Hospitality Focus: M.B.A., Business Management Alumnus Buys Restaurant in Bridgeville Monday, October 2, 2017
Meet Jason Simoni
Job title and employer: President/Owner of The Crafty Jackalope
Degrees earned: B.S. in Business Management, 2002, and M.B.A. with a concentration in Management, 2003
Hometown and current resident: Hopewell Twp., Pa.
High school: Hopewell High School
Hobbies/interests: Fishing, golf and cooking
LinkedIn: Jason Simoni
How did you become owner of The Crafty Jackalope in Bridgeville?
I had lunch one day at The Crafty Jackalope with a good friend who frequently patronized there, and really enjoyed the food and started to become a regular with my family. Oddly enough, the restaurant came up for sale within a short period of time and I developed a relationship with the owner and subsequently struck the deal of a lifetime! I have no regrets and am having the time of my life!
Owning a restaurant was on my bucket list. My constant gravitation to the kitchen and my passion for cooking made for a perfect match. My entire family works the business with me and we definitely enjoy the daily customer interaction. Nothing pleases us more than being that neighborhood spot where everyone is welcome. There is no better feeling than gazing into a restaurant full of people who are happy and having a good time.
Tell us about your previous career experience in the business world.
I spent 15 years in the plastics processing industry, specifically PVC. Starting as a designer and working my way through management, I was afforded many wonderful opportunities over the years. I was lucky to travel the world, mostly western Europe and Canada. Experiencing other countries, their people and customs was truly a humbling educational experience which made me a more well-rounded person and employee. I also helped construct a state-of-the-art processing plant in West Virginia which was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
My first experience as a CEO came in the form of taking over a struggling business located in New Jersey. Within the first year, we became profitable and subsequently relocated to Pittsburgh in the second year. This was a game changer and made me most proud. I believe Pittsburghers are the most friendly, hardest working, genuine folks on the planet and the numbers proved me right. We doubled our sales within three years and were on pace to reach expansion levels in short order.
Unfortunately, this industry is directly tied into the housing market and the financial/real estate crisis at that time forced the majority of shareholders to sell the company. A few years prior, I had started my own real estate business investing in rentals and flipping residential properties. Thankfully, I had this to fall back on and enjoyed it very much for many years to come.
How have your degrees helped you throughout your career?
I'm not sure I could possibly capture the true scope of how my education from Point Park allowed me to transform a job into a fulfilling and dynamic career. The application of my knowledge gained in the business management and M.B.A. programs allowed me to take a technically-driven industry to levels only seen in large global companies.
Also, my ability to implement business concepts into the manufacturing processes in conjunction with engineering principles yielded tremendous results. We created a "circle of life" where the information gathered during the process of engineering, manufacturing, troubleshooting/modification and production was returned to engineering to eliminate waste and improve performance and efficiencies worldwide at over 11 facilities.
As a whole, I could never have experienced and achieved the amazing things throughout my career and my life without my business foundation from my dear alma mater, Point Park. Words could never express my gratitude and I will forever be indebted.
In what ways has Point Park's faculty impacted you?
I still tell the many stories I have learned from the faculty during the years of my studies. The best part is that they are eternal, lifelong lessons that may have seemed silly when I heard them, but now in some cases. are staples of my discussions with my employees.
There is not and will never be a substitute for the sharing of real-world experiences as they apply to learning lessons. As an adult learner, I enjoyed hearing these stories for many of them were applicable and relevant to me. I would relish in the opportunity to share some of my stories with the adult learners, and maybe someday teach a class of my own.
What advice do you have for our students pursuing careers in the hospitality industry?
Get ready for long hours, lots of hard work and a rewarding career! There is no doubt that active management makes the difference in this industry in terms of success. Hiring and training people who care about your business and treat it as their own is priority number one. Training is of the utmost importance because people must become plug and play due to the high turnover ratio of this industry.
Time management is another key to success. Learning how to manage the many moving parts as well as your personnel takes time. Generate your own methods of dealing with issues and set a schedule and stick to it. Do not accept unsolicited walk-ins and phone calls.
Above all, pretend you are the customer when you manage your business. Whether it's a dish on the menu, live entertainment, special events or drink specials, think of that place that you like to frequent and apply your ideas to your own business. Chances are, if you're doing your homework and visiting your competition and other similar businesses, you will be able to create that special vibe in your place that packs them in every night.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
A special shout-out to a long-time friend and former cohort colleague, Dr. Michele Langbein for all that she is to me and every person whose life she has touched. The world is a much better place with her in it. Also, Dr. Bill Breslove and Dr. George Bromall could not have been better role models and educators. Their approachability and style were second to none … I will never forget our trip to Gettyburg! Finally, Dr. Dimitris Kraniou's emphatic utilization of Greek mythology references have never left me or my arsenal of teaching methods!
Photo by Brandy Richey, junior multimedia major