Lessons in Entrepreneurship from Heirloom’s Clark Barlowe '09

Clark Barlowe '09 speaking to JWU Charlotte College of Business students.

Clark Barlowe '09 offered to show JWU entrepreneurship students his original business plan — as proof of how naïve he was when he started . “I was planning to do $75,000 in sales each week. Ha! Most weeks, I’m making $18,000. $20,000 or more is a money making week!”

Barlowe is the executive chef and owner of Heirloom, a globally-inspired restaurant known for its local sourcing and edible foraged ingredients. He recently spoke to College of Business students in the Business Planning & Pitching entrepreneurship class on the daunting task of opening a restaurant at age 27 and keeping it successful.

He shared his experience of writing that first exaggerated business plan, approaching investors, advertising and handling the competition. “Always respond to good reviews. The bad ones? They cut you. It hurts. I was reading them every night and it was terrible for my mental health. Now I do it on Saturdays after I work at the farmer’s market. Saturdays are also profitable nights, so I’m in a good mood!”

"A JWU degree validates you. An investor wants to know if you know what you’re doing."

Alan Fitzpatrick, adjunct instructor, says, “Clark was a hit with the class, sharing what worked and what didn’t in his entrepreneurial journey. His stories from mushroom foraging to getting stung collecting yellow jackets for a soup made for quite a memorable talk! It’s great to have such a successful alumni entrepreneur providing real-world experiences to the class.”

Barlowe says the real-world experience started with his JWU education. “A JWU degree validates you. As an entrepreneur, when you’re asking for $100,000, an investor wants to know if you have a business plan and they want to know if you have a ‘do-you-know-what-you’re-doing’ background. I actually believe the entrepreneurial degree itself is more beneficial than my food and beverage management degree.”

For students who are serious about opening their own business, he told them it’s all-consuming. “Be good at compartmentalizing. Take time for yourself. You never get a day off. You’re always thinking about it. It never shuts off. Also, try and find someone who is doing what you want to do. Work for them for free for a week or so. Entrepreneurs are honest about what it takes, even what they pay in taxes and payroll. See how they did it.”

Class group shot during Barlowe's visit.