On Monday, March 7, The Rowan Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE) hosted their first maskless Spotlight Speaker event.
Alumni Steve Smith visited Rowan University to talk about entrepreneurship with students and staff.
Born and raised in Freehold, New Jersey, Smith was a graduate of Rowan University, previously Glassboro State College. Smith moved to New Orleans in 1994 where he met his wife, Sharon, and began his career in the bar and restaurant industry.
After working in the bar and restaurant for almost 20 years, Smith had the opportunity to buy his first bar with co-founder and business partner, Brad Bohannan.
“By the time I was 30 years old, at that point, what I knew was the bar business in New Orleans,” Smith said.
At the event, Smith reminded young, aspiring entrepreneurs that they must have the “gambling spirit.”
“It didn’t come naturally to me at the beginning,” Smith said.
Smith also reminded the audience that setting goals and “looking into the mirror to remind yourself of those goals” is of the utmost importance.
Smith wasn’t a natural entrepreneur. That discipline came with time and experience. After three years owning their first bar, Smith and Bohannan were presented with another opportunity to purchase another bar.
The two men purchased the second bar but struggled to maintain business and their customer and employee satisfaction.
“The clientele demand was much different [from their other bar],” Smith said.
Although only eight blocks away from each other, the two bars demanded different services. Whereas Turtle Bay was a locally-known bar and demanded much less, Spirits on Bourbon was in a “tourist hotspot,” demanding more service and entertainment.
In an attempt to save their business, Smith and Bohannan enlisted the help of Jon Taffer.
Jon Taffer is an American entrepreneur known as the “Gordon Ramsey” of the bar and nightclub scene. Taffer is the host of the popular show “Bar Rescue.”
First appearing on Season 3 Episode 1, “Turtle on its Back,” Taffer helped the business owners get their bar back on its feet with a lot of tough love.
Smith laughed after reminiscing in front of the audience. He admitted to being a bit embarrassed rewatching a video clip in front of the audience— which showcased Smith yelling angrily after being told what to do by Taffer.
“I was really pissed off after being yelled at,” Smith said.
Despite the yelling and tough love, in the end, the bar was saved. Smith noted to the crowd that he learned a lot from Taffer, whom he is now good friends with.
Spirits on Bourbon and Turtle Bay still continue to bring in customers all around the world— with almost all five-star ratings.
“Billy Joel was one of our most famous customers,” Smith said.
To conclude the night, Smith thanked everyone and reminded them to keep pursuing their goals and to work hard in order to achieve them.
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