One evening back in December, Route 40 sat down with Nicole Jacoby Psounos and a small audience to hear how Greens & Grains went from being the daydream of a social worker to South Jersey’s go-to brand for juices and plant-based foods in just a few years.
The event – the third episode in our Business Bootcamp series highlighting local entrepreneurs – was a chance for Route 40 members and the public to hear directly from Jacoby Psounos, who generally keeps a low profile. “We’re very much about the brand and the brand sustaining itself and not being looked at as faces or a mom-and-pop,” she said.
Jacoby Psounos, along with her husband (and Greens & Grains co-owner) Lambros Psounos, were working multiple jobs to make ends meet after the financial crisis hit South Jersey. When she got a speeding ticket one day and realized that in spite of working three jobs, she was still stressed about paying it, she decided to get back to doing something she was passionate about. So began Greens & Grains, as a business making juice cleanses to sell at coffee shops. At that point, Jacoby Psounos had four jobs, but when she and her husband opened a storefront in Ventnor in July 2015, they both decided to quit to run Greens & Grains full time. Two months later, they opened a Northfield location and the Galloway Greens & Grains opened six months after that.
Starting a business means taking a leap of faith, she said. “You have to really realize this is all or nothing or you’re never going to realize this to its full potential.” You might want to keep the security jobs for as long as possible, but ultimately, you’re going to have to take the leap and dedicate yourself to the new project, she told the audience. “There can’t be one foot in and one foot out.” The couple opened the Ventnor location with $5,000 in savings and a couple of credit cards. Jacoby Psounos said she would think about the worst that could happen and remind herself, “Even if I can’t pay this parking ticket and go to jail, at least I’m not hating what I do now.”
Once the business is running, it’s important to keep blinders on and not pay attention to what anybody else is doing but you, Jacoby Psounos said. “You cannot be worried about what anybody else is doing. If you’re trying to compete or copy, it’s not going to work,” she said. She had a lot of insight to pass on to attendees and answered questions on topics ranging from how to delegate, to how to deal with criticism and how to manage time in an extended question-and-answer session.
Greens & Grains is part of LAN Restaurant Group, which expanded last year to include Banzo and the District Bar at the Linwood Exchange. Through LAN Restaurant Group, Jacoby Psounos and her husband are also the project managers of The Exchange in Linwood and Galloway. But of all these achievements, she is most proud of showing that plant-based food can sell in South Jersey. “Even above opening five places in two years, the fact that there’s even one successful vegan restaurant in South Jersey – that’s huge.”
Get your tickets here to our fourth Business Bootcamp episode next month, featuring Jon Henderson, the man behind the Atlantic City Beer Fest, the Atlantic City Seafood Festival, the AC Tattoo Expo and more. Route 40’s Supporting Members and previous Bootcamp attendees get free passes – email us for details. Or click here if you’re interested in supporting Route 40 with a membership.