Influencer - Jeff Good
EQ + the Evangelical Jacksonian
Jeff Good, Influencer + Entrepreneur Quarterly
by Helen Geary
This week Jackson is getting jazzed up for the first ever Entrepreneur Quarterly - otherwise known as EQ. EQ is a quarterly networking group hosted by Sal & Mookie’s and Mantle. City Club for Jackson creatives and entrepreneurs that meets in a neutral spot and provides the only thing that new entrepreneurs care about other than getting their products to market: free food and cheap drinks!
In preparation for this, Jeff Good, local “restaurateur” and owner of Sal + Mookie's was gracious enough to carve out some time for us. We gleaned some advice and shared some laughs on all things work, business, Jackson, golf and books.
Jeff is the President of Mangia Bene Restaurant Management Group which owns and operates Bravo!, Broad Street Bakery, and Mangia Bene Catering in addition to Sal + Mookie's New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint. He is also the Chief Evangelist for the City of Jackson - a Mantle. installed, but very accurate title.
That's quite the title for a guy that transferred into Jackson as a senior in high school and did all that he could to get kicked out of Millsaps College.
Spoiler: he eventually graduated.
These days you can find Jeff all around Mississippi at his restaurants or talking to business groups about starting and growing successful businesses. It's no wonder that when asked what he would put on his personal billboard in Jackson he said:
“Come. Plant. Grow.”
When entrepreneurs seek his advice (and they often do!), what Jeff Good always hopes to impress upon young, eager minds is truly how hard it is to start a business. He told me about the strenuous work, the seemingly endless fundraising cycle, the strain on personal relationships, and the 90 hour work weeks it took to start his first restaurant, Bravo!. He also stressed how the hard work remains, even after you open four restaurants (there is a Sal + Mookie's on the coast, too).
Ok! Who's ready to start their own business!
What is immediately obvious about Jeff and something witnessed as he answered my questions is that he never, ever stops. You can see how he pushes through the hard work. He’s a self-proclaimed workaholic and that's not a bad thing. But to run three (three!!!) successful restaurants and a catering business, all the while leaving room for charitable work or interviews with upstarts like Sandbox, one has to border on an unhealthy desire to put in the extra hour every day, Monday through Sunday.
If you follow Jeff or any of his restaurants on Facebook you can see his relentless quest to provide his customers with the best experience he possibly can, no matter the day. Often, in Jackson where Jeff's restaurants seem to be at the corner of every single water main break, Jeff is constantly communicating with his customers and the city to rectify bad situations quickly.
He is also quick to post praise from his customers for his employees on social media, too!
"I have found that many people who want to get information about our city follow me… so I feel like I have a duty to 'report the truth'," says Jeff. "Now I am a marketer, so I am often push, push, pushing out sales info - KING CAKES THIS! PIZZA THAT! BEER DINNER HERE! WINE TASTING THERE! - so, I guess am thankful that people don’t 'tune me out', but rather take the bad - the constant marketing chatter - with the good - the news about Jackson."
Yes, he says, his info includes the bad about the town, such as potholes, water problems, and such, but wants people to know that his conversation is authentic and honest and never to tear down - "I am just here to report." He hopes - with this reporting and communication - we as Jacksonians may stay up to date, and if people are accepting of his vision about where we may go that is great too.
Jeff's hypothetical billboard - "Come. Plant. Grow." - reflects not only Jeff’s personal attitude towards Jackson but his professional experience in the city as well. “Come, plant, and grow” speak to the potential here in Jackson Jeff points out. He does a lot to nurture local business opportunities and the minds of entrepreneurs in his city, whether that is within his businesses, at his alma mater Millsaps, or in the community. That’s why he is so excited for an event like Entrepreneur Quarterly to be kicking off in conjunction with Mantle. at his pizza joint, Sal and Mookie’s.
Jeff is not Mother Teresa, he is in fact a business man. Sure, he wants Jackson, his adopted city, to plant new businesses that can grow into new jobs and new opportunities for the next generation of kids in this city and this state. Mantle. shares that hope. But he, like Mantle., also knows that he needs to turn tables (Mantle. has to make new members) to survive. New companies - new plants - are the food that the rest of the economy of Jackson needs to function.
That's why nourturing entrepreneurs, if even for just four nights a year, with some free pizza and cheap beer is important. "If one idea is planted and grows out of this it will be worth the effort," Jeff says.
If I can see one thing, it is this: Jeff Good believes wholeheartedly in Jackson.
Restaurant owners are a lot like politicians in that they seemingly know everyone. The main difference: restaurants have to deliver on their promises if they want to stay in business. Despite regularly denying he has any interest in city politics in Jackson, Jeff does get around this city where he knows everyone and is not afraid to lend a hand - and his restaurants always deliver on their promises.
As we talk, Jeff is adamant about making time to meet with people who want his input on their growing ideas. He is also expanding his reach a little outside of his restaurants. One of the coolest things that Jeff is working on is growing Up In Farms a locally sourced produce food hub. "Up in Farms helps Mississippi’s small- and medium-sized farms meet the standards of commercial buyers, plan and operate profitable businesses, and satisfy emerging federal and state standards for food safety and security," says Jeff.
Jeff notes that between all of his open projects, businesses, and the ease of accessibility to his time can often put a strain on his schedule. To keep track of the many moving parts, he keeps it “pretty durn simple” with his iPhone, Mac, and Google Calendar.
(His trick- Google calendar invites!)
Jeff and his wife Debbie have two college-age daughters who he adores. I asked what they enjoy doing in their time together; he chuckled and paused for second. “We enjoy just being normal… Just hanging out,” he said. "After years of grueling work schedules, sometimes the best thing is really just that: to be normal."
When he’s not working or with his family, which is rare, you may find him diving into an exploration of his ego and id through Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, enjoying Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History, or chuckling at Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm. He also recently picked up golf, loving it for the mental challenge and social aspect.
“It’s a challenge to learn something new, out of your comfort zone and with new people,” he says.
We guess that's not a whole lot different than being an entrepreneur.
As entrepreneurs ourselves, we at Mantle. are super thankful for friends like Jeff. We are thrilled to be partners in the creation of EQ with Jeff and Sal + Mookie's. Heck, it wasn't too long ago that Jeff was a keynote speaker at Mantle.'s launch party. Now we are teaming up with a leader and influencer like Jeff...
We would like to think we have arrived!
Keep up with Sandbox for more interviews with local business whizzes!