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July 2: Jelynne Jardiniano
Jelynne Jardiniano; Entrepreneur
Hometown: Jersey City, NJ Education: Cornell University Age: 31
Jelynne was born in Manila, Philippines, and in 1984 moved with her family to the United States to make Jersey City, NJ, their hometown. She went on to Cornell University with her sights set on being a lawyer, but unhappy with her studies, Jelynne took a year off after her first year to explore other interests. She got a job as a hostess for a small seafood restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and from that simple job came the spark for her love of restaurants. She worked for other restaurants and catering companies, working her way up as a server. With no doubt in her mind, Jelynne went back to Cornell and switched majors to hospitality management.
Business talks by her professors and between her peers were the norm. Entrepreneurship was not only a common pursuit, but a nurtured mindset at school. From first thinking that she would become a manager of a restaurant, Jelynne changed her focus to owning her own restaurant. A year after college, she did just that.
Jelynne went back to her hometown and received a small investment from her family for her restaurant venture. In November 2003 she opened LITM, a bar and gallery that to this day hosts monthly art exhibitions by local and international artists. But her ability to grow the business was being stifled by a Jersey City ordinance that restricted bars and restaurants in the Restaurant Row district from serving alcohol past 11 pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends, while restaurants in other parts of the city were permitted to serve as late as 3 am. Jelynne set out to change that law.
Two years later, in October 2005, with over a thousand petitions in hand and a caucus-room full of supporters, Jelynne convinced the city council of Jersey City to amend the Restaurant Row restriction. Shortly after, Jelynne became an officer on the board of the Special Improvement District (SID), organization that supports local business development in downtown Jersey City. Three new restaurants opened since she changed the law, with two more opening this year.
But Jelynne still wanted to grow her bar into the restaurant she envisioned from the start, so she slowly introduced food with a café-style menu of sandwiches and salads. Within a year, she expanded the kitchen and became a full-service restaurant in 2007. Today, LITM continues to be a popular neighborhood destination that serves new American food by Executive Chef Alexander Diaz. LITM was awarded "Best Casual" restaurant in 2008 by the BEST Independent Restaurant Association.
Jelynne just completed her first book titled "Restaurant From Scratch." The book was inspired by her patrons and friends who kept going to her for advice on starting a restaurant. Her book blends instructional how-to's with advice on personal improvement and empowerment. It clears the excuses that get in our way of pursuing our dream and puts the focus on the resources we have within our reach. Jelynne enjoys giving classes on entrepreneurship. She actively writes about topics on restaurant startups, interviews experts in the trenches of the industry and shares it on her blog.
Jelynne is now working on multiple film projects. The first is on the current construction of two restaurants, both by different owners with opposite approaches. The documentary shows the varying yet similar challenges that someone opening a restaurant will go through. Her second film project is a food and culture travel show on horseback that highlights how people can experience more joy in their lives. Her first horseback trip was through the vineyards and beaches of Bordeaux, France. Her upcoming destination is Turkey in September 2010.