Jamaica entrepreneur living a dream as small business award honoree

Courtesy of Dawn Kelly

Growing up in south Jamaica, Dawn Kelly always dreamed of owning her grandfather’s house and years later after a successful career doing public relations for a financial services firm she was able to buy the home.

“It meant so much to me because my grandfather was the first one in my family to actually own a home so it was very, very special to me,” Kelly said.

Her career came to an abrupt end in 2015 when Kelly was told her position was being eliminated.

“That sent me into a tailspin. It absolutely devastated me,” Kelly recalled. “They called it retirement, but I’m too young to retire and I spent more than two years of grieving and praying, and after so many failed interviews for other job opportunities, I realized I didn’t feel like putting my life in another person’s hands any longer.”

Kelly was sitting in her living room watching a cable news channel when she saw a feature on a hip-hop star who began his own small business.

“I saw a story on that rapper Styles P opening a juice bar and that really caught my fancy. I watched that report intently and I realized I had been juicing for two years to lose weight. After I lost my job I went from a size 8 to 14 so I started my own health regimen.”

Kelly is also a fan of posting on Instagram.

“I used to Instagram all of my juices, so in my phone I had photos of not just the juices but different menus and price charts of the juice bars I went to,” Kelly said. “Then I started taking different entrepreneurship classes. New York is chock full of these programs and all you have to do is look for them.”

In 2016, Kelly discovered a storefront was available just around the corner from her home.

“I’ll never forget. It was DK Upholstery, those are my initials and now it’s my store,” she said.

After failing to be profitable in 2017 when it first opened, The Nourish Spot turned a profit in 2018. Friends had tried to discourage Kelly from starting her own company, fearing that the neighborhood would not support a health food business, but she followed her dream and is proving that her creative leadership and unique idea can make the business a success. The Nourish Spot offers a selection of natural fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, salads, soups and sandwich wraps.

Earlier this month, Kelly’s store The Nourish Spot, located at 107-05 Guy R. Brewer Blvd., had a visitor. Beth Goldberg, the director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s New York office, stopped by to present Kelly with a certificate honoring her for beating out more than a million entrepreneurs throughout the state to become Microbusiness Person of the Year for 2019.

“As a former small business owner myself, I know that running a company often means you sacrifice your social life and you don’t spend enough time with your family,” Goldberg said.

Kelly put together a staff of youngsters aging from 14 to 22 from around the borough in partnerships with organizations such as Queens Community House, the Police Athletic League and LaGuardia Community College. Most of the staff are students taking part in the city’s C-CAP program which prepares more than 2,000 students for careers in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

“The city pays them but we train them in the culinary arts, hospitality, customer service and general life skills,” Kelly said.