"We didn't get to set up a lemonade stand that day, but I learned a lot about being prepared and making sure to have everything you need to be successful before endeavoring on a new venture."
In the lead up to Labor Day, we have put together a Q&A series we're calling "Q&Aid" with some of the top entrepreneurs and city/business leaders to get our volunteers' creative juices flowing.
For the latest installment of our series, we sit down with Justin Thompson, founder of JTR Group.
Editor's Notes: Justin is an advisor to the Lemon-Aid Project and JTR Group is a sponsor of our 25th anniversary celebration. Parts of this interview have also been edited and condensed for clarity.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I own and operate 3 restaurants, a catering company, a bar, and a bakery, all in Tulsa OK. I have written and published a cookbook, been voted Tulsa's best chef multiple times, and I've opened 10 restaurants over the course of my career.
Please tell us about your favorite lemonade stand experience.
When I was a kid, me and a friend of mine decided to set up a lemonade stand at his house. The night before, we planned how much we were going to make, how much we were going to charge, made posters, talked about how we were going our spend our money, and every other detail we could think of, except one. The next morning, armed with our posters and our big ideas, we raced downstairs to make our lemonade and get started. We were all ready to go, except for that one thing - we forgot to ask his mom to get the supplies we needed form the store and she was already back from shopping. We didn't get to set up a lemonade stand that day, but I learned a lot about being prepared and making sure to have everything you need to be successful before endeavoring on a new venture. We ended up setting up a lemonade stand the following weekend, and I think we drank more than we sold.
When did you know you wanted to do what you do now?
I was in college, studying philosophy and zoology at OU, and working in a few kitchens to make extra money. I enjoyed cooking so much more than what I was studying and was so much better at it, so I decided that when I finished college, I'd go cook instead.
Who is your biggest role model or mentor and why?
I've always looked up to my mother. She's always been so supportive, caring, loving, and strong.
What did you wish you knew when you were a kid that you know now?
That it would all be alright.
What has been your greatest failure and what did it teach you?
I opened a restaurant for a former employer in a part of town that I wasn't familiar with, and a concept that I wasn't comfortable with. It did not do well and ended up closing a year later. I learned that everyone is good/great at something. When you find out what you're good at, then spend your career getting better at it, rather than trying to figure out something different.
What drives you to keep going when things get difficult?
My employees rely on me to succeed, so that they can thrive in their jobs and careers. If I'm not the best restaurateur/entrepreneur I can be, then they suffer, and I don't want that.