Showing Up For Purpose
By Jack Barber ’16, Co-Founder of Mainely Burgers.
If someone had told me three years ago that my brother, Max, and I would be running our business Mainely Burgers full-time, I would have told them that they were crazy. During my senior year at Babson, I was razor focused on getting a job in finance. It was my concentration and I was good at it. Mainely Burgers had been an amazing summer experience without a doubt. Both Max and I had learned so much throughout the six years running food trucks in southern Maine, but I felt that it was finally time to exchange the apron for a suit and tie.
As I began interviewing for potential finance jobs, Mainely Burgers kept coming up. At first I would be asked to talk about my work experience. I had the pitch memorized and was always able to connect my experience there to the position I was applying for. But then by the end of the interview I found myself being questioned as to why I wouldn’t want to expand my business. After my third interview, Mainely Burgers had leapt to the forefront of my mind. I had received an attractive offer at a big company and was seriously considering it. I had a few months to decide and, during that time, I consistently would go to Food Sol’s Community Table. I was able to bounce the idea off of a lot of food innovators and entrepreneurs from all different backgrounds. The knowledge and advice I received there was a motivating factor for me. I continued to meet with Babson alums and friends to discuss the prospect of expanding Mainely Burgers, and the consensus was clear: go for it.
The Big Leap
Later that spring, a Babson connection encouraged me to meet with a wealth management advisor to discuss my career goals and aspirations. As I had with most of my interviews before, I went through the Mainely Burgers story and that I wanted to have a career in finance. Despite my excitement about Mainely Burgers, it was hard for me to let go of what I thought I “should” be doing. The gentleman abruptly stopped me and said, “You will never have another chance in your life to expand your business. You are young, hardworking, and there will be desk jobs readily available if you fail.” With that, he put me in touch with a restaurant contact who put me through my paces and eventually introduced me to someone selling a burger shop in Central Square. The timing was incredible.
I started work on a business plan, outlining what this business could be, and we were off! In four quick months, Max and I had bought a restaurant, applied for permits, created our menu, designed a new logo, renovated the interior, hired and trained a staff, and were open for business. This entire process was a whirlwind and a huge test of emotional strength. It was everything I was looking for.
Mainely Burgers & Beyond
I have learned so much over the past two years. I certainly did not expect to be cleaning fryers or fixing pipes with my Babson education, but I love every second of it. We have had to learn on the fly and have been very lucky to create connections with mentors and other restaurateurs. I can easily say the amount we have learned over the past year will be so much more useful for me in the long term than if I had taken the safer route. Just in the past year, we have had to write our own lease agreement and create inventory checking standards, in-depth food costing, training manuals, and a whole lot more. Sure, the hours can be intense, but we get to do something we love. It isn’t work for us, it’s fun!
From the beginning, Food Sol has been a critical part of helping us foster new relationships within the food space. Relationships are so important in business and, as I’m learning, even more so in the food space. Through Food Sol, we have met so many people that have been integral to our success. Rachel and Cheryl were the first two advisors I reached out to when Mainely Burgers was just an idea, and have helped us grow from one small food truck to where we are today.
The biggest game-changer for me was realizing that it’s okay to admit that you don’t know everything and to ask for help. We all put so much pressure on ourselves that is tough sometimes to admit when we are under water. As entrepreneurs, both Max and I struggled with this, having poured our heart and souls into the business. But, since this change in mentality, we have built an incredible team of advisors and staff. It has allowed Max and I to focus on the broader goals of the business rather than being consumed in the day to day of it.
Over the past year, Max and I have become better businessman, leaders, friends, and (most importantly) brothers. We are extremely lucky and fortunate to be able to work together and have learned how to separate work from our personal lives. The journey Max and I have embarked on is not linear. It is a constant ebb and flow with us hitting new highs and lows everyday. This is the business of being an entrepreneur. There is no clear path to success and no two days are the same. But I can safely say, expanding Mainely Burgers was the best decision we ever made.