When compromising isn’t an option
I’ve been in business for a long time now. Restaurant JAN first opened its doors nearly a decade ago after I was lured in by an empty motorcycle shop space and the promise of something bigger, better, bolder. Since then the JAN Group has grown with brand extensions like the JAN Innovation Studio in Cape Town, Restaurant Klein JAN in the Kalahari, the JAN Shop, and the JAN Innovation Academy.
Every day is different, like a new challenge and adventure rolled into one new twist or turn in the rollercoaster that has been my journey in entrepreneurship. So often I’m asked how my vision for my businesses has influenced their growth, and how I’ve dealt with the inevitable adversity and sacrifice that comes with being a business owner, and I’d be lying if I said it has always been easy. Balancing my vision and creative desires with the logistics of keeping a business above water can be a tricky act, but the truth is there have been many instances where I just refused to settle.
Sure, compromise is a part of any journey, and business is no exception, but sometimes to achieve your vision there’s not that much room for flexibility, and that’s where you need to hold tight to what you know is right. When I first opened JAN, I knew I wanted the space to be an homage to the places and dishes of South Africa that first helped me fall in love with cooking, but that was not without its challenges, especially situated in a foreign country with a reputation for offering the finest culinary selection in the world (and the most discerning critics). Once, not long after we opened our doors, we received a scathing review critiquing a dish on the menu that had ‘so many different components’, it was apparently evident ‘we could not make up our minds what we wanted it to be’. The dish in question was bobotie, a beloved heritage dish in South Africa and something I know would have been a crowd pleaser at home.
It was then that I became even more determined to bring my multicultural restaurant vision to life. Why can’t I have a fine dining restaurant in France serving South African heritage-inspired dishes. Why not both?
That lesson and experience set me up for all my later ventures, and a sheer determination to have it all still influences some of my decision making. When it came to producing JAN the Journal for the first time, we had to decide exactly what its identity would be. Would it be a cookbook released every six months, or more of a lifestyle magazine like the glossy covers I had grown up with. As I wrestled with the decision I finally came to my answer, why not both? We consolidated the very best of coffee table content, tried and tested recipes and a slash of inspiration from fashion titles like ‘Vogue’ and voila, JAN the Journal as we know it was born. Today we are in full swing of Journal 10 production, marking five years in publishing and a feat in the industry if I do say so myself.
While operating a business can be a daunting task that occasionally makes you want to rip your hair out, you can’t go wrong with sticking to your instincts and dreams and trusting them to lead the way to success. If you want something bad enough there will be a way to achieve it, and you don’t have to compromise on your vision. The next time you find yourself unable to decide between two things you know to be right, ask yourself, why not both?