Go anywhere in Atlanta, Georgia and you will hear the name of this South African restaurateur who mastered the art of the personal brand: Justin Anthony.
Former professional soccer player and South African native, Justin Anthony came to the states in the mid 90s when he was 21 years old, playing for a team in Atlanta. With a nagging injury and a boom of opportunity in the city in 1996 due to the Olympics, Justin decided to take a step back from soccer.
Instead, he took up a job serving at a local French restaurant -- with the intention of learning theindustry. He wanted to open his own restaurant.
A true entrepreneur at heart, at the age of 25 Justin Anthony opened his first restaurant, 10 Degrees South: a fine dining destination, and more importantly, the premier South African restaurant in the country.
Fast forward 17 years, and this past year Justin Anthony opened 3 new restaurants in less than 6 months: Yebo Beach Haus, Cape Dutch, and Biltong Bar.
What do all these restaurants have in common? They share the theme of South Africa.
Curious by this restaurateur's unique story and unconventional beginnings, I asked him specifically about his path as an entrepreneur -- lessons learned, obstacles faced and wisdom he would pass along to others who want to pivot from one industry to another (as he did from professional soccer to hospitality).
These are the top 3 entrepreneurial lessons that transformed him into a successful restauranteur:
A key part of being a professional athlete is discipline -- the discipline to show up to practice, to mentally prepare for each game, to avoid distractions and stay focused on the goal at hand. For Justin, his years as a professional soccer player set the standard for his work ethic in the restaurant business.
"It takes a lot of discipline to know when to take a risk and not to take a risk," Justin said. "There were several restaurant concepts we tried over the past decade that didn't work. Those were tough lessons. But just like with soccer, I knew success didn't happen overnight. Everybody sees the talent, but nobody sees the hours and hours of hard work that goes on behind the scenes. That daily discipline is what ends up brings success over the long term--and that longevity is what you want."
If you've ever been a competitor (in anything) then you know the importance of structuring your day. It is instrumental in ensuring you allocate the time needed to master your craft.
"No matter what industry you're in, you have to have a daily rhythm," Justin said. "I try to make my rounds to each one of the restaurants every single day. I want to be involved, I want to be part of the process. Again, especially in hospitality, everyone sees the owner when they're walking around in the evening with a glass of wine, talking to guests, making sure everyone is having a great time. But nobody sees the other ten to twelve hours of the day spent making sure everything's running smoothly."
"Structure is crucial, and I attribute my schedule today to the busy schedule I held being a professional soccer player," he said. "I started playing professional soccer when I was 17, and in South Africa you can play as a professional and still attend university. And there is no way you can balance both without a solid sense of structure. You have to be structured if you want to be successful -- at anything."
And of course, the piece of wisdom every aspiring entrepreneur struggles to hear: you have to be patient. For Justin Anthony, he has learned the value of patience -- especially when it comes to opening new restaurants.
"I remember when I was 16 and I wanted so badly to turn pro, and I just kept thinking to myself, 'I'm good enough now, I'm good enough now.' In hindsight, I wasn't quite there yet, and I was just being impatient. People in business are the same way. I have learned through opening multiple restaurants and companies that when you are patient, good things come to you. With Yebo Beach Haus, for example, we didn't have a location spot. We were getting anxious, and I knew that if I made a decision out of anxiety then I would make a bad decision. So I sat back, decided to be patient, and sure enough the right location eventually presented itself."
What lessons helped push you towards your entrepreneurial success? I'd love to learn more! Comment below.