Celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit

Meet the alumni:
Alli Jarrett, Harold’s


Why did you apply to the program?
After two years of owning my own business I decided I needed to get out more and meet people to work on business development, thus I joined the National Association of Women Business Owners. I did not get in the program the first time and was disappointed, but the Outreach Director encouraged me to apply again. I share this because if there is anyone who really wants to do something to make a difference in their lives and at first they don’t succeed – try again. I applied again and my reasoning was three-fold:

  1. To get off of the island I was on and surround myself with people smarter than me, most of whom have similar issues that I have.
  2. Force myself to decrease some of the day-to-day things in my business and push my managers to make decisions.
  3. The opportunity to be a part of a giant network of people with whom I could learn from and do business with that would add personal and professional growth in my life.

What growth have you experienced since graduating?
Hurricane Harvey hit just after my graduation, so it put a wrench in a few things, but I did not let it stop my staff and me from working on our growth plan. While our revenue was down in Q4, all due to the hurricane, our overall year was up 8%.

We purchased a Food Trailer in October and began implementing our plans to grow our catering business and increase our slower times with business networking groups. In addition to this I formed another business, Low Tide, which is a seafood concept and will open later this summer 2018 in Finn Hall in downtown Houston.

How has that growth impacted you and your business?
Implementing the growth plan is an on-going process and will continue to be because if we are not growing in some way personally and professionally then I/we are not an impactful business. For example, the Food Trailer came with many new experiences and we are still learning to perfect our systems and operations.

However, while we are steadily working to grow our food trailer sales, because people “see” the trailer, we are booking private events either with the food trailer or at our full-service restaurant in our banquet department. The marketing impact of having an 18-foot trailer parked or being pulled down the highway is noticeable. The personal growth has allowed me to say “yes” to things I would have said “no” to the past 4 years and “no” to the things I should have already been saying “no” to the past 4 years.

How have you, as a leader, grown?
Since graduating from the program, I am a much better delegator. Rather than taking action on something I used to do I am more trusting of my staff and know that it is important for them to make mistakes and learn just like I have. I am humbled that The Leader newspaper, in my neighborhood of the Heights in Houston, Texas, recognized me as 2017 Leader of the Year.

A recent example was saying yes to attending the 10,000 Small Businesses Alumni Summit in Washington, DC, as the timing could not have been more challenging because the only chef I had ever had was departing and it was Valentine’s Day, a solid day for restaurants. I chose to go to DC and work on our business and learn from the incredible line-up of business owners and trust and have faith in my staff they would get the job done and they did.

How would you summarize your program experience?
The program gave, what I consider, a ‘practical executive MBA’ in 4 months and a lifetime of alumni relations. I never worked as hard as I did in college as I did in the 10,000 Small Businesses program and I am thankful that I had the opportunity and that I gave myself the away time from my business to help grow my business. Further, I purchased our food trailer and had the graphics done by fellow classmates in Cohort 19, so the program provided an immediate network of people I wanted to do business with and who wanted to help me.

What advice would you give to the other small business owners preparing for growth?

  • If you really want to grow your business you can, but you have to make changes and often do things that are out of your comfort zone. By nature, I am a risk taker.
  • I believe it is important for you to surround yourself with smart and positive questioners, and those whom care about you and push you to think about all angles.
  • Don’t let the negative energy people take all of your air. No matter the business you are in people like doing business with people they like so whether you have a product or a service business providing services through hospitable ways is crucial.
  • Growing has “pains” whether it is with staffing, marketing, or needing more money. As much preparation as you do, I have found being nimble and knowing you may have to make a new decision is an important obstacle that one must jump over or in to.

How are you supporting the local community?

One of the main reasons I started my own business was so that I could be a part of the community and serve the community not only with great food, beverages, service and southern hospitality through my restaurant, but also by being involved with community activities. My “why” is I want to make more money, so I can give more away. Immediately after Hurricane Harvey we fed first responders and helped those in shelters who needed food, clothing and supplies as well as conduct fundraising efforts for several of our staff members who lost everything.

I’m proud that our company hired a member from The Summerhouse, a place in the Heights for adults with intellectual disabilities, and that we were the first company to employ one of their members. Our Summerhouse member has worked with us for a year and a half. Providing this opportunity is huge in her life and her parents’ lives because she has a job, can earn money and be a part of our business family.

I’m active with the Greater Heights Chamber of Commerce, 19th Street Merchants Association, where we host many of our meetings to make improvements for the independently owned businesses on our street, I serve on the Vestry at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Texas Golf Hall of Fame Board as well as The Spirit Golf Association board.

Further our restaurant is philanthropic helping non-profits such as Rebuilding Together Houston, Women of Wine Charities supporting the Houston Area Women’s Center, March of Dimes, Houston Rodeo, and Professionals & Culinary Arts supporting scholarships for culinary students, as well has helping neighborhood schools to name a few.