cook in restaurants and eventually open her own.

She began her career at the age of eighteen for Cafe Annie in Houston. She later left Houston for Europe where she spent the next three years working in restaurants in Greece and London. In 1990, she earned her Chef’s title from Prue Leith’s School of Food & Wine. She returned to the United States, working first in several innovative San Francisco restaurants, (Bix, Eddie Jacks) then coming back to Houston to work in Marion Tindall’s Bistro Cuisine and Tony Vallone’s La Griglia. In 1992, Monica opened The Quilted Toque, where she made an impact on the Houston food scene.

She opened her second restaurant, Boulevard Bistrot in 1994 where she was named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s Top 10 Best New Chefs.

After 10 years at her Museum District institution, Boulevard Bistrot, the restaurant’s lease was up; Monica decided to break out of the bistro box and create a new concept in an up-and-coming part of Houston, South Midtown. Inspired by the location–an industrial red-brick building on 10,000 square feet of land–Monica has again envisioned and made real an incredible place with simple, good food using as many local and regional ingredients as possible.

Monica is one of the founders of the Midtown Farmers Market a weekly market located at t’afia, that brings the community together on the cornerstone of food with offerings from local farmers, craftspeople, and chefs making artisnal, handcrafted breads, chocolates, pastries and prepared foods.
[from www.tafia.com]

March 1, 2011 at 8:05 pm Leave a comment

Sorry, Mr. Trump. It’s not personal. It’s business.

If you haven’t been following along, here’s the short of it: Shea is a young entrepreneur planning her Lemonade Day stand and her mom agreed to share her story with everyone. We’ve been posting her savvy business journey as she asks Donald Trump to set up her stand on his golf course, chooses to donate her proceeds to a charity dedicated to the memory of fallen police heroes, family and friends lost on 9/11, and reaches out to friends and family for help with marketing.

Lion & Bull & Lemonade….Oh MY!

Shea has been putting the recent snow-day school closings in Virginia to good use as she continues to work on the details of her business and marketing plan for her lemonade stand.  While exciting and fun, Shea continues to learn that having a lemonade stand comes with a lot of responsibility including making tough decisions.

As you know last week, with still no word from Mr. Trump, Shea was faced with making a critical business decision in finding an alternative location for her lemonade stand.  Remember Sam, the General Manager of their favorite restaurant bar & grill?  Well, after Shea spoke to Sam, the family sent a follow up e-mail and provided him with additional information on National Lemonade Day as well as the link to this blog covering Shea’s journey and outlining her charities (Twin Towers Initiative and National Law Enforcement Museum).  It didn’t take long for Sam to work his magic and deliver the good news (as the family walked in the restaurant on Friday) that Shea had officially landed a spot for her lemonade stand on the Lion & Bull Restaurant patio on May 1.   Furthermore, Shea has the full support of this establishment to make her lemonade stand a huge success not only for her but also the community.  It was an exciting moment for Shea (not to mention mom and dad, too).  She was even able to meet Mr. Miner, the restaurant owner.


Sorry, Mr. Trump.  It’s not personal.  It’s business.

Shea’s mom said, “I want to point out that while the positive news of an approved location for her stand was exciting, I think what is more exciting was to hear Sam and Mr. Miner talk about how they want to help and be involved in such a wonderful program that they didn’t know existed for children (until we gave them the info).  What more is that after speaking with Mr. Miner, we learned of his prior law enforcement history and his full support of Shea’s efforts for the charities she has chosen.  Just a feel good moment for all!”

Indeed! We here at Lemonade Day thank Shea and her family for spreading the lemonade love and being so passionate in their endeavors. We also salute Lion & Bull – especially Sam and Mr. Miner for all their support. And opening their doors to Shea.

Hey HAYMARKET, VIRGINIA … you know where to be on May 1.

Support Pours In from the Law Enforcement Community

Word of Shea’s participation in National Lemonade Day and her efforts to support the Twin Towers Initiative specifically for the National Law Enforcement Museum is spreading throughout the law enforcement community.

  • Ben Caperton, Founder of the Twin Towers Initiative, has posted information on National Lemonade Day as well as a link to the National Lemonade Day Blog covering Shea’s journey on the Twin Towers Initiative website under the “news” section: www.twintowersinitiative.com.
  • When Retired Police Officer Ken Cordo, of the Port Authority of NY & NJ Police Department, whose 37 colleagues perished on 9/11 and are among those honored by the TTI, learned of Shea’s efforts, he responded “It’s touching and gratifying that someone who was not even born yet is willing to make this effort so that our vow to ‘always honor, and never forget’ those lost on September 11, 2001 can go forward, generation by generation.”
  • Jal Ally, Retired Narcotics Police Officer with the Chicago Police Department said, “I dare anyone to taste Shea’s lemonade; it’s the best.”
  • In addition, Shea received a personal letter in the mail from Richie Herr, a Retired Detective of the Toms River, NJ Police Department with words of praise and encouragement for her participation in National Lemonade Day. Mr. Herr even sent a check to be the first to buy lemonade from Shea in advance of her May 1st sale.

T-SHIRTS!

Last week, the Shea and her mom worked with family friends from Houston who own Bull-Shirts of Houston on layout and design of t-shirts utilizing Shea’s lemonade logos she designed with their neighbor who is a graphic designer.


Get Your Lemon On t-shirts are officially on-sale!

Upcoming Plans – BUSY WEEK AGAIN

  • Shea has asked what chores she can do around the house that will earn her an allowance that she can put towards her Lemonade Day items.  Shea is now in charge of taking the recyclables out to the garage, which earns her an allowance of $2 per week.
  • Shea and mom are planning a trip to the dollar store, specifically for a pencil box that will be used to store checks, cash, and donations … acting kind of like a cash register.
  • Shea continues to work on “thank you” notes to those who continue to support her.
  • Mom and Shea will work on making a couple of different charts that will be used to track the number of cups of lemonade sold.
  • Mom, Shea and Sam to meet to go over ideas to make Shea’s Lemonade Stand a huge success at Lion & Bull.
  • Dad working on lemonade stand design and has now picked up the task of locating Lemon mascot costume.  Shea will send follow up letter to Ellen DeGeneres this week….remember, she was asked to come to stand dressed as lemon.
  • If time permits, Shea will send a personal letter to Donald Trump informing him of her business decision to secure alternative location, but will extend invite for him to attend new location.

We’re so excited about Shea’s stand and all the support from the community – both local in Virginia and from the national law enforcement community. You can help Shea, too – if you’re on twitter #ASKELLEN to support Shea’s stand and come dressed as a Lemon. She’s @TheEllenShow.

February 23, 2011 at 5:02 pm 2 comments

Shea – The Next Apprentice.

Donald Trump's next Apprentice for sure!

Shea’s been busy creating her marketing plan and business plan since we last checked in with her. No word from Donald Trump yet. So as a responsible business owner, Shea scurried to make a “back up plan.” Shea’s mom had to explain that although she continues to work hard on her letters, these folks are very busy and may not always get a response in the mail in a timely manner.  She approached a local restaurant that the family dines at regularly and asked Sam the Manager for permission to set up her stand on May 1.

Shea found out her neighbor is a graphic designer and agreed to sit with Shea and help her design a lemonade stand logo which is also going to appear on aprons that her grandmother is helping her make [they just picked out the fabric last weekend] as well as some promotional material she is working on getting donated. [Shea’s picked up some of her marketing savvy from her mom who works in marketing. Quick kid.]

Here’s what Shea and her neighbor came up with:

From Shea’s mom, “It’s fun to see how excited Shea is about her stand. She’s really grasping the idea of asking lots of people for help and not to mention letting everyone know of her plans on May 1. She is 6 so trying to understand how her mind works sometimes is amazing!

CHARITY UPDATE!

Shea had thought about donating her proceeds “to helping old people get out of hospitals or police.” She has settled on The Twin Towers Initiative that supports officers who died in 9/11 and supports the new National Law Enforcement Museum to open in Washington, D.C. in 2013. Shea’s mom reached out to the Founder of TTI, Ben Caperton. Ben was floored and tickled that Shea had chosen to start her own Lemonade Day stand and donate her proceeds to TTI. He was so excited in fact, that there is much talk about how he can help promote and support her efforts, especially with 2011 marking the 10 year anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

What’s next for Shea?

Shea and her mom borrowed $25 from the piggy bank and purchased straws, a 3-gallon drink dispenser and a container to hold her supplies.

This week Shea’s calling her friend Owen and his mom in Houston who works at a popular T-shirt printer to see if they will support Shea’s stand by discounting her t-shirts. Shea and Owen were neighbors in Houston and participated in the YMCA after-school program doing Lemonade Day in 2010.

Proving it’s a family affair, Shea is checking in with her grandmother about her lemonade aprons and working with her dad on her lemonade stand design, while her mom works on a write up for TTI and Ben.


We’ll keep checking in with Shea on her efforts. Help us spread the word on twitter and facebook by sharing Shea’s story with your friends and getting that busy Mr. Trump to give Shea a call! [pssssst … he’s on twitter at @realdonaldtrump.]


February 11, 2011 at 8:09 pm 5 comments


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