While Jonnetta Patton may be best known for managing her son Usher’s entertainment career to super stardom, the newly-minted culinary entrepreneur is setting an example for women business owners everywhere and carving a path for others to live out their dreams. “My passion is to help others, and I can do this in any industry,” Patton shares.” When I see others succeed, that’s how I measure success.”
A New Business
In 2016, at the suggestion of a personal chef she knows, Patton opened J’s Kitchen Culinary Incubator (JKCI) in her hometown of Atlanta. It’s a shared kitchen – actually five shared kitchens including one for baking, available to rent. Patton created J’s Kitchen in a building she’s owned and used for her music business for nearly three decades. This new space offers chefs and caterers, many first time business owners, the opportunity to explore new ideas and see if they can make it in a tough industry. “J’s Kitchen is a brick and mortar destination for serious culinary entrepreneurs,” Patton says. “My mission is to help entrepreneurs establish ownership in a sustainable business,” says Patton.
With this new venture, the entrepreneur combines her love of food with her decades of business experience and deep roster of contacts to “provide the perfect environment to elevate today’s budding food artisans into tomorrow’s food service moguls.”
J’s Kitchen offers not only a kitchen space, it includes access to a slate of comprehensive business services that someone new to the culinary world likely wouldn’t have access to on their own. These include operational business services, booking agent services, food and supply procurement as well as a roster of accountants, attorneys, publicists, marketing specialists and more. J’s Kitchen’s curriculum of educational workshops is designed to foster critical business and culinary skills.
Business support is available to members during weekday hours while shared kitchen facilities are accessible 24 hours a day. There’s even a life coach. “I’m running this basically the same as my music business, chefs are like artists,” Patton says.
Her passion, patience and determination are proving formidable. Today, J’s Kitchen is one of the tope shared kitchens in Atlanta with over 150 businesses having come through its doors – and more than 30 local businesses are outright successes. The kitchens are completely booked from 6 to 11 every morning. Patton has joined forces with Hungry, an online marketplace that connects independent chefs with the $25 billion business and events catering market. Hungry connects local chefs from J’s Kitchen with companies that need catered spreads for lunches or other events.
Growing Her Family’s Wealth
Patton learned how to run a business on the fly, as a young mother navigating the notoriously competitive music business for her son Usher. Patton says to succeed, she needed to be “tenacious, confident, patient, and have integrity. I am a respected woman/Mom which allowed me to be taken seriously and grow to be one of the best MOM managers in that business.”
Time and again, stories are told of stars making it big, like Usher, and then losing their fortunes, whether through bad business decisions, mismanagement, or even fraud. Talent doesn’t necessarily translate to being successful at business. Usher and Patton are different – both have branched out of their primary money earning enterprises and diversified, to not only preserve wealth, but to build wealth.
Patton says, “First, having a great team of advisors you trust and that have your best interest at heart is key. And an experienced and connected Certified Public Accountant CPA/Business Manager is most important.”
So what does Patton like to invest in? “Stock and Bonds; alternative Investments such as Private Equity: fund start-up businesses; real Assets like Real Estate and Land. Create a diversified portfolio,” encourages Patton.
Forging Her Own Path
In 2008, Patton resigned as Usher’s manager, giving her the opportunity to explore and launch new businesses, like the kitchen incubator in Atlanta. She joins innumerable innovative Black women who are now the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States. While the number of women-owned businesses grew 21% from 2014 to 2019, the number of businesses created by Black women grew more than 2x times as fast at 50%. Patton isn’t surprised by this.
“In business, we are often described as too emotional and hard to deal with, which is confused with handling our business and doing it well.” Patton says quite the opposite is true. “We are focused and hardworking, bold and smart, dedicated and determined to be the best we can be. And more often than not, the head of our household and the one that holds the family together. Therefore, in our passionate field of business we can’t help but be at the top of our game!”
But while Black women are joining the ranks of business owners in record numbers, they are doing so against great odds. Black women founders receive less than 1% of all venture capital investment in start-ups. In 2020, start-ups owned by mostly white male entrepreneurs raised $2.5 million in venture funding compared to the $125,000 median seed round that went to Black female founders.
With percentages like this, how can Black women entrepreneurs persevere? Patton’s advice, “don’t allow anyone to steal your joy. Create your own lane, as I did, and keep it moving.” Patton plans to expand J’s Kitchen Culinary Incubator, and open a high end restaurant, all in her own building. “I’m successful in a new field at 65, but I did my homework and kept at it. I had to be to get it done. Besides, I’m setting things up for my grandkids.”