Sacrifice, hard work pay off for Honeygrow founder
When writing his business plan, Justin Rosenberg was meticulous, gathering more information than he’d ever use—or need.
The native New Yorker remembers spending hours at the Fox School of Business, curling up in Alter Hall’s lounge chairs while developing the business model for what would become Honeygrow, the Philadelphia-based, fast-casual restaurant that offers fresh-to-order salads and stir-fries with seasonal, local ingredients.
In June, Honeygrow received $25 million in investment funding from Miller Investment Management, which will support further expansion of Honeygrow and updates to the company’s technology platform.
“It seems like I was just in Alter yesterday,” said Rosenberg, FOX ’09. “Building Honeygrow was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, but it was worth it.”
The Fox School alumnus worked as a financial analyst and asset manager while pursuing his Global MBA. Deep down, he said, he desired to build a company of his own. Rosenberg was a vegan at the time and sought more creative, locally grown meal options than most restaurants offered. So he crafted a restaurant concept to his liking.
He found information about touch-screen ordering systems by calling companies that utilized them. He even contacted restaurant owners from as far away as California, to inquire about the size of their bowls and to best determine price-per-ounce figures.
Then, he took to the streets. Rosenberg wasn’t above knocking on doors to find investors, or working the weekend. Following 40-or-more-hour workweeks, Rosenberg would ride a bus to Washington, D.C., where he’d work in the kitchen of a friend’s restaurant. He navigated Saturday night dinners and the Sunday brunch rush, before heading home to his wife, Halie, who at the time was pregnant with the first of their three children.
In June 2012, he opened Honeygrow’s first location—at 16th and Sansom streets in Philadelphia. In three short years, Rosenberg and Honeygrow continue to blossom and will have expanded to eight locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, and 20 corporate employees by the end of 2015.
“It’s a sacrifice. Every step was a humbling experience, but it was how I learned that, for a company to be successful, you have to embrace it and make it your life, and obsess over the details,” Rosenberg said. “There’s this mirage that, if you’re your own boss, life is great. It can be, but only if you work hard and continue to remain focused.”
—Christopher A. Vito