Who's The Boss?

L. Jermaine Russell Shares His Journey From Student to Entrepreneur

June 09, 2020
 Russell, the entrepreneur focuses on food, fitness and health
Russell, the entrepreneur focuses on food, fitness and health

When L. Jermaine Russell prepares for a sales call, he always starts by asking himself, “Would I hire me?” Then he makes a mental list of all the reasons his offerings will help a restaurant or food service business: years of experience in the area, track record for penalty dismissals, the stack of testimonials from satisfied customers. “It’s about finding the right fit and building relationships,” he explains. In the years that Russell has worked as a food safety consultant, he’s helped hundreds of pizzerias and taquerias, hotel kitchens and even a restaurant at the Statue of Liberty to maintain their kitchen health safety standards and avoid costly fines.

ENSURING SAFETY REGULATIONS

With over one hundred New York City standards to follow, from making sure there are “Wash Hands” signs for workers to confirming proper thermometer installation in kitchen refrigerators, passing periodic Department of Health inspections is a constant concern for Russell’s clients. “People in the food business work long hours, they don’t always have the time to make sure their staff follows safety standards,” explains Russell. “They rely on me to make sure they do.” Plus, with food safety regulations constantly evolving, a large piece of Russell’s service is educating clients about new standards and helping them to meet them.

One of the added benefits Russell offers clients, is an onsite assessment conducted with restaurant owners and kitchen staffs. “I teach methods and ways to comply,” Russell explains. “Often an inspector will cite a restaurant and the staff won’t understand what they are doing wrong. I help them make changes that will get them up to standard without dismantling all their processes.”

DEVELOPING HIS EXPERTISE

Russell was well into his career before the entrepreneurial spirit struck. He’d begun his work life at the Department of Health in New York City (NYCDOH), after earning degrees in psychology and forensic science and medical microbiology. At NYCDOH, he helped to improve standards for identifying food contamination in food establishments, wrote protocols and communicated important infectious disease information to the public.

MBA IN HEALTHCARE MANAGEMENT

Within a few years, Russell grew restless and began looking for ways toward career advancement. He entered the Touro Graduate School of Business (GSB) to earn an MBA in Healthcare Management and to develop additional skills and credentials. “It seemed like an excellent way to combine my experience in health with my interest in business,” Russell recalls.

IGNITING THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT

Soon after he arrived at Touro, Russell was drawn to the courses geared to students interested in entrepreneurship and eagerly immersed himself in the ones that would expand his knowledge. “As I learned more about setting up a business or businesses, I realized that I’d spent years understanding and detecting the origin of infectious diseases associated with food service establishments. If I could use this expertise to highlight critical health risk management information and resources to food establishments, then these organizations would experience substantial benefits,” Russell recalls. “All the classes that I took -- from courses on marketing, trends, ethics and strategy -- I applied to myself, and my business plan to rebrand myself as a food safety consultant.” 

In the fall of 2019, Russell returned to GSB, as a guest speaker, and delivered an exceptional lecture on healthcare entrepreneurship.