This episode is my story of how I went from waiting tables to owning a business that grosses over $1M in a few short years. This is a business that works (mostly) on it’s own and allows me the freedom to do exactly what I want with my time. The impetus that made me want to make my business run without me? Why, I wanted to move to Hawaii of course. Sounds like something you’d like to do? Subscribe and follow along with this Podcast & I will give you all the tips and tricks I’ve discovered along the way.
What’s up, everybody, welcome to the ritual girl podcast. My name is Jessica. And I am so honored that you’re here with me today,
in the last five years have built a million dollar company from the ground up from nothing. I went from waiting tables and living in a crappy studio apartment in Chicago, to owning a company with seven figures of income, living on the water in Hawaii, and having the freedom to do exactly what I want with my time, all because of a shift in a mindset, strategy and rituals. So my mission here is to share with you everything I’ve learned along the way, so that you can level up and live the life that you have imagined to.
So let’s dive in.
So excited to dive in with you guys and let you know what my mission is for this podcast. And I’m so glad that you’re here with me. My name is Jess. In this episode, I’m gonna explain where I came from and what my mission is for this podcast and just tell you my story. You know, everybody’s got a story. And to be honest, it’s taken me so long to sit down and actually record this podcast because I have so many thoughts of like, is my story valuable? Are people actually going to care about what what I’ve done? Or what? what I’ve experienced in my life? And the answer is yes, to everybody, man, everybody’s got a story. They might not seem that interesting to me, because I’ve lived it. And your story probably doesn’t seem that interesting to you, because you’ve lived it. But I promise you that if you tell your story, it’ll be received. So that’s why I’m here sitting down
and recording the podcast, sometimes you got to make yourself do the thing. Even though it’s scary.
I’ve learned this last couple months that you never want to do the thing, like I run three miles every day. And I never want to leave the house. But I just got to make myself do it. And cultivating that ability to just make yourself do something is like
that’s the current diagram, I promise.
So a little bit about myself. So right now, I’ve run a company with a million dollars in income over a million at this point. And that’s an insane amount. compared to where we started. I have two daughters who are amazing and crazy and fierce. And I have the most amazing husband and business partner girl could ask for.
And we started in 2013. It’s 2019 right now,
with literally nothing like we were living paycheck to paycheck, I was waiting tables, my husband was a bouncer at a club, and I was pregnant. And I was 21. And we scaled to where we are now. And we started in Chicago. And we live in Hawaii now on a house on the water. And honestly, we don’t have to work we choose to because we love what we do. But we’re at a place now where we could retire. And I think that’s everybody’s dream to be financially free and be in control of their own time.
And so that’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m recording this podcast, because I want to tell people, that it’s possible. I mean, I know the steps from from rags to riches and
riches is probably not the right word, but freedom, you know, from from being chained to a job, and barely being able to make ends meet to being free to do basically whatever you want to do. And I think that’s a very powerful thing that people who are looking for will find. So I’m just going to go through my story and where I started and how I got to the mindset that I am because I grew up with a very fixed mindset. And I think the most important thing about where we are is that we have growth mindsets, and
that’s that’s really what makes all the difference. So
I grew up in Canada, and a little more big oil town called Edmonton, Alberta and my parents separated when I was really little. I have four half brothers from different families.
And my mom worked a lot when I was a kid, which is understandable for a single mom.
I in high school, I worked full time just to like be in control of my own self. I guess I wanted to I wanted the security and the independence that came with that.
I was 18, I’d been to 19 different schools and I had moved 23 times. So really like I needed to create my own stability.
Because of things that happened at home, I moved out of my mom’s house when I was 17. And I slept on my friends couches and couch surfed, and it was, I mean, homeless, but
take it in by my friends.
And then the day that I turned 18, I moved into my own apartment, I was still in high school, it was February. So I still had like, eight months left of school. I was doing the IB program, which is a internationally acclaimed
Honors Program, basically, in high school, and I was working full time, I had $1,000 rent to pay, because I wanted to live close to my work, which was downtown.
So that was, that was a struggle. And I was also really struggling with depression and anxiety at 1718 years old.
basically, the moral of the story is that I didn’t graduate from high school, I finished I graduated from the IB program, which is international diploma. So I do have that diploma, but I,
I burned out, but I did end up making it into university at the University of Alberta. And I had always decided from a young age that I wanted to become a doctor.
And this comes from stems from a couple of things that stems from the fact that I am an Aquarius, a dreamer, an infp, if you’re into the Myers Briggs, I believe I’m a three wing. No, I’m a four wing three of the enneagram, which is also a dreamer.
And somebody who and a healer, you know, like that, that’s kind of ingrained in me and I’m not saying it to like, pump myself up. Because honestly, it’s sometimes it’s a disadvantage in business because I want to focus too much on on the, the emotions of everything that I don’t get actual, like physical stuff done. I’m more of a dreamer than a doer, but it’s gotten a lot better. And it’s just a matter of like cultivating those skills of and so that’s part of the reason that this ritual girl, because I’m so bad at rituals, I’m so bad at like making myself do the same thing over and over. Because I thrived on the freedom of that when I was a kid of not having to do what I was told. I’m also a rebel in the in Gretchen Reubens, four tendencies if you are familiar with that. So it’s a struggle to make myself do stuff but, but the fact that I can get myself to make my bed every morning and brush my teeth every day like that, that for me, is a win. And that’s how I’ve gotten to where I am by cultivating the important things every day. Anyway, back to back to the story. I was in University of Alberta, I wanted to become a doctor.
I, the the tsunami, Haiti in 2009, I believe maybe 2008. And I was like, distraught, because I had never been exposed to the actual like, now I was an academic community where they talked about things like that, and I’d never been exposed to and never seen the third world. And so that really, me hard. And I
started a fundraiser called cupcakes for Haiti Jews, where everybody brought in some cupcakes and some frosting and we sold them outside in the Quad in the winter, which was in February, I think, and it was so cold. And it was literally freezing. But we raised $2,000, which to me was, like a crazy amount of money
for Doctors Without Borders for Haiti. And so that was kind of like the start of my thinking that, you know, there’s ways to make money out there, you know, whether it’s for for good cause or whether it’s for business, which is not a bad cause it’s just not. It’s not a philanthropic cause.
That was that was my eye opener to Wow, there’s really a way to make money, and why can I do this for myself, you know. So that was my first entrepreneurial thing.
Shortly after that, I decided that I was going to join a group with my university that went to Africa to teach about malaria and HIV and
clean water supplies for kids and and bring bed nets. I raised $4,000 for that through silent auctions and through like cold calling doctors and being like, I want to be a doctor and I want to go to Africa, but I can’t afford it. So how can we do this? You know? So that was another experience of like you You can hustle it
it’s called the hustle sweetheart. So anyway, we I went to Africa with a group
I think there was five of us, which is crazy to think about. Now, there’s 518 19 year olds just like dropped off in the middle of the sub Saharan desert to make a difference for three months.
Which I mean, that’s a whole nother podcast, I feel like because I learned a lot. And it was a vastly eye opening experience. And it’s instilled within me the love of travel.
But I’ll just give you this. But the one thing that struck me so much living we lived in, in a small village of like, I don’t know, 20,000 people in Tanzania for three months, and two things struck me One was that you get used to anything, like the standards that were there are so incredibly, vastly different from what we used to. But after a few weeks, it’s totally like, it’s your life now. And it’s fine. It’s great, honestly, like, you get excited if you get Nutella on your toast, like, it’s amazing.
But the other thing is that people there are
happy, you know, like, they don’t know that they don’t have what we think they should have. They don’t know that, that there could be less disease in the world. You know, they don’t understand that. Because they’re not exposed to that. And so they’re just happy, they’re happy where they are. Which says a lot to us, like, why are we unhappy? Because I don’t know. Because we don’t have the Mercedes Benz that we want. Like, that’s ridiculous.
I digress. Anyway. So when I was in Africa, in Tanzania,
the day that we were supposed to leave to go to the airport, after three months of being there.
We call the cab and I was rifling through my bag to find my passport to make sure that I was ready to go. And it was gone. And there was a slit down my bag. And somebody had stolen my passport.
Which isn’t saying
the people I was traveling with made the decision to continue on their merry way without me. So I was a 18 year old girl in Tanzania at 930 at night alone with no support. And I had no minutes on my phone, because why would I need two minutes on my phone because we were leaving.
And no money really I had a little bit but not a lot.
So I was left on the curb to figure it out.
And so I went back into the YMCA, which is where we were staying. And I was like, Can I get a room? He’s happy to stay here figure it out constantly. It was I think it was a Friday night. And so the conflict wasn’t open until Monday. So I had two days to like, even just hang out until I can even figure out what was going on.
So the lady was like, nope, we’re full.
It’s like 930 10 o’clock at night. It’s dark. And it’s honestly dar Salaam, Tanzania, the big city. That’s where we were when we left. We didn’t do our work in tents in Dar Salam but that’s where we stayed for the last couple of days.
It’s not a safe place for a girl to walk alone at night, especially a girl who sticks out like a sore thumb because everybody else’s skin is a different color. You know? So I, I was scared.
And there was.
So I was I was like I can’t walk around and go look for hotels, especially because I know they’re probably full. I mean, if the YMCA is full, then everything else is going to be full.
There was a guy there who who had just booked the last room and it was a double room and he didn’t need both of the beds in the room and he was like you can just stay with me. And like he was here. I think he was like two or three years older than me. He was a traveler backpacker. Like, that’s a difficult choice to make.
Do I sleep outside with the security guard they offered the security guard offered to watch me while I sleep which is equally creepy.
Or do I take the bed from the traveler who offered it to me so I made that decision. And it turned out just fine. I fell asleep and woke up the next morning he was already gone.
Yeah, it turns out he left me has like Facebook information to to connect and turns out we had the same birthday. So maybe some sort of magic was going on there to guide me in the right direction. That’s keep me safe. But
I was that was a thing.
So Monday came and I went to the consulate. And I told them my passport have been stolen and I had my passport in like a passport holder with all of my ID like my driver’s license and my social security card in this real smart
and every form of ID that I had and I did have photocopies of everything. So at least that that’s a good tip.
If you travel, keep photocopies, colored photocopies of everything in a separate location, just in case everything gets stolen.
But anyway, I went to the consulate and they didn’t believe me. They were like, I don’t think you are who you say you are.
If this is the Canadian consulate, and like how they said that somebody had just called in with the same name, or a very similar name, and so like,
they just didn’t believe it. But eventually, we got that sorted out. But it takes, I think, three days to get an emergency passport from the Canadian Embassy. So I still had three more days to stay by myself in Tanzania. And so they gave me an ETA. And so I went to KLM, which is the fight that I have my flight booked on, and I re booked my flight for another day. For the day that I should have my passport, my emergency passport by and was all good. They said no problem. Go. Here’s a new flight. And then I had to go to the police station to get a police report. But it was on the other side of town. And so I stopped a police officer to find out what the police station is because this is kind of before Google Maps. This is like I had a flip phone, you know, so the police were like, well, we’ll take you to the police stations on the other side of the city and I didn’t have like there’s not really cabs in in Tanzania and dar Salaam there’s dolla dolla, which are like little, little bicycle, three wheel things that you can go on, but they’re good. Like they’re kind of dangerous. They freaked me out. Anyway, the police told me they take me to the police station. And I was like, Oh, God,
I think another decision here.
And it ended up fine. But I realized that it could have not ended up fine. They drove me to the police station. And that was also a sketchy endeavor. But I got my police report that I needed for the embassy and give it back to them. And the last night, I had gotten my I had gotten my emergency passport to fly. So the last night I checked myself into the the Holiday Inn because I had like 2000 $10 million, which is like $20 left, and I was like, I need a shower. Because in Tanzania, all the running water is cold. And I really just wanted a hot shower. And so I checked in. I think I showered like three times at night because it was so nice after three months of not having any hot water.
Which was like the most first of all thing ever, but it is what it is.
And then the next morning, I went to the airport, and
I didn’t have any money left. Because why would I?
And they told me you can’t do this fight you owe us $150 for a flight change fee. And I guess even if I hadn’t paid for the hotel, I wouldn’t have been able to afford that hundred $50. Anyway.
Yeah, I had a credit card, but I’m pretty sure didn’t like it. It was declined when I tried to use it. And so I called my dad, my dad offered to give them his credit card number to like use for it felt like I was being extorted. But in hindsight, it was just like, they charge you a fee for changing your flight. Right? They just didn’t charge me when I went to go change, change the flight, like at the store that I went to.
But they told me that they can’t use my dad’s credit card number because that would be fraud. Like, okay, I was on the phone with my dad, the airline people are like, nope, you can’t get on this flight. You owe us money. You can’t get on the flight. Too bad. You have to stay here.
And my dad’s like, I’m gonna go to the airport, and I’m gonna figure it all out. I’m gonna talk to kale and myself. And he lives in Denver. So like, that’s not really.
I’m not sure that’s very helpful. But so I was talking to my dad was like, No, no, you don’t need to do that. That’s not gonna do anything. And I’m telling the guys like, I need to get on this flight.
And then my phone died.
at the last minute, like the flight was, like, 10 minutes away from leaving. And they’re like, okay, just go, just go. I gotta tell you, buddy, just go.
And I ran to the gate and I got on the flight. And I was like, it was it’s from dar Salaam to Amsterdam. I think it’s like, at least eight hours, maybe more of a flight. And I’m thinking like, my dad is probably going crazy. He can’t call me my phone is dead. I can’t believe I even managed to get on this flight. Like that was the biggest sense of relief.
I asked around people. If I could use their phones, they all said no, but this is I mean, it’s understandable because this is 2008 and this is when people like everybody had a you had to get like a cell phone plan when you’re in Tanzania. Sure. It’s still the same way honestly, and it’s expensive. And so I was like last ditch effort. Let’s try the phone again. I like hold on
by the minute turns on automatically and I type my dad’s number as fast as I can I turn it on. So I’m okay, I’m on the plane and then dies.
So that at least was good for him. He didn’t have to stress about it.
But I think from that moment,
like, everything had gone wrong,
in like, such a crazy way. And I’d managed to figure it out that that, like, a weekend, something within me that told me that, you know, if there’s a will, there’s a way if I can get myself on that plane, despite all the obstacles, with nothing but power, really, I had no money,
then, then imagine what else is possible in life, you know. So that that really like boosted confidence and assurance that things are possible, like you can get out of where you are, that you’re kind of in control of your own life. That was the first inkling of, of that concept for me.
It really emboldened me to, to move forward. And so I got back to Edmonton. In between, this was a summer in between my second and third year of college, and I had been dating a guy for six years long distance since high school, I lived in Colorado, and I was like, Okay, I’m gonna move, I’m gonna move to Chicago, that’s where he was going, he was going to school at the time. It’s like, I’m gonna move to Chicago, go to the big city, and in charge of my life, and like that was that’s pretty bold thing for somebody to do for somebody who goes to a good college and has an apartment and is doing well.
Just pack up and leave, you know, but I did it, and move to the big city where all things are possible.
Then after a miserable two semesters of being lonely, and like Chicago is a whole different animal. It was more of a culture shock to move to, other than it was to go to Africa, honestly, because
people are not nearly as friendly as they are in Canada, or Africa.
So anyway, that was difficult, and the relationship failed. And I found myself $12,000 in debt at a school that I hated, where everybody had, like iPhones and Ugg boots and North Face sweaters, and I couldn’t scrape two pennies together. Like, I literally would eat Pad Thai for lunch and dinner because I worked at a place that restaurant, that sort of pie and gave us one free meal a day. And so I would take that home and eat it for lunch and dinner The next day, like I was scraping the bottom of the barrel there.
I hated that school for that reason, because everybody else had money.
And I did not.
But I found myself after two semesters in the financial aid office, and they told me Nope,
we can’t give you any more financial aid, you don’t qualify for any scholarships, because in Chicago, it’s a matter of diversity. Honestly.
Even though my grades were great, didn’t qualify. And I couldn’t get privatized loans because my my dad hadn’t claimed any income for Texas dear before my mom’s credit scores, like the negative numbers.
I had nobody and to help me with that. And I didn’t have any credit because I just moved to the United States. So
without any established credit, there’s no way you can get alone. So it’s I had no choice but to drop out of school and cancel my plans for the time being to go to medical school.
That was the that was one of the turning points in my life.
And around that same time, I started dating the guy who’s now my husband, and
it was so serendipitous, I feel like because I don’t know what I would have done
in that in that time. But
fast forward a year from then, and I’m 21 and pregnant and waiting tables, and kind of my husband and I were both looking for something more, you know, like, we knew that that’s not all there is my husband was born in Poland in post Soviet Union and his parents were 19 when he was born, and he was born in a house with no running water. And I mean, when I say we came from nothing, I mean it. You know, we came from nothing.
But we decided when our daughter a little bit after our daughter was born to run a Kickstarter campaign to open a food truck. And that sounds easy, right?
we are only one of a handful of food related businesses that have successfully been funded on Kickstarter. There’s a 98% failure rate, and we managed to fundraise $15,000 from complete strangers with
Like I still am blown away by that fact that people believed in us enough to, to give us their hard earned money to
pursue our dream.
if you think that $15,000 is enough to build a food truck, it’s not.
It took us almost a year to build the truck because we we spent most of the money and then we were not done, you know, so we had to our own dead end jobs to money into the food truck so that we could finish it, and launch and honestly, our first, the first service that we did, we contacted our former employer and asked to borrow dishes from her because we could not afford to buy the dishes. We cooked our first festival out of a friend’s kitchen. That was supposedly commercial, but it was not.
Like the story, the whole story from here on is resourcefulness making it work with what you’ve got.
That’s really the success
of like, that’s really what you have to do to get from nothing into something you have to turn lead into gold. Honestly, you have to use what you can to build what you want.
Our first apartment that we had,
we had sconces on the wall. But they didn’t have lampshades. And we had no money to outfit the apartment, there was no budget for furniture or anything. And
I got I took some paper and made lampshades out of paper and like some sort of construction
tape of some sort. Anyway, they looked really nice.
And they were free.
In our first restaurant that we opened shortly after we opened that truck, about a year later, we opened our first restaurant and we had no money to buy tables, like tables are expensive.
And what we did is we bought pallets, $5 each by pallet, and we took them apart, we pull the nails out of them, we sanded them down and we built tables out of pallets, shipping container pallets,
which is a little ghetto, but also very resourceful. And it worked. Like it helped us to get where we are. So otherwise we’d have people sitting on the floor. Honestly, like sometimes there’s a choice between not doing anything at all, or doing something that’s not where you want it to be. But still works, still functions. Right?
When I was going back to before is that
when we first opened the truck we couldn’t afford to do to work from a commercial kitchen. They’re also expensive. Like we had nothing to work with. So we found a guy who had a food truck and he had a restaurant that he was trying to license as a commercial kitchen and not as a commercial kitchen but as a commissary. Which means that other trucks can cook from it. But he was he hadn’t been successfully licensed yet. And so basically we said, well, can we use your kitchen?
And he said, Yep, but you have to be out of the kitchen by 6am. So what that meant for us is that my husband had to get up at one o’clock in the morning, trudge through the snow,
with the food that we kept in our house, because we didn’t have anywhere else to keep it and kept in refrigerated a promise. And take the truck to the kitchen and cook from two o’clock in the morning until six o’clock in the morning. And then go out and serve like hustle,
hustle. But eventually we saved up enough money that we could afford to get our own. Get our own kitchen, we found a restaurant that was under foreclosure, which we didn’t know at the time.
And we signed a lease without good credit, but it worked out in the end and went through the foreclosure process. And we didn’t have to pay rent for a whole year because the bank didn’t require us to it was very helpful for getting ahead. That’s what’s the lock. Like there’s a divine intervention that happens when you doing something that you feel strongly about. I’ll get into manifesting in another whole nother episode. And I don’t want to be too rude to start out with but I 100% believe that what you think you become, and that thoughts manifest into reality. And so I think the universe rearranged a little bit for us to make sure that we could succeed. But anyway, yeah, we signed a lease on a restaurant that was in a bad neighborhood, like, dangerous neighborhood at that time. And now five years later, it’s the most popping upcoming neighborhood in the city of Chicago. And that’s where we now have a restaurant, a different we have we went from one concept to another concept and we just kept evolving until we found something that was what everybody wanted and you know you have to respond to your customers.
And you have to keep evolving into that you get to this sweet spot of what everybody wants and what everybody’s willing to pay for. And that’s, that’s where we got. And so we open that restaurant. And it’s a year and a half old now. And we’re in the next couple days going to be signing another lease to open a second restaurant in Chicago. And this is all
managed by other people that we’ve put in place teams that we’ve put in place so that we can live in Hawaii, and manage our own time and start new projects that are passionate projects.
And delegation is another thing that I would love to talk more about. And I’m sure we’ll get there. So
anyway, I that’s that’s my story. Up until this point, I can go into more detail about the restaurant at some point. But
I am so stoked that you’re here and that I got to share with you. And I’m just looking forward to seeing what everybody does with this information, like I 100% believe that anybody can become financially free, you can come from zero. And I’ve seen so many examples of it, you know, I’m not the only one. And you can build up to be in control of your own time and making your money work for you rather than you working for money. You know, that’s it. The key is that you
reinvest, you reinvest everything, and you live below your means for as long as possible. And that’s what happened with us is that we spent five years reinvesting every penny, we didn’t go out for fancy dinners. We didn’t drink, don’t pair neon, we didn’t buy ourselves fancy cars. We didn’t move into expensive apartments, we kept ourselves our expenses low so that we could put everything back into the business. And then there was a tipping point at which everything just exploded. And
and now we have enough money that we can do anything with it, you know. And that’s exciting. But that’s that’s what I’m trying to show you is that it’s possible for anybody and I’m not telling you that we didn’t make mistakes. We made so many mistakes along the way.
I’ve opened taco trucks I’ve like we’ve we’ve done lots of things that failed. And failure is the secret sauce. Failure is what teaches you that there’s a way, right. It teaches you resourcefulness that teaches you grit.
And I think honestly that failure, and adversity
is the key to success.
So I’m looking forward to continuing to talk about these things and share little nuggets of advice that I’ve got. And I’m hoping to have amazing guests on the podcast too. Once we we get to that point. So
thank you for being here. And I really hope that we can keep going and create something great.
If you like this, please subscribe to the podcast so that you’re notified next time I put one out. I’m going to be aiming for once a week. So that’s exciting.
And follow me on Instagram ritual dot girl.
And yeah, that’s it. So thank you so much. I’m looking forward to next time!