When Kacy Erdelyi opened Joyist, an organic functional foods café in Montclair, she said she craved support and input from others.
“There are so many women in this town doing incredible things, yet, most of the time, we sit alone in our spaces trying to solve the same problem that 20 other women are also trying to, or solving a problem that someone found a solution to a month ago,” Erdelyi, founder and owner of Joyist, said. “We should take advantage of that rather than having to reinvent the wheel every time we encounter a new challenge.”
Now, not only does the health-conscious working mother of two want to create more revenue for her business, but, Erdelyi said, she wants to help other women business owners do the same.
“I therefore decided to host and structure monthly meetings in which we could inspire each other and exchange our expertise in different ways,” Erdelyi said.
Erdelyi said she invited nearly two dozen women to attend the new, community-oriented, women’s networking group focused on and tailored for small business growth at Joyist.
More than 50 women showed up to her inaugural meeting in January, with requests to attend more than doubling since, she said.
“That shows there was an absolute need for this,” Erdelyi said. “And we will all be smarter for it.”
Erdelyi successfully opened Joyist in May 2017.
However, by September, her optimistic sales were declining, she said.
“I quickly learned there was more (that) people wanted from us,” Erdelyi said. “Plus, when you’re in the suburbs, it’s difficult to make enough revenue from a one-product type of shop.
“So, we diversified our menu to mitigate seasonality and cover more options throughout the day.”
Today, Joyist not only serves organic smoothies and juices, such as The Kacy (spinach, kale, apple, banana, lemon, ginger, date and flaxseed oil), but also “food you can feel,” Erdelyi said.
“We work really hard to only include ingredients on the menu that have scientific, nutritional fact behind them, because there is a lot of misinformation in the health and wellness space,” she said.
In addition to breakfast bowls (soft-boiled egg, roasted maitake mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, crispy kale and mashed root vegetables), acai- and yogurt-based bowls, Asian-Style, Mexican-style and classic grain bowls, toasts and granolas, Joyist also provides a full coffee bar and “tonics,” such as The Jackie (house-made almond milk, coconut milk, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, local honey and black pepper).
“When we press almond milk, for example, we use the leftover meal for gluten-free flour in our zucchini bread,” Erdelyi said.
Since diversifying the menu, Erdelyi and her 15 employees have more than doubled Joyist’s revenue in just one year.
“Our team is incredible and the absolute reason we have made it this far,” she said.
Teamwork is the key to any further success, Erdelyi said.
“I also had been thinking of ways to build a community around Joyist, and, if I were to create one that I could stand behind, it would be a business-oriented group,” she said. “So, I thought, could we be the gathering place in town for other women trying to build their own businesses?”
When Erdelyi had worked in marketing strategy, she said her objective often would be to help clients figure out who their target audience was, armed with brainstorming exercises that she would then moderate to help them come to workable conclusions.
Erdelyi said she employed the same tactics when inviting a small group of women to brainstorm an agenda for her community events.
“We discovered that what was most needed was knowledge sharing,” she said. “The need for a think tank, of sorts.”
The result was a nearly three-hour event in January with more than 50 attendees, with Erdelyi at the helm taking notes with a marker and easel pad.
The event was a massive success, Erdelyi said, evidenced by the fact that her email list has since continued to grow — plus, her cash register was full after keeping the café open past normal business hours.
“However, due to our limited space, our number of attendees will now have to be limited, too,” Erdelyi said. “That’s why I now am thinking about hosting two per month, to accommodate everyone who wants to come and also for those who cannot make one of the dates.”
Erdelyi said that, while some small business owners may self-select out, she is excited to see what happens to those who choose to regularly attend.
“I’m really interested in this feeling like a space for people who want to go big or go home — those business owners who are intent on scaling, fundraising, distributing, hiring and tackling growth-oriented issues,” she said.
As for Erdelyi, she said she plans to grow Joyist, too.
“By this time next year, I would like to have opened a second location in Summit, while continuing to speak with investors about opportunities,” she said.
Women and networking
After hungry attendees ordered from the Joyist café at Kacy Erdelyi’s first women’s networking meeting, she kicked off the event with “shoutouts” to give everyone a chance to identify with people in the room, she said.
“For those with announcements, upcoming events or quick and simple questions or comments in which they would like to connect with others on afterwards,” Erdelyi said.
After two committees — one focused on group health insurance, the other on wellness — were born out of collective interest, Nicki Radzely, co-founder and CEO of Doddle & Co., a manufacturer of sanitary pacifiers, wanted to speak with someone who had sold products on Amazon before.
She immediately connected with and was provided information by Karen Cahn, a Montclair resident, founder and CEO of iFundWomen in New York City, and the keynote speaker for the evening, who turned her speaking engagement regarding her startup funding ecosystem for early-stage, women-led startups into a bold, immersive, large-scale coaching session on feminist fundraising.
“I then picked three local businesses who have a current challenge they’re working on to ask advice and feedback of the group, ranging from, ‘Hey, can we brainstorm ways to improve my profitability?’ or, ‘Could you test this new product and tell us what you think?’ or, ‘Does this business idea hold water?’ ” Erdelyi said. “Whatever it is, they get to speak with and get advice from a group of smart women who have done things like this before.”
Blanche Garcia, owner and interior designer of B. Garcia Designs in Upper Montclair, requested input from the group on how to efficiently incorporate her messaging throughout all the platforms that support her lifestyle- and wellness-oriented brand; Christine Andrukonis, founder and president of Notion Consulting, a change leadership consultancy based in New York City, sought research and data from the group about what organizations might do better in order to retain entrepreneurial talent; and Kathryn McGuire, founder and art historian at Clerestory Fine Art in Montclair, needed marketing and networking assistance in order to pitch her new high-end art gallery to the community.
“I just loved the idea of giving individual businesses a chance to directly tap into the think tank,” Erdelyi said.
Filling a void in Montclair
After earning advanced degrees in business administration, international business, marketing and psychology from Georgetown University and New York University, Kacy Erdelyi worked in brand and marketing strategy in New York City for nearly 20 years, including with agencies such as Ogilvy and McCann Erickson.
However, when she and her family moved from Brooklyn to Montclair six years ago, Erdelyi found herself waiting for an organic juice bar to open.
“That was representative of a place I could walk into and trust what I was going to buy,” she said. “A place where everything had been safely curated.”
Erdelyi said she was surprised Montclair did not yet have one, given the statistics.
“Millennials, especially, are moving out of the city en masse to more walkable downtowns; they dine out and spend more on food as a higher percentage of their income than any other generation; they consume more than half of the organic fruits and vegetables in the U.S.; and they make dining decisions based on how they want to physically feel and function,” she said. “Yet, the suburbs have not yet been quick to embrace organic restaurants.”
Despite being a wealthy and progressive area, Erdelyi said, Dunkin Donuts and delis were the only places to go for a coffee and a grab-and-go snack in Montclair when she first moved there with her husband, Greg, and their 8-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.
But Montclair was changing. And so was Erdelyi.
“I commuted into the city three days a week to walk into any marketing meeting and solve the issues within five minutes,” she said. “It started to feel boring to be the expert after a while.”
In contemplating her future options, Erdelyi said she was drawn toward her interest and commitment to healthy food, instilled in her by her own mother.
“I ask myself every day, ‘Did I get four servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit? Okay, then I can have the chocolate cake,’ ” she said. “I only indulge if I actually have opted in to what I feel my body needs.”
So, Erdelyi said she decided to open Joyist, the juice bar she had been waiting for herself.
“I bought several books and made every single juice and smoothie recipe in them over the course of six months,” she said. “Then, once I understood how the ingredients worked together and what tasted good, I strategically planned a menu.”
Learn more about Joyist at: joyistnation.com, or 973-337-5955.