Blog: Paul Jenkins, Jr.

Jenkins, Jr. is the brainchild/designer/owner of What Crepe?, the world-renowned, award-winning French restaurant in downtown Royal Oak. Since opening in 2009, Jenkins Jr. has evolved What Crepe? from a 22-seat café into a 50-seat full bistro and plans to expand to additional cities in the 2011.

Jenkins, Jr. entered the culinary arts field in 2008 as co-owner of The Black Pearl, a successful seafood restaurant and martini bar in downtown Ann Arbor. He also co-owned the ultra-chic nightclub, Theatro, in downtown Chicago, which was sold to a third-party group in 2009.

In addition to his culinary career, Jenkins, Jr. currently serves as senior executive vice president for the Detroit-based Michigan Industrial Group (MIG), a commercial general contractor and construction management firm founded by his father, Paul Jenkins Sr.  

Jenkins, Jr. earned a full basketball scholarship to Spring Arbor University, which led to a degree in management and organizational development with a minor in marketing.  During the summers, he worked for his father's construction companies – first as a job site laborer and materials truck driver – and later serving as an assistant project engineer.

Yearning to expand his creative endeavors, he formed Group 411, an entertainment marketing and production company, which specialized in producing special events. What started as a part-time college sideline business turned into a more than 14-year career. As Group 411, Jenkins, Jr. and his team created a number of savvy special events, as well as marketing and promotion campaigns, for A-list clients including P. Diddy, Missy Elliott, Alicia Keys, John Legend, D. L. Hughley, John Salley, MTV's "Making the Band" Season II, and many others.

Another venture that stands out for Jenkins, Jr. was working with his business partner, retired four-time NBA Champion John Salley, on the 1997 launch of The Press Room, an exclusive cigar lounge in the South Beach District of Miami Beach, Florida.

Jenkins Jr. also sits on the board of Orchards Children's Services and the International Detroit Black Expo. At the forefront of his endeavors is education, as he is the president and CEO of the Paul Jenkins Jr. Foundation, which provides annual scholarships to qualifying inner city students.  His credo is: If you aren't giving, you aren't living.

Jenkins, Jr. professes that his professional passion stems from his personal love of international travel, his love for food, people, boutique hotels, and restaurants. But first and foremost, he loves his daughter, Nadia Mylia, who he calls the joy of his life.

Paul Jenkins, Jr. - Most Recent Posts:

Post 3: If Your Dream Doesn't Scare You, It's Not Big Enough

"I dream my painting and paint my dream" - Vincent van Gogh
Now that you’ve discovered who you are, gathered the faith to believe in yourself and have removed self-doubt you have to do a little dreaming and a little doing.

It’s time to create the excellence that you want to be a part of. Envision the journey that it will take to achieve the feats that you desire. This journey is your blueprint. While the literal terrain may not always go as you have envisioned, remember that it’s the journey that creates the memories and value system you will use to enjoy your success. Embrace its intricacies and loops and turns. Success can be fickle and show favoritism but the journey you take to your destination will leave an indelible mark.
In creating a brand you must be conservative in practices and principals yet radical in thought and vision. Dream something bigger than life and do it! If your dream does not scare you, it's not big enough. Limitations live only in our minds; if we apply our imagination and work ethic the possibilities are limitless. Anything that you’ve ever done was first conceived in your mind. Imagine the very best and you’ll find yourself making it happen.
When you follow your dreams you lead others to theirs. While envisioning and imagining is an intricate part of developing your destiny it will only be as effective and fruitful as the work you put forth in churning production out of your imaginative beginnings. It will never be enough to simply dream. You owe it to yourself to make something real out of what you’ve imagined.
Stop trying and start doing. Trying will yield excuses, doing will yield results. The real joy of accomplishment is in the doing. To extend the shelf life of your joy you must continue doing. Figure out what your dream calls for and take complete responsibility for making it happen.
Step right in and get started. Of course you’ll make some mistakes along the way but you will have also obtained the value in the lessons they produce.
Once you decide that you’re going for the biggest, wildest dream your heart can imagine, it will take on a life of its own. You’ll begin to live and become what you think. This principle works both ways so avoid any relapses into self-doubt and discouragement. You will become attached to your dream. Nurture it as if it were a newborn. Much like the sleepless nights associated with early parenting, you will find yourself enjoying even the most frustrating days because you’ll accept it as part of the journey.
The best way to search for a brand is to create it. Stop looking in textbooks and look within you. Every textbook has an author and only you can pen your story. Start your search within. You’ll be surprised at your limitless abilities once you gain an understanding of yourself. That clear and lucid understanding will allow you to differentiate yourself from others and to rebound seamlessly from the hiccups you will experience.

My foundation, the Paul Jenkins Jr. Foundation, gives its firm support and advocacy to youth in Detroit’s inner city. Every year through my businesses I develop campaigns to raise funds to support meritorius youth initiatives as well as providing scholarships to deserving youths. I love that I can use my brand and my business as a tool to nurture the future of our city. I hope that I am encouraging them to dream big. They can witness an entrepreneur not too much older than them exercising faith, vision and tenacity.  Dreaming, doing and giving back to those in Michigan who need a push to climb their mountains - it’s one of the most rewarding and gratifying parts of my profession.
From my days in Miami, California, and Las Vegas, I can honestly say creating a brand in Michigan was the most challenging and rewarding. These are towns of ideas and inspiration. All of the most successful designers, architects and restaurateurs visit these places to become inspired so it’s easy to introduce and develop ideas in these markets. The consumers support newness and embrace evolution. I’ve discovered in Michigan that uniqueness alone does not guarantee success. What makes you a success in Michigan is abiding by the foundational laws of the community: loyalty, humility supporting local businesses, providing value, and understanding.

I am so happy that I chose Michigan as the home base of my business ventures. I truly believe in Michigan and I want to play a part in any way I can in the revitalization of my hometown. Michigan supported me and I return the love by dreaming dreams for myself and the people who live here and working like mad to make them a reality.

Paul Jenkins, Jr.


Post 2: Starving Doubt

"My belief is stronger than your doubt" – Dwayne Wade

Now that you have adopted a new self-awareness, the next step is removing the doubt of who you can become.

Do you remember a time in school where the teacher asked a question and you think you know the correct answer, but you were too bashful to raise your hand? Then before you can get your hand back down to your side the girl next to you raises hers and matter-of-factly says the exact answer you were thinking. You were surely thinking and muttering to yourself, "I was going to say that!" We have all had moments like this.  Moments where if we had just pushed a little harder against our fear of being wrong, or even being right, where we could have added another notch to your win column.

Maybe you've been conditioned not to believe in yourself through a series of bad experiences, choices or negative surroundings. Perhaps you've never even discovered anything to truly believe in. I encourage you to awaken to your worth and the benefit you have to yourself and others! Whatever self-doubting beliefs you've been coveting for—ditch them. The only time you have is the moment you have right now. Spend it moving forward. Spend it believing.

I don't think the concept of branding has really hit Michigan with full force yet. We are knee-deep in the creative thinking aspect but the branding component still lacks because that involves ingraining your idea in the minds, vocabulary and spending habits of the masses. I've noticed that many are so consumed with the day-to-day that they forget to dream up the future. Many are also too consumed with watching and emulating other models instead of trusting or developing their own. Although the day-to-day operations share importance with building for the future, one must always include in the blueprint strategies for creating extensions of the brand in order to cover more ground.

The biggest obstacle standing in the way of anything you dream of is your idea that it cannot be. If you knew the full extent of your capabilities, you would never hesitate to move in boldness. Belief that something is achievable is the only springboard. If you allow it, doubt can take on a life of its own and because doubt's only responsibility is to delay and discourage, you will soon discover that the life you gave to doubt will be bigger than the life you could have given yourself. A small positive action reverses doubt. Make a can-do list. Hug your kids longer. Refuse negativity. Live intentionally. Forgive.

Imagine how much energy you would have to fuel your vision and dreams if you starve your doubt. Doubt your doubts and have confidence in your confidence. There is a you-sized void that the world is waiting to be filled. Let your challenges inspire you. Let the possibilities encourage you. Here is your day. Greet your days with a kiss and your doubt with a kick.


Paul Jenkins, Jr

Post 1: The Only Way to Change Your Position is to Move

Allow me to satisfy the pundits and scholars by giving the textbook definition of "brand". According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a brand is defined as a class of goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer or a characteristic or distinctive kind.  Branding has continued to evolve, encompassing identity - it affects the personality of a product, company or service and now more commonly any individual who works to become more of themselves.

OK, now that we've been all politically correct let's get right to it.

What are the real strategies to developing a recognizable brand?

While strategies should be designed to fulfill the needs of your individual effort, development of that strategy should be guided by the following principles:

Fearlessness. Sometimes heavy contemplation or too much forethought makes a task more difficult than the action it takes to just do it. You want to develop a brand? Do it! It's that simple. Close your eyes, and take a leap of faith and let your eagle wings fly. The only way to change your position is to move.

Artful Imitation. While it is essential to remain true to what you initially believe makes your brand authentic and different, imitating the efforts of great ones who have achieved in their respective fields is not a bad idea.

Passion. This, in my opinion, is where branding really begins. It doesn't take too much effort to follow textbook models for success. It does take guts to discover and relentlessly pursue whatever it is that drives you. Lend your thoughts to these conceptual geniuses: Wolfgang Puck, Russell Simmons, Bill Gates and Michael Jordan. You're probably assuming that money is what they most have in common. I would venture to say that the wealth of passion that it took for them to risk it all for the sake of their dreams and the return on that passionate investment is what they would all be talking about if they gathered to swap stories over a good meal.

You Are the Brand. Much like how Michael Jordan is in the sole of every shoe he sells, or in the way Bill Gates is infused in every Microsoft script, you and your brand will operate fruitfully in the totality of your limitlessness.  

Find a Niche. Part of the process of developing a brand is to look for niche projects. I was always taught that the meeting between preparation and opportunity produces success.  After becoming inspired by international travel and internalizing the places visited, I felt it was a natural progression to develop my inspirations into a brand at the right opportunity.

The brand What Crepe? was mainly inspired by my travels to Toronto. Frequent visits to my favorite creperie in Yorkville, Toronto begged the question: "Why am I unable to experience this in my hometown?" At that point the vision came to life. I relentlessly began researching crepe restaurants in Michigan. After countless hours of research it dawned on me that the concept was non-existent. The void appeared to me as a challenge.

I chose to build my brand in Michigan for several reasons. First, because Michigan is my hometown and I understand my accountability to the place that raised me. Second, the challenge of creating a brand that from its inception was a huge motivational piece, my great pleasure lies in creating a model from scratch and bringing it to life, often without prior experience or training. Lastly, I saw an opportunity to help revive the economic climate in Michigan. The job market was in dire need of a boost and the entrepreneurial morale was low. By introducing a new and exciting concept to a community in need I could create a successful ripple effect. I was able to show that even in economic turmoil, if you have a good idea it will still work and the people in the community you seek to build will support you.

This project also helped me to give to local charities across the tri-county area. I could have taken this concept to any other market but my roots, heart and support are with Michigan, and I want to be on the team that is staying in Michigan to help bring it back to life.

With that being said, I encourage you to FIND THE REAL YOU. Soul search. Rebel. Travel.  Spend time alone. Do something that scares the hell out of you. Get creative. Seek and be an inspiration. Enjoy the person you are. Find the true great things about yourself. BE THE BRAND and share it with the world.


Paul Jenkins Jr.

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