“The Hour A Day I Turn My Phone Off And Spend Time On A Yoga Mat Is The Most Incredible Gift I Can Give Myself”
5 Startup Strategies With Jessica Waite
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Waite. Jessica is Co-Founder/ Co-Owner of Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub and The Whet Noodle, two restaurants in Oceanside, CA. She sits on the board of The Berry Good Food Foundation and is currently finishing her MBA at Pepperdine University. She is also a long-time vegan and her upcoming restaurant concept, The Plot, will have a completely plant based menu and aim for zero-waste operations.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Thanks! I am originally from Kirkland, WA but moved to Southern California in my early 20’s. I studied bio and psych at CSUSM, and was planning on heading into healthcare or a career of research. I met Davin, my now-husband, as I was finishing my bachelors. He is an incredibly talented chef and we are both really passionate about issues surrounding the food system. We hit it off, and my path took a radical turn. We opened our first restaurant together in 2013, and in 2016 had the opportunity to expand to create a second concept. Since he was the chef and we were a bootstrapped operation, I fell into the role of managing the business side of things even though I had no business background. I went back to school a couple of years ago to earn my MBA in general management, and am currently wrapping that up right now.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company.
We named our first restaurant Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub. It was part homage to old English pubs, part gentle poke at the current gastropub craze. Davin and I thought the name was great, but pretty much everyone else we knew thought it was a horrible idea. We went with it; at that point in our career we didn’t have a lot to lose, and at least we knew it would catch people’s attention. About three months in there was a thread in Chowhound (a food blog) in which someone said we should receive a Darwin Award for the name of our restaurant. That was the first time I really questioned the implications of our choice, and definitely spent a little time second guessing the name. But we stuck with it and the name has become something people really seem to like about our spot. Now I think of it as a litmus test; if people are open minded enough to try us despite the name, then they are probably going to be accepting of our style of food, which is a bit unconventional. It definitely helps that we have been successful.
What do your makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Davin and I are both passionate about responsible food sourcing; local, sustainable operations, and companies that we have researched and we know are conscientious. I have been vegan for ages, which trips people up when they realize that I own a sushi bar and a ramen shop that sells meats. My thought is that we can do a lot of good by offering people a range of alternatives; on one end, responsibly sourced proteins and on the other, awesome vegan items. One of the things that Davin and I are both really passionate about is total utilization, or wasting as little as possible. Wrench & Rodent has become a great platform to show off how we can use all of a particular plant or animal. This includes fish ribs, skin, marrow, carrot tops, banana peels, and many other parts of fish and plant. We also have many “normal” items on the menu, but I definitely enjoy promoting these fun and innovative plates that tell a story of how to waste less and utilize under-appreciated parts. There was one point that we had a bunch of whole fish come in, and there was an abundance of fish sperm. Davin made a chowder from it and I gleefully shared in on our social media and had the servers up-sell it at every table. There are some places in the world that wouldn’t have batted an eyelash, but I think there were some members of our community that thought we may have taken things a bit too far!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I didn’t start out with an entrepreneurial spirit. I like systems and rules and was never comfortable if things weren’t clearly defined. Davin (my business partner / husband) really taught me to trust the universe and just leap. We started a business with almost no capital, and it was pretty scary. We were way underfunded and facing a huge number of hurdles. I had so many sleepless nights. The whole time he just kept telling me that the universe would provide us with what we needed. And I would joke back that I would provide, because I was the one who kept getting us out of these crazy situations. But he was right; so many people have come into our lives and supported us and believed in us. I have seen so much ‘law of attraction’ at work over the years. This whole journey has given me an incredible amount of faith that we have a huge amount of influence over our future, and that we are capable of achieving so much more than I’d once imagined.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Through our platform at the restaurant we are able to educate our guests about responsible sourcing and reducing food waste. We also have the opportunity to support a lot of local causes that we believe in. Through the Berry Good Food Foundation, I am able to help champion the ideals of local food sourcing and help educate the community about food related issues such as food justice. One of my favorite roles as a restaurant owner is having the opportunity to be a role model for our young team at the restaurant. We have a lot of passionate employees, and I love knowing that we can help influence their journeys as advocates and change makers.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
‘Abundance- the future is better than you think’ by Peer Diamandis and Steven Kotler. The main takeaway for me was that there is a huge amount of potential for problem solving in the world, and innovation can lead us to a lot of positive change. Basically that abundance is attainable for all. I think that there is an incredibly pessimistic view of our current world situation held by many, and that with a shift of thinking we could all become agents of positive change. This book helped me see the big-picture challenges we face as opportunities to innovate.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Stand by your beliefs — Any MBA student or business owner knows it’s important to be flexible an adaptive in business. One thing I learned is that at times, it is also important to hold your ground and stand up for yourself and your company. Our first restaurant gave us an unrealistic view of how things work. We got great reviews, our margins were good and we grew organically. I felt pretty good about our ability to run a business. When we opened the second concept we had the expectation that it would be as easy as our first. Instead we got raked through the coals. Reviews were negative, sales were dismal, and we were devastated. Our customers expected us to be like every other ramen shop, and instead we were sourcing locally and making the menu from scratch. This was a concept I really believed in and no one seemed to like it. We found ourselves apologizing for it and at one point almost gave up and scrapped the project completely. We decided instead to stand by it and do what we could to make it work, and now we have a second successful concept that stands alone and has a great following.
2. It’s going to be terrifying- this should be a given. Regardless of whether you have poured in all of your resources or you have healthy safety net, running a business can be pretty scary. So much more than capital goes into starting a business; passion, dreams, a team that is invested in your project and also depends on it. As a business owner you become the keeper of something that is bigger than you. I spent at least a year in a constant fear- fear of being too busy, too slow, or getting in trouble for something I didn’t know I was doing wrong. There is a happy ending this, though. Once I survived my first couple of years of business ownership I gained an incredible sense of confidence that I could handle any problem that came my way. I still feel that way, and it’s wonderful.
3. Ask for help- When building a business, you will build an amazing network of people who are experts in their field. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel when you find yourself in a jam. I am constantly surprised how much support is available when we need it.
4. Do the right thing and be a good person- There is a little book called The Go Giver. This book talks about 5 laws of stratospheric success, which include how much you give, how well you serve, placing the interests of others over your own, being authentic, and being open to receiving. My dad reminded me about this book recently, and when I looked back I realize that I had been living these laws and just as the book promised, have had significant success. I will leave it at that, and strongly recommend the book.
5. Do more yoga- It’s so easy to get into this mentality of “I don’t have enough time.” The hour a day I turn my phone off and spend time on a yoga mat is the most incredible gift I can give myself, and those around me. Beach runs are a close second. That time is what gives me the mental freedom to be solution based, and to be grateful.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Yuval Noah Harari. He is brilliant.