In this month’s FHITpreneur feature, we catch up with frequent FHIXer and business owner, Jordana B. Jordana is the owner of Little Gem, a catering and events company that serves healthy cooking with seasonal ingredients at local vendors. After years of working at large companies, find out how and why Jordana became her own boss as she shares her entrepreneurial journey below.
How long have you been FHIXing at Fhitting Room? What keeps you coming back?
I started taking class after I had my second child in 2016. I was looking for something that was going to legitimately challenge me and help me burn calories and regain strength. I started at 19th street [Flatiron studio] and then when I moved uptown in 2019 I switched to 67th street [Upper East Side studio] where I like to think of myself as a regular (although I hear about people that go five days a week, god bless them). I keep going back because no class is ever the same, so boredom is not an option.
How does getting your FHIX play a role in your life?
Fitness is essential to my sanity. My family knows that if I don't break a sweat at least five times a week that I will fall into a funk. I use my workouts not only to maintain my health and energy but to clear my head. I literally smile while I'm working out.
Before Little Gem, you spent a lot of time working on global events and launches for luxury brands before transitioning into entertainment for Miramax. Clearly you were well versed in public relations and visibility. Were you also a foodie? How did the transition to the food and catering industry come about?
A big part of my special events job was selecting menus for the events I was working on, so I always worked hand in hand with caterers. I'm also an amateur chef. My husband and I have been hosting dinner parties since we started dating, and we are both seasoned cooks in our own right. We spent the bulk of our time in quarantine trying new recipes and reworking old favorites, and he built a little following on instagram with #quaratinecookingblitz where he posts his process to 90's rap music. His friends (and new fans) seem to love it.
After spending 10 years running events and celebrity for Coach, an opportunity to run a catering company fell into my lap, and it felt like the right balance of a familiar industry while still allowing me to learn something new and try my hand at entrepreneurship. Writing menus is still my favorite part of the job.
How and when did you determine you wanted to own your own business?
Coach was an amazing place to work during my tenure. Reed Krakoff was the creative director, and he is the epitome of luxury and taste. He was the most accessible leader, and no one was too junior to join a meeting with him. My other mentor was Raina Penchansky, who went on to build DBA which was later acquired by UTA. She is still my first call in a crisis, and taught me so much about leadership, innovation, and being a woman in a man's world. After 10 years it was simply time for me to try something new. I left on the best of terms with the Coach team, and they hired me for one of my first catering jobs for their annual Friends of the Highline fundraiser. Leaving was a scary decision, but it was the right one. Nothing is more liberating than being your own boss.
How has your life and business changed since COVID-19 and quarantine?
The impact of CVOID-19 on the events and service industry is tremendous. We will be one of the last industries to rebound. Luckily, Little Gem was always small and nimble. Ralph Lauren hired us to provide the food for their Ralph's Coffee trucks that offered free coffee and snacks for the hospital workers, and that showed us that we could find projects if we thought creatively about them.
We then launched a healthy home delivery service for Manhattan and the Hamptons, and from that we have gained some new clients for small dinners. I think it's all about finding a way to say yes to new opportunities, even if they are out of your comfort zone. We are thinking about starting a daily lunch delivery for all of the professionals who will find themselves working from home come Fall. My new mantra is, I want to be there when the vaccine comes, because the world is going to party like it's 1999.
For my personal life, I was always in and out of the house before, working from home, our commissary, and stopping by events. There was no normal day or schedule. So having nowhere to be was a big adjustment for me and for my children.
I also loved to take fitness classes before, so figuring that out online was a challenge at first, but I've gotten into the groove. Luckily I stocked up on weights and bands the second the gym closed, because finding the right equipment proved to be half the battle. With summer here I've also started to run around the reservoir which is a glorious way to spend an hour. It's one of my favorite things about living uptown.
What advice do you have for someone looking to start their own business?
So much of my decision process is lead by instinct, and I learn from trial and error. I didn't go to business school, or study hospitality in college, so I'm not formally trained by any means. But that proves that with some common sense and good relationships anyone can figure it out. I also lean on colleagues to learn from their best practices. Scott Skey from Bite is on speed dial, especially in the last few months as we all learn how to navigate this new normal. For anyone in my industry to succeed right now we need to partner, collaborate, and band together. I think that applies to all small businesses. In a strange way, this could be a great time for someone to reinvent themselves - you may have nothing to lose.
Have you tried/are you enjoying Fhitting Room LIVE classes?
For me, nothing will replace the energy and sweat of a real life class. I'm most excited to try the outdoor classes that Fhitting Room has cleverly started to offer. I also need someone to watch me to make me truly accountable. Since my new life schedule involves working from home alongside my husband who is also working from home and taking care of two kids who should be in camp, it's a real challenge for me to take a live class, because I often work out in 10 minute increments throughout the day, or at 3:42 pm. So I havent had the chance to stream a class yet.
Thank you for being a part of our FHITfam and sharing your story with us, Jordana! To learn more about Little Gem, visit their website.