Keelia Excell and Novar Excell, husband and wife team/owners of Excell Kingston Eatery
As part of our Women’s History Month series, this week we are so happy to feature one of our newer vendors, Excell Kingston Eatery! It was so interesting to learn about how their business is run from the female perspective as well as a husband and wife team.
Interview with Keelia from Excell Kingston Eatery:
How’d you get into the restaurant business? Was your initial plan to own a food business? If not, what was your initial desire?
My initial plan was to be a teacher, which is what I went to school for. However, that didn’t work out so I started working in the corporate world. My husband had started another food business with a partner but wasn’t satisfied in their arrangement and always felt that he could be doing more. Eventually he came to me and asked me if I would be open to starting a new business with him.
Who is the mastermind behind your recipes?
My husband, Novar, is the mastermind behind the food but I am the taster. My taste is a lot more “Americanized” than his so I’m able to keep the Jamaican flavor but make sure that the food will translate well with our customers.
How has being a woman owner of a food business impacted the way you run your shop?
When I got involved in the business, I immediately changed the presentation of the food and the decor as well as set up rules for the employees and strategies for the business. My husband prefers to deal with the food, so I do a lot of the customer service and management of the business. I’ve always been interested in event planning so I’m able to use those skills in a lot of different areas of the business.
Who or what was your inspiration for your decision in running your own business?
The initial inspiration for the business was obviously my husband. The business was always my husband’s dream. But I also grew up watching my mother cook and helping her in the kitchen. She is one of those people who is constantly being asked to cater for church events, family parties, baby showers, etc., she used to do it in Jamaica and still does in New York, so I knew how much preparation everything requires and all the hard work that goes into it.
What are some of the challenges you have had to overcome, if any?
The most challenging thing is not being home with our children more. We have two boys and it’s hard to balance the business and home life. Another very challenging thing is finding loyal and trustworthy employees.
What advice would you give to women who are afraid or hesitant to start their own business?
Just do it! I was always hesitant to start my own business, although I always saw myself opening an event planning business at some point. But my husband is a do-er and he convinced me to make that leap and I haven’t looked back since. I think that once you do it, you will be so surprised at what you can accomplish.