A Black-owned hospitality brand in Columbus now owns all 21 Donatos Pizza restaurants in the Indianapolis market.
The pizza giant announced that Jordan Hospitality Group (JHG) is its largest traditional franchise partner and largest minority-owned franchisee in a release on Tuesday. JHG made the acquisition in partnership with 22 Ventures, a private investment firm co-founded by former NBA and Ohio State basketball star Michael Redd.
JHG also owns the Hen Quarter restaurant in Dublin. CEO Ron Jordan, 34, of New Albany, has been running the family-owned business since 2015.
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“We’re on a mission to be one of the exceptional players in experiential dining,” Jordan said in the press release. “My inspiration to grow to be the best stems from the commitment I made to my grandparents years ago to create generational wealth for my family and future generations of not only Jordans, but for the people our company employs. It is especially rewarding to have the opportunity to do this through a company in Donatos that I have loved since childhood.”
Jordan told the Dispatch that he also is committed to diversity and inclusion efforts, which is one reason he enjoys working with Redd and 22 Ventures, doing business as TwentyTwo.
“(Redd) wants to see other Black and brown businesses succeed,” Jordan said. “I want the same thing. I want there to be an opportunity for those who don’t always get access to capital and so many other things. It’s more than just strategic economic vision in terms of our businesses being aligned. It’s a true passion and friendship.”
Redd also serves as chairman at 22 Ventures. The Olympic gold medalist said he started the company in 2019 to close opportunity gaps for minority entrepreneurs, and to build nurturing relationships with all startup partners.
Last year, the firm purchased the Olde Gahanna Schoolhouse to house its offices and eventually serve as an incubator for entrepreneurs. So far, the company has invested in about 10 startups, with contributions that range from five to seven figures.
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“One thing that we’ve seen that’s glaring, particularly for African Americans, is the lack of access to mentorship and coaching,” said Redd, 42, of New Albany, who has invested in over 90 companies during the last decade. “(And) most African Americans don’t have a friends and family round. There’s not a lot of angel investors in our city that look like me. We’re behind the eight-ball when it comes to the capital issue.”
22 Ventures CEO John Weaver said he has seen the challenges minority entrepreneurs face during his career as an attorney.
“They’d be treated totally differently,” said Weaver, 38, of Bexley, who said the business plans of minority-owned startups face an intense level of scrutiny. “You’d go into the attorney’s office to talk to the potential investor, and you’d get questions that you’d never expect.”
Increasing access to capital is extremely important for Black entrepreneurs, given the history of systemic inequality and persistent racial wealth gap. In 2019, the median Black household wealth in the country was 13 cents for every $1 of wealth for white households, according to the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit research organization.
“I’d be in meetings and people say, ‘Why don’t they just get their parents to write a check?’” Weaver said. “‘Why don’t they put it on a credit card? Why don’t they take out a line of credit on their house?’ That lack of cultural awareness is shocking.”
While funding to Black-owned startups quadrupled from 2020 to 2021, the amount is just a tiny portion of the pie. For instance, Black startup entrepreneurs received just 1.2% of the $147 billion in venture capital in the U.S. through the first half of 2021, according to a Crunchbase report.
“We’ve got to change that narrative,” Redd said. “At this stage of my life, I am not trying to climb a ladder. I’m trying to build ladders.”
Despite his success, Ron Jordan said he has witnessed the disparity firsthand.
“I’ve been in business a long time and some of the deals that I’ve seen put together for folks that are different than me — you’re like, ‘Wow, I wish I could have gotten that opportunity,’ ” he said. “You have to figure out unconventional ways as an African American to get out and grab capital.”
Jordan said that is especially true in the high-risk restaurant industry.
Redd said he is proud to have invested in entrepreneurs of myriad backgrounds. And he and Weaver are continuing to look for compelling CEOs and teams from all market sectors.
“There’s got to be a little quirkiness to the CEO,” Redd said. “Not taking themselves too seriously. Someone who’s coachable and who’s hungry to learn and grow.”
Redd and Weaver also said they are committed to personal development of entrepreneurs, with a focus on their well-being.
“It’s a holistic approach where we care more about the person than we do the product,” Redd said. “We care about their mind and their hearts and their families. The healthier the person, the healthier the business.”
It’s not a common approach in the venture capital world, which is often dominated by an emphasis on growth at all costs — leading to a culture of burnout, Weaver said.
“That puts incredible pressure on people,” Weaver continued. “It’s very rare in early-stage companies to see people who are able to take time off for vacations, to take care of their mental health and take care of their families. All of that gets sacrificed.”
As for 2022 plans, Redd said he is excited to build a strong team around Weaver. He also summed up another goal in two words: “More golf.”
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