How I did it: Grew my business by branching out
Johnny Little is a man with enough energy that he runs two highly successful businesses; one a national public relations firm, and more recently, a Southern style restaurant serving customers in his hometown of Ferguson, Missouri.
Little is CEO of eLittle Communications Group, which provides public relations, marketing, advertising and other services. He started the firm in 2007, and while it’s based in St. Louis, he now has employees across the country. He is also the owner of Elicious, a Southern-style breakfast and brunch restaurant that he opened in Ferguson in November 2022.
Having the drive to create something of his own is in his blood. “My father and mother were entrepreneurs,” Little said. “My father used to take me when I was kid to pay his workers on his fence business. That was the beginning of my love for entrepreneurship.”
Little graduated with a communications degree from Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, then earned a master's degree in business from Western University in St. Louis.
Part of the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area, the Ferguson community has remained important to Little whose made it his mission to bring together businesses and opportunities.
“I wanted to invest more in Ferguson, so I purchased a building that had closed during the pandemic in November 2020,” Little said. “My No. 1 goal is for people who want to visit our city to feel safe and want to be a part of this resurgence in the community.”
Little took out a loan with U.S. Bank to renovate the restaurant, opening it in 2022. The restaurant specializes in chicken and waffles, catfish and grits, pork chops and Southern style potatoes.
Little was able to apply his communications skills to this new venture, “I am very strategic with my marketing,” he said. “Far too many times, new owners jump the gun at promoting their restaurant. PR has taught me patience and to be strategic.”
Elicious has taken Ferguson by storm with many elected officials and St. Louis and Ferguson natives coming out to support it. Little gives back in return. He is a donor to the Ferguson Youth Initiative and has given out scholarships to teach high schoolers the hospitality industry.
“I love what I'm doing because the restaurant is community focused and has filled a void in North St. Louis County. That's why we're a success so quickly.”
Little knows that running a restaurant is not easy, “It's one of the hardest industries around.” As for other business owners, his top tip is, “Study your craft and remain focused and tunnel-visioned. My parents helped me learn that running a business takes grit and grind to be able to accomplish.”
The success of Elicious is just the beginning. “I have to do my work as an entrepreneur…the skies the limit with what I am getting ready to do next.”