382: How Dawn Kelly Went From PR Mogul To The Nourish Spot CEO

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382: How Dawn Kelly Went From PR Mogul To The Nourish Spot CEO

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What started as unexpected unemployment at 52 years old turned into an incredible journey of finding purpose and alignment through absolute self-confidence. Dawn Kelly masterfully tells the story of how she became CEO of The Nourish Spot, a family owned, quick serve healthy food, smoothie and natural juice bar located in Jamaica, Queens, NYC. Relying upon her determination, faith and own resources, Dawn is now a courageous entrepreneur providing healthier beverage and food options in the food desert of Southeast Queens.

 In this episode she shares:

  • How important it was to grieve her lost position in the PR world so that she could later pivot and use her acquired skills as an entrepreneur
  • How she has made it a point to expand her business beyond her storefront, leading her to opportunities like vending in Citi Field and The US Open
  • Why she is committed to lifelong learning and the many wonderful resources she has found along the way, you can find a list of her resources at https://sidehustlepro.co/nourishspot 
  • So much more, you don’t want to miss this episode!

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Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:00

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Hey, friends, hey, welcome. Welcome back to the show. It's Nicaila here back with another awesome guest. And today in the guest chair we have Dawn Kelly, the CEO and founder of the nourish spot, the graduate of Howard University dance 30 plus year public and media relations career promoting campaigns and companies has taken her all around the world. Dawn calls herself an accidental but divine entrepreneur, as she expected to work for some big company until retirement. Some would say God had other plans. Don's life changed in September 2015 When a new boss eliminated her rope. relying upon her determination, faith and own resources. Don is now a courageous entrepreneur. In March 2016, she and her young adult children Owen and Jane made the business decision to establish an S corp to provide healthier beverage and food options in the food desert of South East Queens through what's now known as the nourish path Inc. After her three decade long corporate and nonprofit career, Don is now the CEO of the nourish bought Inc. And it is a family owned quick serve healthy foods smoothie and natural juice bar located on the iconic guy R. Brewer Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens, and yc. In today's episode, Don shares what it took to get here, how she funded her business when revenue was slow. And you'll also learn about the investments she makes in her own business education and network development to allow the nourish part to grow and thrive. Let's get right into it.

Okay, Dawn, welcome. Welcome to the guest chair. Thank you for being here.

Dawn Kelly 3:02

Thank you so much for having me. You know the saying remember the days when you prayed for awhile today is one of those days. And I think

Nicaila Matthews Okome 3:12

I'm so honored to hear that I think you I still can't believe I get to do this and that people are honored to be in this guest chair. I remember when I started this show in my living room. So I thank you, I thank you. So alright guys, enough mushy stuff. We're gonna jump right into it. So John, you're incredible. I read your bio before, so they have heard all about what you're up to. But I'd love to know a little bit more about your journey into entrepreneurship in your words. I mean, it's very unique. You were thinking you were going to be in corporate forever. And then what happened?

Dawn Kelly 3:47

Well, I would consider myself a divine entrepreneur and September of 2015, after working about 30 years in the public relations and marketing area. My last role as department Vice President of Global Communications, was eliminated at a major financial services firm. And that really threw my world into crisis, because honestly, I had not thought about what would be my next act at the age of 52. I was 52 years old. And I actually thought that I would retire from that job and then you know, go off and you know, travel and see the world, right? But retirement came early, and I wasn't necessarily ready to retire. And so I had to once I got my grief, I had to figure out what I wanted to do next with my life and what kind of positive impact I wanted to make with the rest of my life and jumping into entrepreneurship was the thing for me I initially I tried to start a PR firm with a friend. But people weren't trying to pay and speak on it. Yes. And I wasn't interested in really, you know, negotiating too much of my worth. I know what I bring to the table, and the years of experience and the awards and accolades that I had won during my 30 year career, and so I wasn't really ready to negotiate. So I jumped into something entirely different. becoming an entrepreneur of a food and beverage brand. But it's still aligned with my life, because I was on my own health journey at that time. So that's how it all started. Yes, yes.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 5:51

You touched on a few things. It's interesting. You use the word grief. I don't think I have heard that before. But it is such a, it is a grieving process when you shift gears, right grieving who you were, and what you thought your life would be. And I just find it interesting that you use that word, what was it about that process for you that you had to grieve?

Dawn Kelly 6:15

Well, the first thing was, I had never in my life lost the job. I never had been unemployed, you know, by the hand of someone else. So I had to get used to that. Like, that was like shell shock for me. And so because I'm an overachiever, I went to college when I was 16. You know, the job that I had, I was department Vice President of Global Communications. I was traveling all over the world, promoting people, places and things. I mean, I loved what I did. So to have that snatched away in an instant, it was agreed, I went home and I cried, and I cried, and I cried, and I cried until I couldn't cry anymore. And so, you know, I'm really happy that today, I can say to you with a smile, that the grieving process worked. It was I needed it. Right, I needed the rest, right. And so because being in a job for 16 years consecutively, that was a lot, right. And I guess I didn't even really notice how much how exhausted I was. So it probably was a mixture of

Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:28

so what were the first steps you took to get started with the nourishment?

Dawn Kelly 7:31

I guess the first steps was deciding upon what it was that I was going to do after deciding that the PR firm wasn't, wasn't going to be it for now. Right? So um, what happened was actually I was home Monday watching TV, because PR people love the news. And I was watching CNN, which was my favorite channel at that time. And a story came on about Styles P, the rapper who opened juices for life in Yonkers, and I was really intrigued, right, I was really intrigued by the fact that wine, he had decided to jump into something like that. And then to you know, I'm a healthy eater. I've always really been a healthy eater. My life, my parents always made sure we ate fruits and vegetables, like eight plants, stuff that I never really thought that I would eat, but been eating in my whole life. And so I was like, maybe I could do that. And I was on my own health journey at the time. Because, you know, being in corporate America, you know, I was socially drinking, eating late, and not following a good diet. You know, I love bagels. I'm a New Yorker. So I love and I love carbonated soda. And so, you know, my weight took a toll over those years, and I found myself wearing a size 16. And I'm sure, and so my body couldn't take it, my ankles couldn't take it. And my doctors were threatening me with all kinds of medicine. And so it all just kind of aligned together. And one day, I found myself in Panera trying to customize a salad and they wouldn't let me and I will tell you, right then and there, I was, like, you know what I'm going to, I think I'm going to start my own juice bar. And that's really what started it. I started praying and asking God, you know, my faith is very important to me. I started praying and asking God for guidance, right? Because, you know, I've been an employee my whole life. And so, you know, opening up a business was like a really great giant step. Okay. And so I started praying and asking for guidance. And you know, God didn't fail me. He gave me ideas of where I can establish it. And then, you know, when you go to college, you know how to look for stuff, right? So then I just started looking for training, right? I started looking for programs that would teach me about running my own business. And that that was what solidified I was going to do this because I realized that I could find the training to give me all of the information that I needed in order to run a business.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 10:16

Yes. And you can find a training on almost anything, even when you think, Oh, no one else has done this. No, there's a training that can help you. So I love that you mentioned that. And also, did you invest in these? Were they free? Or did you have to put up some money to do some of this? Well,

Dawn Kelly 10:32

the first class I took, and I would say, let me just back up a little bit, I would say that one of my favorite sayings that I always say to my mentees, even when I was in corporate America, and now as an entrepreneur, is you have to be willing to invest in yourself, right? Because not always, not always will corporations investment and things you want. So you need to put your dollars and cents, right. And that made sense. C E N T S, n s e n s t, right, you need to put that on for yourself. And so the first class I took was just $100. It was with the Queens Economic Development Corporation, because I'm from Jamaica, Queens, New York. And I took that class, and it was called, like business fundamentals. 101. And I will tell you, it was just enough to make me dangerous.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 11:22

How were you dangerous after that? What what did you do next? Well,

Dawn Kelly 11:25

I started learning about like, different things like a balance sheet profit and loss, right? I knew I needed a budget, find out that I needed to have a lawyer and counting like, these are things I did not know. Right? All I knew is that I was hell bent on creating something new for me and my children. I'm a single parent, I was raising two children. And so I wanted to make sure that I was leaving behind some generational wealth, or at least some generational knowledge, right. And so I paid that $100. And, you know, I took that class, which was about eight weeks. And you know, one of the things I really loved about that class is they sent us out on the street, right? To ask questions of just like, general, you know, people in question, questions about, because I wanted to open a juice bar, ask them about, you know, do they eat healthy? What's their favorite vegetable? Would they pay $5? dollars? For a smoothie? Right? customer research? God? Yes, yes. So I went out. And that kind of emboldened me, right, because that was where I took the class was not in the neighborhood where I was establishing the juice bar, right, because I was establishing the Juice Bar in my neighborhood, where my family enjoys an 81 year history. So it just gave me the confidence, right, and the hutzpah that if I needed to do research in my community, I could do it because now I was doing it with strangers that didn't even know me. And so that was the thing that got me started. And then I got into my neighborhood. And I started asking my neighbors and people I knew in the community, I had my children as their friends. And people were interested, people were telling me that they were going all the way to Harlem, from Queens to find, you know, smoothies, and we grabbed. And so I'm like, Okay, I'm going to be the solution to that challenge, right, you will no longer have to go to Harlem to buy rolls away, right? To get what you need. We're going to provide what you need right here in our community. That

Nicaila Matthews Okome 13:30

is amazing. I love doing consumer research, because you find out so much. And what's great about the approach that this class took is it made it less intimidating. Sometimes we think we need this whole Excel spreadsheet, no, just go out and talk to people. They may not be your ideal customer. But just getting into that rhythm gives you the confidence. And it triggers thoughts like oh, wait, I didn't think they would have that follow up question or yeah, he's gonna Harlem I didn't even think about that. So I love that you guys just start talking to people with my podcast, too. Before I launched it, I got on the phone with people and I just started asking them questions like, Would you listen to this? So I can totally relate to you? now.so you are unemployed. So I'm interested. Were you doing anything else for money? Or were you at that time living like, Okay, I'm just gonna take some time, live off my savings or unemployment while I figured this out? Or were you still looking for another job or working somewhere else?

Dawn Kelly 14:33

No, actually, at this particular time, I was not working at all. You know, I had been laid off and so I just was relying on my severance package and money that I had saved away. And I was being very ginger, you know, very, very thoughtful about how I spent my coins. But one thing I would say is in my role at Prudential One of the last projects I was engaged in with my team was a survey about African American Financial experiences and behavior. And in that research, we learned just how much behind the Able, most African Americans were in terms of the racial wealth gap, and the reasons why. And one of them was about generational wealth, creating generational wealth. Another one was about the lack of entrepreneurs, in small businesses and the black community. And so the research from that survey, it really stuck with me. Okay, especially as I mentioned, I'm a mom, you know, I have two children. I mean, they're young adults now. But still, it made me think like, what am I doing? Right, I had set up, of course, you know, I have a house, you know, yeah, I believe that to my children, what would that be enough? And so I thought, at anything, we could open a business together. And, you know, there's another thing about you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make a drink, right? So I just wanted to least lead my children to the business, right? Ultimately, they would take advantage of it and engage in it, if it was something that they'd agreed with. And luckily, for me, my children, Owen and J. Duncan, they've been instrumental and running the business, my daughter more so because she's a chef by trade. And so she and I work hand in hand to run the business each and every day. And I'm proud of that. Because now I feel like what I learned in that survey, I'm actually walking in it, right? I'm walking the talk. And so we're out here in the streets. Making. Yes, yeah, creating generational wealth to get right.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 16:49

And what you said about leading the horse to water is very key. It's very important, because sometimes, when people have this idea of generational wealth, they're making decisions for their kids. They don't give their kids any input. And they're like, Oh, I'm gonna leave this to damage generational wealth, I'm gonna put this in their name this business in their name. Now they're set? Well, actually, what if they don't want to do that? Right? What if they don't want that business? What happens when you involve them in the whole process, they now know how to run a business. They now know how to do this, again, somewhere else. So if you know it takes a different shape, when it's just them. That's okay. But they now have these skills. They weren't just handed something with no idea what goes into it. Exactly.

Dawn Kelly 17:36

And I will tell you that my daughter has helped me from the get go. So you know, getting on LegalZoom, coming up with a name doing trademarks, working with an attorney developing the menu, like we really work together hand in hand, I'm assured that if I had to walk away today, that she couldn't keep the business calm. That's

Nicaila Matthews Okome 17:59

an amazing feeling. But talk to us a little about this Legal Zoom, I started out that way too. And it could be controversial. But listen, it gets you started. And so you come up with the name and do those initial first steps of, you know, trademark in and all of that good stuff.

Dawn Kelly 18:16

So as I mentioned earlier, one of the things that I really know how to do is research assistants getting help, right? So the first thing we did, we did go on Legal Zoom and start the process, right, because, you know, it's easy, it's right at your fingertips, using a computer. But before we hit the button and signed anything, and went off to score, which is part of the SBA, and I think it's like retired executives, I don't know, the whole what the whole score means. But I went to score and I actually sat down with that paperwork with two advisors, and had them, you know, walk me through good decisions, you know, not so good decisions. And they suggested some great things that I changed before we hit sang, to go to legal zone. So after we got the initial paperwork through legal zone, that's when I hired an attorney, because by then, I was in another class. With enterprise, it was called streetwise. M B, A, and now this class, I did not have to pay anything, except time and effort. Okay, right. Because sometimes it's not money that you had to give, you have to give you a time and your effort. And so I won't lie. That class was very taxing. And we were now in business. And so, you know, a couple of times I won't lie, I thought about quitting, because I was like, You know what, I'm in the business and, you know, this class is taking extra time away, and it's taxing my brain and I'm not sure I can do it all. But I'm not hard

Nicaila Matthews Okome 19:57

to be in the work and also be learning I mean, it really is, is

Dawn Kelly 20:01

true, but I'm not a quitter, you know how Beyonce say a winner, winners don't quit. I just buckled down, and I completed the class. And now I was, you know, way ahead of some of my peers, in terms of knowing how to run a business. And you know, pricing was changing, you know, all kinds of things, finding sustainable goods, right? learning, learning, all types of different things that will positively impact the business and the community at the same time. So that's really how the business began to grow and expand. When it first started, it was just me, right? Because, you know, we wouldn't do and it was just me, you know, greeting the customers making the smoothies and making the juice. But then all of a sudden, because I did PR forever, I started promoting the business.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 21:06

skills come in handy.

Dawn Kelly 21:08

All of a sudden, people will come in from everywhere. And I needed to find staff. And so I reached out to my daughter, because she both my children was still working at this time. And so I reached out to my job, and I was like, Oh, my God, we have too many customers. I can't do it all myself, what are we gonna do? And because she is a trained chef, she graduated from Johnson and Wales University. She said, Oh, I know what to do, Mommy, don't worry. And she reached out to all of the area high schools, and all of New York City's culinary programs. And we established our own internship training program. Yeah, so

Nicaila Matthews Okome 21:49

brilliant. Yeah, love

Dawn Kelly 21:52

it. And so now, we pretty much have our own talent pipeline, because we get these interns from the area schools and area nonprofits, they come in usually as 10th and 11th graders. And once they finish their six to eight week internship, either they ask us, or we ask them if they're interested in staying on board. And I would tell you that we don't have a retention problem at the nourish VA, because our talent pipeline is full of former interns that have decided that they want to work for us. And so our lead manager right now was one of my stores right now, while I'm talking to you. He started with us as a 10th grader, his name is Denzel. And now he is my lead manager. And He's a graduate of cloud. So I'm really proud of that as well.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 22:50

That is brilliant. And I know that is going to be an idea that people are going to listen to this episode, and go ahead and steal that because that is so smart. And it was really interesting to hear your background and how you got started and the steps that you took, I love how much you went after programs and knowledge and said, I'm gonna do I always emphasize just in time learning and don't just get the knowledge. So you're getting the knowledge and you're immediately doing, you're doing and you're learning and putting it into action. Right away. How long was this process for you from getting the idea to actually opening your doors? Um,

Dawn Kelly 23:28

I would say it took about a year and a half, much longer than I thought and I would say that the reason why was about was because of my contractor. I had the worst contractor. Anyone

Nicaila Matthews Okome 23:40

ever find a really good contractor? I just, I don't come and refrain. Yeah,

Dawn Kelly 23:47

I don't think so. I mean, how was it

Nicaila Matthews Okome 23:49

getting the location was that hard, like getting the actual space in New York in Queens?

Dawn Kelly 23:54

That was divine. Let me tell you how that happened. So again, I told you, I went my faith on my sleeve. I was praying one day, and I once God said to me, Oh, you can have this dude's been like, Well, where is it? Oh, my God, like, you told me I can have this, uh, where is it? And I was led outside in my community to our major thoroughfare. It's called guy or girl Boulevard, formerly known as New York Boulevard. And this is gonna sound crazy, but you know, it's the truth. You know, I was told to go out on guy bro and look up. And so I did. I went out on gabra. I looked up to the left and saw nothing and started to think I was crazy and him things. But I was with my daughter and she said, Mommy, like, you gotta look left and right. Like, don't get down yet. Right? Right. Because remember, I was coming out of a grief process. So, you know, she was treating me with kid gloves. And so I I looked over to the right knee. And I swore it. There was an awning across the street from where I was standing. And it said, D. K. upholstery. My name is Don Kelly. Wow. And my business is in that place. And we have been there now, seven years. Wow.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 25:25

Did you see a for sale sign? Or did you go

Dawn Kelly 25:32

to I come down. So what happened was the gate was down, right? The gate was down. And that sound was up. And so every day I would go because in my community, so every day I would go around the corner and try to see if the gate was up or anything and like it wasn't. And one day, I was in a friend's car. And we were crossing the Boulevard right, you know, going from one side to the other side. Because you're in New York. You know what I mean? Yep. And I happen to look out the window. And I saw that gate was up. No lie scouts honor. I jumped out the car.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 26:14

I'm picturing it now.

Dawn Kelly 26:18

Wide open. I jumped up and ran over to this thing. Oh my God. I said to the gentleman who was looking at me like I was crazy. And I said to him, Sir, I said, This is my place.

A unit owner and he was like, ma'am, like, ma'am, calm down. I'm not the owner. I'm a workman. I was hired to fix this place up because yes, the owner does want to rent it. He's like, and I think he might be right now working on renting. And I was like, oh, no, he's not. I say, oh, no, he's that this is my place. I said, Can you please give me his name and number? And sure enough, he did. He gave me the man's name and number. I contacted the landlord. A black man. Okay, black man, what kind of a gruff guy and he pretty much told me to reach out to his real estate company. Okay, which I did another young black man. So all this is lovely to me. Because you know, I'm I'm an African American Studies major from Howard. So that's like, lovely, all these black people, right? So I go meet this young man at his office, his real estate office, and I fill out all the papers. And this is one of the most funniest episodes in my journey. So I fill out all the papers. And he takes the papers and goes in some office. And then he comes back to me. And he's like, I'm Miss Kelly. And I say, yes, he's like, I'm not sure we're gonna be able to rent to you. And I said, why? He's like, you don't work?

This is the first time in a long time anyone has come here and tried to rent something and they don't have a, you know, recurring paycheck. And I said, Well, I'm retired. And he said, Well, you don't you look beautiful. I'm sorry, but you don't look like and I said, Well, that's not up to you. All I need to know is how much the rent is every month, and will the landlord rent to me, and I was very clear. I said, I have money, just like that. And he said, Okay, so I can promise you but I'm going to share with the landlord. So you know how us sisters do. I'm okay told me how much that was going to be. I went straight to the bank, and I got a cashier's check for three months. And when that young man called me and said the landlord wanted to meet me, I walked over to meet the landlord in the space with the check in my back pocket. When I want this what I'm talking about that when I walked in, this older gentleman said to me, uh, you know, hi, you know, what do you want to put here? I told him I want to make this a food and beverage Haven. He said, You don't work just like that. He's

Nicaila Matthews Okome 29:22

not again. Not this again. Yep.

Dawn Kelly 29:25

Girl, I reached into my pocket. I pulled out that check. I opened it up for him to see. He took the check. He handed me the keys, close them in my hand and said, Welcome. Nice. That's a movie right there. I have been in that space ever since. And so back to the contractor. I hired a contractor at the referral of some people that I really believed in. But here's the big one that he wasn't afraid of me. He was afraid of them. Oh, okay. So how he treated Knee was based on the fact that I was a woman. And it was also because he didn't think I was as smart as I was. Now, I eventually got what I needed out of him. But it was very, very challenging and it took too much time. And it took too much screaming and hollering. So I told him then just like I'm gonna tell you now, I told him that I would never recommend him for anything. And anytime anybody asked me about the experience, I was gonna tell them that you have to be really, really clear. And you have to really get go do some, some deep referral work on contractors, because a lot of them are awful. And they don't keep their word. They take your money, and they don't follow up as they should. Now luckily, like I said, I'm a hard charger, not an easy lady. And so I made sure that I got what I needed from him, but it was way too difficult and it was way too long. Sorry

Nicaila Matthews Okome 30:56

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As you're getting started, I know with juice spots, especially you have to any restaurants, you have to meet codes, right? You have to go out there, find out the codes you need to meet, and then do all these things. So first of all, this question is twofold. So one, did you look into that before you signed with the former owner of the place to make sure that hey, I can transform this spot into what I need it to be and to? Was that why it took so long? Because you have to reform it to me code.

Dawn Kelly 34:11

So number one, yes, I knew that the place needed to be remodeled because he had been using it as a church kind of, okay. So it had like platforms and places that I needed to level floor. I needed to put a bathroom in a certain place. And so the design that I wanted, had to change the space. So that's number one. And I told him that I was going to be changing the space. And he was fine. Like I told him since I put that check in his his hand. He was like, do what you want to do. And so the I was really happy about that. Second, the CCOs one of the best things about going into business is I had a advisor from New York City. There's an organization called Small Business Services in New York City and I will was given a NYC best advisor, that person pretty much held my hand from idea to ribbon cutting on the steps I needed to take in order to get a small business open in New York City. And so she arranged for a compliance officer to come visit us at the space. And that person was very clear on where things needed to be. And so I worked with my architect to make sure that information was in the plans, so that any, any contract that we hired would know upfront where things needed to be

Nicaila Matthews Okome 35:43

very, very smart. And by the way, guys, like Don, you are dropping so many gems, I'm going to do something that I have never done, which is to do a recap of the show notes with all the resources that Don has mentioned. So even if you're not local to New York, you can look at this and say, Hey, let me see if they have this in my state or my area, because this is so helpful. So things like score that's national. And then you mentioned streetwise MBA. I'm not sure if they're national, but it sounds like it. Okay, International. Yeah, everything else will go back, we'll re listen to this. And we'll put all the links to everything, guys. So make sure to go to site hustle pro.co/nourish spot and you will get all this info. All right. Okay, so let's move into opening your doors. And by the way, were you starting to get a little nervous? I mean, you're investing a lot of money. You like you said you're retired is the income isn't coming in? So at this point, are you like itching to make money to start to recoup some of the losses? Yes,

Dawn Kelly 36:42

not only was that instant, I was crying, okay. I thought that build out would only take about six months. And so you know, I'm, I'm using all my resources for this, right? There's nothing coming in. And this is all going out. And so yes, every day, I was like, oh my god help me. Instead, I even wrote a prayer in our restaurant, I have an office space, small, but still an office space and has a big, big black on one of the walls. And I was trying to till this day, and the prayer that I wrote on that wall, asking God to help me not only get the store finished and open, but also to help me actually meet the goals and objectives that I wanted for the store. And that prayer still sits there. So that's what I did. I just prayed myself through and talk to myself. And you know, in some cases, got some people that could talk to the contract. Yeah, you know, get him get him, you know, shake him up and get him to do.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:54

Yeah, I can see why that would be necessary.

Dawn Kelly 38:00

But eventually, we got it on time. And I opened we open on September 9 2017. We did a big ribbon cutting. We had all the community there all our elected officials, because Oh, wow. One thing I didn't say to you is you before I went to work for Prudential, I worked for your college as a Director of Public Relations, which is like three blocks away from my store and my home. And so in that role, I had to interact with all of the elected officials in my neighborhood. And so had a great relationship with most of the community leaders, including our elected officials, so I was able to open up the store with them there. In fact, in New York City Council, President now Adrienne Adams, a speaker, she was there at my home. This was before she became speaker, she was a city council woman. But she was in fact there campaigning actually, at the grand opening. So it was a wonderful day on September 9 2017. That was one of the proudest days in my life.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 39:22

I am so impressed. And I mean, this is how you do it. You guys, I hope you're taking notes. This is so awesome. The way you went about this and then having that support from the elected officials coming to the ribbon cutting because like you said they're then using the location or they have the location in mind when they have a community event. And so it just continues to be resources supported. And I read that you are even in 2019 You were named the what is that? These Micro Business of the Year? Yeah, that is amazing. And then okay, you are certified as a minority woman business owner. All right. Surprise a woman business enterprise. Tell us about that process, why it's so important for you to have all of these certifications and also the DBE, what's that one? Okay,

Dawn Kelly 40:10

I'll tell you about them all. So yes, when you know when now we're starting business and people are coming in whispering in my ear, because you know, there are people in your community that want to see you do well, right. Just like people that don't, there's lots that do. And so people started whispering in my ear and telling me things that I didn't know. And so that's what's the most important thing is you have to be open, right? You have to be open to learning. Like I think learning is a lifelong journey. And so what my congressman, actually Gregory Meeks, he is the one that told me, I get certified, there are opportunities out there. But the only way you can take advantage of that is if you get certified. So the first certification that we saw, it was the New York City, and WB E. And all of the certification processes, they are tedious, but necessary, right. And once you have all your papers in place, you can pretty much use those papers to get all of the certifications. And so we did the New York City one first. Then we did the New York State one. And then we did this great one that I want to tell people about so if you have an airport in your community, what Sue like we do, okay, in Queens, all right. It's important to get your A, C, D, B, E certification, what's that stand for? That stands for airport, concession, Disadvantaged Business, Enterprise, all of that all of those letters mean, you're not a millionaire, right?

You're not a millionaire. And you're looking for opportunities in airports. So JFK and LaGuardia together are undergoing like, I don't know, $30 billion renovations over the last couple of years. And it's still going on. And so the only way for small businesses like mine, to engage in airports, is to have that certification. So we went and sought that. And so we have that as well. And I don't want to get ahead of myself. But those that certification has really proved valuable. Because we are now working with the Hudson group, which is now called a balsa in JFK airport. So

Nicaila Matthews Okome 42:46

wow, what does that look like? Because what do you mean, like working on getting a storefront or working on some kind of fusion opportunity?

Dawn Kelly 42:55

So there are seven different ways in which and we'll have to do another call for this fight. All right, guys. So

Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:01

the sub topic is really fascinating.

Dawn Kelly 43:05

There are seven different ways for a small business to be in an airport, especially if you are in the catchment area of the airport. So they have tickers that go along with zip codes, right? So you have to be near near the airport. But for us, we were attacked by Hudson group, which is you know how to news like when you're in, when you're in the airport, you go to the doors. Okay, well, we would tap to be an equity time. So that means now, when you go into Terminal five, and you buy something from Hudson news, you buy something from me to

Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:43

get out. Yeah, see, this is why I'm fascinated by this, because I would see him say, oh, you know, you just have this storefront. Oh, no, no, no, no, no.

Dawn Kelly 43:54

Oh, I love that, darling. Yes, there are levels to this. Not only are we partnered up with Hudson, so I've mentioned to you that we've been in business now seven years. We had to do a bit of pivoting during COVID. Right, because a lot of stores closed down. And we weren't allowed to let people come into the store. So we had to get some handheld POS systems, we had to, you know, have point of sale system. Yeah, we had to have an over reliance on our food delivery apps, our partners like GrubHub and DoorDash. And so luckily, we had those things in place before the pandemic hit. But now we had to, you know, really, really work on the marketing and working with them to make sure people knew that we were still open and available to nourish them, right. So we did all of that. And I tell you that we emerge out of COVID stronger than ever. We were attacked by New York City to be a vendor at Forest Hill State. In the first place where Arthur Ashe ever played tennis vendor there first and we were the first ever black owned vendor in that space in 2021. Can you believe that? Amazing?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 45:12

And I know I can't believe that. I'm like, what is the true?

Dawn Kelly 45:17

And I will tell you this, the amazing part of that is when I used to go to work every day, I took the Long Island Railroad, and I used to pass the Forest Hill stadium and I didn't really know what it was. And I would tell myself every day, one day, I'm gonna go in the I'm gonna go check it out. The day we went there. I walked in with my daughter, okay, and we walked in as owners of the nourish spot to be a vendor for New York City's Welcome back concerts. So we did that for two years straight. Okay.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 45:49

That gave me goosebumps Dawn, like that. Really gave me goosebumps because I'm a big believer in Gods shows you signs but only glimpses. And so when stuff comes back around like that. It's like, oh, chills.

Dawn Kelly 46:04

You call it glimpses I call it breadcrumbs along the way, girl. We sit tight, and we reflective. Yeah, God has pretty much shown me what your role is going to be. You've got to be reminded to see it. And so we, we graduated from there. We graduated from the Forest Hill stadium into the US Open. Oh,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 46:25

my God. I don't know why I feel so emotional. I must be the postpartum hormones because I feel like

Dawn Kelly 46:36

No, listen, I cry. I cry cry every day, every day when I think about what God has done in my life. It's amazing to me. Okay. And so we graduated to the US Open. We just finished our second residency there as a vendor in 2023. This year, we also provided food and beverage service at Citi Field. They have Yes, and I want to tell you the story real quick. On January 29, of this year 2023, I went to an event. And so if I want to teach anybody, anything, show up, get up, dress up and show up. That's like the beginning of anything. And so I'm a member of the Queen's Chamber of Commerce, and I'm also a member of everything, okay.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 47:25

I couldn't tell, I would have never guessed.

Dawn Kelly 47:29

I'm a member of the Queen's Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Mets was holding a visioning event at Citi Field. And so my daughter and I got up to go. Now her birthday was the day before she turned 32. And we went that day. And we went because we're a juice bar. And you know, we're always looking for new places to show up. Right? And why not the nourish spot in Citi Field? Right? Why not give the patrons of the Mets and the other events that they hold? They're an option, a healthy option, right? So we go to their event, and we engage with all the little activations and the questions they're asking of the community about, what would you want to see in a revitalize City field area? When we finished that event, we went into this rietondale where they were given our stadium food, like, you know, pretzels and hot sauce. So we sat down with all the rest of the people to eat the stadium food. While we were sitting there, these two gentlemen walked in. And then TV camera was behind them. Now what did I tell you? I did for 30 years PR. So whenever I see a TV camera, I'm like, Who is that and black camera. So I just did over to the head of the Queen's Chamber of Commerce, his name is Tom grec. And I said to him, Tom, who's those people? And he said to me, you don't know who that is. And I said, I don't I don't know them by face. Maybe if you tell me what their name is, I will know their name. But I don't know these people by face. So he said, Well, there's only one you really need to know. When I saw a Who is it. He said that Steve Cohen. I couldn't stop blinking my eyes. I said, are you talking about Steve Cohen that owns the Mets? Are you talking about Steve Cohen? That that owns a hedge fund? Are you talking about Steve Cohen that is a partner in Citi Field? And he said Yes, John, that's exactly what I'm talking about. And I said, Sir, I need you to introduce me. And he said follow me. Oh,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 49:45


Dawn Kelly 49:46

I am. So I will tell you that this story is I asked him Cohen point blank for a picture with me and my daughter and second First position for the nourish spot at Citi Field.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 50:04

Wow. And what did he

Dawn Kelly 50:07

say? Darling, we were there for two months in July and August of this year.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 50:14

I love it. And so you also now I would assume have some kind of a relationship, right? Or, oh, he knows who you are. Yes,

Dawn Kelly 50:22

he knows who I am. And all of his people know who I am. And so now, I'm looking forward to what can happen next year, right? Yes, because we will have even bigger. Yes, because we had the opportunity to be showcased the taste of Queens cart for two full months. And not just for baseball games. We went there for the Burna Boy concert. We were there for the concert. We were there for soccer games. Okay, so we got to share our brand, right? With so many new people that had never heard about them never spot. And I will tell you this, a direct result of that. It was that people started coming to the nourish spot. I love it was in the delivery app to order from because they now know Vegas.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 51:21

And you know what I love about this, because you know, if you're not from New York, and you aren't familiar with the boroughs, so, you know, Queens, it's out there? Well, at least for me, because I'm from Uptown, right? So a lot of times when people are thinking of starting a business, they're thinking of Oh, Manhattan or Brooklyn, but you are showing just how divided it can be sometimes to just start where you are. Because who would have thought look at all these resources and connections you got just by being in Queens, by the airports, close to the med stadium, like all of these things have happened because of location. So don't count your location out, go find out every opportunity that's available in your location. Exactly.

Dawn Kelly 52:04

Listen, I felt comfortable, right? While I was still afraid of opening my own business, I was comfortable in my community, right? Because I had relationships with so many different types of people and organizations, as well as my children, they also had relationships. So we could train upon those relationships in order to make sure people knew what we were doing, and how we could be of assistance to them as well. Because you make us a food desert, right. And a lot of people are grappling with food insecurity, as well as a lot of food related diseases like diabetes, and obesity and heart disease and gout. These are all illnesses that can be combated or treated with your giant, right, yeah. I'm trans. Right. And so that's why people say health as well. Because listen, if you're not healthy, all that other stuff doesn't matter. Right? You can't take advantage of nothing else. You

Nicaila Matthews Okome 53:14

can't take advantage of nothing else. That's it right there. I look, I would have failed on the financial piece of this. Right. So what happened after you open doors? were you seeing a good amount of revenue? Or was it a slow climb? No,

Dawn Kelly 53:28

it was a very slow climb. And that's when because it was such a slow con, is when I realized I needed to start promoting I needed to trade on my previous experience, and make sure the world at large knew that we existed, right. And not just that the nourish spot existed. But also to tell a couple of different kinds of angles of my story right here I was a 52 year old woman starting in a new business, a person that lost their job, right? Looking to for the next act. A community that was a food desert right now, providing fresh fruits and vegetables that people can use that to, you know, create longer, more vital lives. The internship program, so I had a lot of different angles, right, that I could promote the business. And so that's what I did. I got about the job. And look, that's why you were one of my prayers, because you were on my list too. Okay, I can't believe that. Where you ask the keynote after this is all over when I first asked about you, because I really realized then that I needed to make sure the world at large knew about us. So I started first with our community papers. Then I started branching out to like radio and podcasts. And then I started reaching out to international papers. So I'm most proud of being in the Financial Times. I'm most proud of being in the BBC.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 54:59

And I love it.

Dawn Kelly 55:00

I'm most proud of being in commercials with GrubHub. Right? My daughter and I were in a commercial with GrubHub, I really got about the business of marketing the business because, you know, this is another thing, you know, we go for the same, and the tree falls in the forest. If you don't see it, what do you now know? So I wanted to make sure that people knew the nourish bot existed, people knew what the nourish bot was existing for, and what our why was, and how they could help us help them. So

Nicaila Matthews Okome 55:32

as someone with your experience in public relations all these years, I also like the fact that you started yourself, you knew you could do it yourself. But you also knew when it was time to bring in more resources, because you can't do it all? No, not at all. Talented in the space. Yeah.

Dawn Kelly 55:46

And then I went to one more class. But this is this was a big one. This was the big one once I made $75,000, right, because it took a little while. But once I hit that number, and I made $75,000, I reached out and I applied for the Goldman Sachs 10k SB program. I got accepted honey, I got Yes,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 56:08

it runs that program. So you know, Jessica,

Dawn Kelly 56:12

I love Jessica Taylor, she knows me. Because they have tapped me. Luckily, they have tapped me to be a speaker for the black and Business program. They, they have tapped me to be a vendor at different events. So I tell you, I love the Goldman Sachs people. I'm so indebted for that program. Because not only did I learn a lot, I gained a whole family of entrepreneurs. It's like more than 14,000 people that have graduated from that program that are considered my brothers and sisters, if you will, that I can reach out to for guidance for help, you know, right partner with that class. Like I recommend that all the other ones, I definitely recommend the Goldman Sachs TENCATE. SP program, because it has set me up for life.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 57:08

So I'm glad you mentioned that one too, because sometimes, and you guys know, I wrestle with this on this show, because sometimes these classes or the resources or programs, I'm thinking man, they really need to give businesses more money. But it's not just money that you need on this journey. Those connections, it is kind of it's like going to business school, like the majority of us, the main thing we come out with is that network that we can tap into at any time. So something like a Goldman Sachs small business program like that, right, there is something really good to tap into if you can, and if you're able to, and if you get it grants helped us to. So yeah, we I was going to ask you about that. So tell us about I know you got Beyonce and Anastasia, right?

Dawn Kelly 57:50

Yes, that was the first big one. Oh my gosh, okay. So what's funny is when I first started the business, I was running around asking everybody about grant money and like, where's the grants, right? Because I was loathe to spend my money, right? So I'm liking his grant money I'm gonna ask, but there was none available. But you know, how God works. I mean, COVID was horrible, right? We lost lots of people to COVID. Right. But in terms of what it did for a small black owned business like mine, first, it made sure that more people knew about us, right? Because every doctor and medical professional were telling people to eat healthy, so they sent people to our door. So that's number one. But also, it made people want to help, right, it made corporations want to help. And so I apply for using my PR background, writing great narratives, right? I applied for every grant that we were remotely applicable for, okay, you know, say if they had five things, and I only had four, I still apply. Okay. And we got, we pretty much got every grant that we apply for. So I just recently saw a story in a paper about some girl that got $200,000 in grants for her son to die.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 59:06

Like no big deal. And what did you use the grant investment to do? How did it impact your business? So

Dawn Kelly 59:13

the ones that we got an initial of COVID You know, I helped to keep people on staff because some of the some of the grant money was to keep people working, even though revenue wasn't as great, right. So the kind of the lights on that, you know, and to make sure that my staff had what they needed. Some little bonuses for my staff as well because, you know, they were young people, and I just felt like they, you know, they needed a little bit more because a lot of them lost their graduation because of COVID. And so I'm trying to keep them upbeat so that I did that with it. We got to $25,000 Wells Fargo grant right before we were going into the US Open the first time, so I was that money to get ready for the US Open because with the US Open we are responsible to bring Everything, right? I've staff, the cups, the bowls, the everything. And so that money came right on time for us to be able to be ready to go be a vendor and excel at the US Open. So the money, we use money to build capacity. So what

Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:00:21

are some of the top webs that you can name since we're sharing? Again, you guys were sharing all of the show notes from dawn, you'll be able to go over to side hustle pro.co/nourish spots, and we will send this recap to you. So what are some of the top ones that are still available each year? Do you know,

Dawn Kelly 1:00:38

you know, if you're a female entrepreneur, go on to Alice sign up because they always have grants there. Okay, and so that's number one. Number two is just go on Google and type grants. Right. Right. And then, and then you have to take the time to research them to figure out if one or two good for you and then you're right. We got the NAC P Bay, good grant. i She put us on a Black Parade. I tell you, I love that Beyonce. So we got that we got the grant from Anastasia Swan, which I thought was wonderful here. She is a Romanian woman. Okay, she saw herself in black female entrepreneurs that were trying hard and not able to get the money that they needed from usual and regular banks and lending institutions. And so she picked like six of us or nine of us and gave us all this money.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:01:39

Wow. I never knew that Anastasia had one. That's awesome.

Dawn Kelly 1:01:44

Yes. And I will tell you, we did it just like this. She came online. And they invited like, I guess all of us winners. And so she came online. And she's like, Hi. I'm like, and I tell you, I thought I was gonna be winning, I think 50,000 or something like that. And this woman told me she was giving us $62,000 I didn't they fell on my chair. Okay. Because I'm like, this is the time that we need it. We're in a crunch because, you know, some people didn't have jobs. And so another thing I use the money for is I worked with one of my area, nonprofits is called si MP partnership. And they were giving away coats to kids, right? So what we did we use some of the money. And every kid that got a coat, got a coupon from us to come get food and food. So that's how we use the money. We use the money to make sure that we were helping our staff, helping our business and helping our business through helping the community. Got

Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:02:42

it. I speak enough money, the restaurant space, the food and beverage space. There's always a delicate dance when it comes to margins, I'm sure because especially when you're in a community, and that might be low income. There's only so much you can charge but then you have a labor intensive and price variability with your ingredients. So how do you manage so that you're still profiting and the margins are as high as you can get them? Well,

Dawn Kelly 1:03:09

how we do that? Is we Larry Right? So there's one way you do business with us you do business with as an individual you walk in, you buy something, but I wouldn't tell you how we make our real money as we caterers. So we cater to big companies like Nike WPP Yes, you gotta see, yeah, that's the car we've catered in the World Trade Center. So that's how we are kinda like managing inflation, right? We look for ways in which to showcase ourselves in different places that I will tell you Case in point, today, I'm conducting this podcast with you at Northwell Health. Because they hired us early this morning to bring in breakfast for an event. And not only did they hire us to bring in breakfast for the event, they gave me an opportunity to address the crowd. Now, there are about 80 More people from New York City and New York State that I'm aware of the narrow spot. And I will tell you that I already have three new clients as a result of being here.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:04:18

Don, you are brilliant, you're brilliant. You're talented, you are amazing. And this is why I love doing these interviews, because I'd never would have thought that you were doing all this. You know, I thought oh, she has a storefront Juice Bar. Like that's, that's amazing. But I'm wondering like, you know, what's it looking like on the financial side? So you have completely blown me away like beyond what I could have imagined. And I hope that this, you know, just shows you guys all the opportunities are beyond what's seen at face value when it comes to business many times that you have to put your creative hat on and sometimes go into these programs to learn Like, you know, 10,000 small business and things like that. What I like about those programs is when you get in your business and have your blind spots on someone else would be like, Well, have you thought about this? And that be coming from a knowledgeable space, not just, you know how sometimes your friends and family be like, Why don't you? And they have no idea how your business works or how things run? No, these aren't knowledgeable people. So Don, let's jump into the lightning round. You just answered the very first thing that comes to mind.

Dawn Kelly 1:05:30

Are you ready? Yeah. All right.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:05:32

Okay, what's the resource, not Google? That has helped you in your business? Chat? GPT.

Dawn Kelly 1:05:37


Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:05:39

you're right. You're right about that. Okay, who is a black woman, entrepreneur, non celebrity who you would want to switch places with for a day and why? Okay, so you put that non celebrity party.

Dawn Kelly 1:05:54

Okay, I'm going to say, Miko branch that owns Miss Jessie's. Yes. Okay. And why? Because she's been in business for a long time. And this is not her first business. She was in business before. And so she has a wealth of knowledge about you know, staffing about distribution. And those are things like I'm looking, you know, the next step for us is to have a CPG product, right? See dressings in stores, I see our smoothies and juices and bottles and stores. So I would love to switch places with a black female entrepreneur that has a CPG product.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:06:33

Okay, number three, what is a non negotiable part of your day these days?

Dawn Kelly 1:06:39


Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:06:41

every day, I feel that every morning Hey friends, so sorry, but we lost the rest of the audio for Don's lightning round. But you can find her online over at the nourish spot on Instagram, as well as the dash nourish dash spot.my shopify.com and we will link to all of those in the show notes. It was an absolute pleasure having done in the guest chair I learned so much. I think she is so dynamic and incredible. And if you are in Queens or New York, be sure to head over to 10705 Guy R brewer in Jamaica, Queens to check out the nourishment in person. And with that, I will talk to you next week. Hey guys, thanks for listening to side hustle Pro. If you like the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like you to find the show. And if you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Instagram at side hustle Pro. Plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter at side hustle Pro, that CO slash newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me, including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business tip of the week. Again that side hustle pro.co/newsletter to sign up. Talk to you soon

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meet the host:

Nicaila Matthews-Okome

Hi! I’m Nicaila, the Creator and Host of the Side Hustle Pro Podcast. I started Side Hustle Pro when I was a side hustler myself. I was a digital marketer at NPR by day, side hustler by night. Through the powerful stories shared on this show and the courage to launch my own initiatives, I was able to quit my own job and go full time with Side Hustle Pro.

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