As a serial entrepreneur, Ebony Austin knows a thing or two about business cycles. “I am confident we will be ok,” she says after closing her new College Park restaurant for a few weeks during the COVID-19 crisis. The restaurant opened in November 2019 and has seen growth every month, until recently.
Growing up on the west side of Chicago, Austin helped her mother run a taco restaurant. “She was very happy to serve her community and there were always lines out the door,” she says about how her mother instilled the values of entrepreneurship and resiliency in Austin growing up.
Austin worked for several years in corporate America before setting out to open her own businesses. She served as a corporate specialist and business development manager at Campbell Soup, Godiva, and 1-800-Flowers. After successfully starting a real estate business, a transportation company, and a nonprofit, Austin partnered with a friend to open an upscale restaurant located near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport.
Putting Community First
“I wanted to be in a location where I can serve the demographic and the community,” Austin says. She searched for the perfect place for over two years until she found the current spot in College Park, Georgia, which has a number of Black-owned businesses so that she could cater to the community as a whole, including customers, workers and kids.
For Austin, friendly service and giving back takes precedence when running a business. Each month, the restaurant gives out free dinners to medical professionals, writes checks to area schools, collects toys for the holidays and offers discounts to residents.
To be successful as an entrepreneur, Austin recommends hiring a consultant to “teach you what you need to know, rather than learning by trial and error.” She also emphasizes that business owners need to be more hands-on, at least in the initial stages of starting a new venture. “As the owner, I do everything from training, serving, even cleaning. I learn everything and help out wherever needed,” she says.
Taking Time to Recalibrate
The concept of Nouveau Bar and Grill is “new and modern” as the name suggests in French. Though the menu reflects familiar flavors such as chicken and waffles, turkey burger sliders, jerk chicken and lamb chops, the dishes are served as a renewed spin on the comfort foods. “When you visit Nouveau, you are greeted with eminent ambiance, amazing live music, excellent service, outstanding cocktails, and exceptional food,” tells Austin.
To address the challenges her restaurant is in facing in the current environment, Austin is using this time to think about what she and her staff can do differently, and better, once they reopen. She ensures that they will likely work harder to do more marketing and provide consistency in food and service, as well as ensure the safety of customers. “We are all facing the same challenges,” she refers to the hard-hit restaurant industry. “Use this time to stay connected to your spiritual self, keep your focus and come back stronger,” she advises.
Austin herself “tries to” manage her work-life balance, juggling her family and businesses by doing daily meditations, cooking at home and going on date nights with her partner. She also promises herself to take two big vacations a year.