b&b 140 #DeadDayJobArmy – James Freeman on how opening a restaurant is like creating an album
Welcome to the #DeadDayJobArmy, a monthly Brunch & Budget series where entrepreneurs and freelancers of Color share their stories and talk about the real. We ask folks to leave their shiny pictures and Instagram highlights at the door and tell us what it’s really like to do the work, put in the time, and devote your life to your work.
This month – James Freeman – rapper/MC and restaurant owner in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Freeman owns Sweet Science, Featherweight, and Sally Roots—where we met him while enjoying a delicious Caribbean/Crucian meal. We talked about his favorite parts about running a business, the hardest parts, and how to keep going when life becomes overwhelming.
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James Freeman : Being an artist actually prepared me to do business, ‘cause, you know, as an artist the first thing that you have to do is you have to believe that you can sell yourself.
James Freeman : As an artist, there is some sort of creativity that comes from…your deepest of lows, you know like your heartbreak, that’s when the best material is made.
James Freeman : The artist in me is very conscious of the brand.
James Freeman : Being around people that actually believe in your vision, you know, it’s just it makes you get up and go.
James Freeman : Within business, you can’t, and within life you can’t, be held hostage by people that are supposed to be for you.
James Freeman : Creating something, it’s not just a one-person thing. It’s like government. You know there’s faces for somebody who represents you, but then that person who represents you has to get information from everybody else around ‘em.
James Freeman : We come from a generation who inherited the speech of “I Have a Dream.”
James Freeman : I don’t want to just be “Oh, that’s just the Black-owned restaurant.”
James Freeman : As a child…with no kind of financial experience, money didn’t have any value to me. It just didn’t mean anything. It was like, it was something that maintained me through the day, and as I went from artist, to restaurateur, to opening up my own place, that took a while.
James Freeman : When you go from a situation of eating anything you want–just going in, buying on something on sight–to saying like “Damn, I gotta get these two packets of Ramen noodles and this packet of ground beef for like a dollar 95″…then things change. Or, if you find yourself on a little line, you know, at your local church because it’s that bad…that’s where reinvention makes you dig deep and say “What can I really do?”
James Freeman : There’s different gold rushes. Our last gold rush that we actually lived through was the invention of the internet.
James Freeman : The reason we don’t understand how important education is is because we’re learning the same things that our parents were learning that just didn’t make any sense.
James Freeman : When you imagine something and you can actually make that thing appear into the physical form, that is the evidence of your faith.
James Freeman : I had to get investors so now the story is, the thing is, I had somebody who I thought was gonna fund the whole project, and I believed that, right? That was a lie. So that lie crashed and burned, but it crashed and burned after I signed the lease.
James Freeman : 60% of my investors are actually people that I’ve worked for.
James Freeman : This can’t be something that you can’t afford to lose.
James Freeman : The reason I’m here is because of that work ethic…just going up to somebody and saying hi, saying how you doing? Is everything okay? Basically being aware of somebody else’s comfort.
James Freeman : Starting a business is just like making an album…If you open up a place, you’re gonna be criticized either way.
James Freeman : My advice to the small little mom and pop shops that’s running out of things: make your menu smaller. Focus on the things that you do really well.
James Freeman : You can’t think like that. People aren’t obligated to fulfill your dreams.
James Freeman : The first acceptance of failure is pointing blame.
James Freeman : Bad ideas are benchmarks to know that you’re trying.
James Freeman : Right now we are at war, and the war is economic…It’s economically sound for a young African American, or somebody of color, to be caught with a gun so they can go to jail and the system can get free labor out of them for fifteen years.