Jamaican-born Lowell Hawthorne is the Founder and CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill. The company which started in New York in 1989 now has over 120 stores restaurants across 9 states with revenue of over US$100M. Here is his success story.
In the small hamlet of Border, in rural Jamaica, a young boy named Lowell Hawthorne, cut his entrepreneurial teeth at the tender age of ten with his first small business; raising pigs, rabbits and chickens. From the proceeds of this early enterprise Hawthorne saved enough money by age 16 to purchase a mini-bus and begin his next business endeavor of picking visitors up at the airport and dropping them off at various destinations around the island. Eventually, assisted by an older sister he immigrated to the US. The year was 1981. He was 21 and his head was filled with new possibilities as he embraced life in America. In a short eight years he would be married with children, own his own home and be the CEO of what would become the most successful Caribbean inspired business in the United States.
Living the dream …
Lowell initially found work doing inventory and stocking shelves for the New York City Police Department while beginning his studies at Bronx Community College. After a brief stint working for H&R Block the business savvy Hawthorne saw yet another opportunity and his new company L&H was formed. Still working for NYPD he found many clients for his tax preparation services amongst the police officers that surrounded him in his day-time job. Armed with his college education he eventually moved up the ranks into the NYPD Pensions Department, as an accountant. However by the end of the eighties he was ready for change and that’s when the idea for the Golden Krust Bakery was hatched.
Over the years Lowell’s father Ephraim Hawthorne, who owned a small bakery in Jamaica, would come to visit. While spending time with family at the Bronx house he would bake his special Easter buns. These buns were a family tradition, the recipe handed down through the generations from father to son. Soon the Hawthorne clan were selling these buns to neighbours, local businesses and their colleagues at work. Eventually the basement of Lowell’s house was turned into an ad hoc bakery. As the eighties drew to a close the family pooled their resources to raise the funds needed to purchase the appropriate real estate to take the fledgling business to the next level and so …. the new dream found a home and the first official Golden Krust Bakery came into being.
The Golden Krust touch
The original bakery produced buns, breads and cakes but quickly expanded its repertoire to include signature meat patties. Featuring island spices and a flaky pastry crust the patties quickly became a best seller but the road to success wasn’t entirely smooth sailing. Initially the Hawthornes purchased their beef patties from a New York competitor and just when Golden Krust was becoming a serious competitor in the local market, their wholesale supplier decided to abruptly cut them off from their beef patty supply. It was a huge crisis for the company but by using typical Hawthorne common sense coupled with some good advice from dad, Lowell was able to save the day. In fact, this stumbling block created a perfect opportunity to grow the business. This is what happened ….
Lowell was actually visiting in Jamaica when the bad news from the supplier was delivered. When he got off the phone he was devastated but his father, Ephraim, didn’t see things in such a dark light. He counselled his son to rise above the disaster and to see it as an opportunity. Being the local pastor he believed that God would lead the way and his faith bolstered his son’s next decisions. Lowell hopped on a plane to London where he tracked down the information he needed to create a perfect pastry for his own meat patties and quickly found exactly what he needed. The end result has become that deep golden pastry we all associate with the Golden Krust brand.
Next Lowell went back to Jamaica to sleuth out a well-known cook named Mel, famous on the island for his perfectly spiced meat patty fillings. Then on he went to Chicago to purchase the necessary bakery equipment; and just like that, the crisis of the meat patties was solved.
Independence is sweet and from disaster the phoenix rose. The new signature Golden Krust beef patties quickly garnered the company customer attention and today has literally become the “Golden Standard” in the beef patty niche.
In fact these beef patties have been so successful that the Golden Krust Bakery now churns out up to 20,000 patties a day. One of their largest contracts entails supplying the New York City educational system with a variety of beef patties for lunch programs. Today’s children are being provided healthy food at lunch time while developing a taste for Caribbean flavors that they will, no doubt, continue to savor as adults.
Drive, discipline, determination and desire
Lowell Hawthorne uses something he calls the four d’s to fuel his success; drive, discipline, determination and desire. By keeping it real, Hawthorne has been able to develop a clear mission statement that has guided the Golden Krust brand through crises and successes to become the strong community focused company it is today. What began in 1989 has blossomed into a franchised business with over 120 restaurants.
The tenets that have brought the Golden Krust brand to the forefront are simple and straightforward. This company is grounded by an old fashioned value that places its main emphasis on the customer who is at the very core of the company’s success. Lowell Hawthorne believes in approaching business with an emphasis on:
- providing real value to real people
- always having fun
Together with his family, Lowell has created a recipe for success; a recipe that has taken them from humble beginnings in a Bronx basement to thriving contender status, in a very competitive niche.
The Baker’s Son
The company-honored value of giving back to the community continues to be one of the strongest links in the backbone of the Golden Krust Bakery & Grill enterprise. This company responds to their community constantly; seeking feedback, acting on perceived needs and supporting community organizations. The Mavis & Ephraim Hawthorne, Golden Krust Foundation (MEHGKF), named in honor of the family matriarch and patriarch was established in 2005. It focuses on, “creating and bringing awareness of educational opportunities to the youth of our communities nationally and internationally through scholarships, internships and mentorship.”
Always true to his faith, his roots, his family and community, Lowell Hawthorne has penned a memoir, The Baker’s Son: My Life in Business which charts his remarkable journey from a boyhood in Jamaica to his present-day life in America. For all aspiring entrepreneurs this book is a worthwhile read. From the MEHGKF website:
“The Baker’s Son is a deeply moving account that tells the story of an immigrant family from rural Jamaica that relocated to the Bronx in the 1980s. Starting from humble beginnings, and after weathering several major crises along the way, personal as well as professional, the Hawthorne family has scaled the heights of success to achieve the American Dream to an unprecedented degree. Not content to rest on its well-deserved laurels, the family has, in addition, established an innovative and very successful philanthropic foundation to give back to the community.”
All proceeds from the sale of the Baker’s Son support the work and scholarships of MEHGKF.