A Leather Jacket – An Entrepreneur’s Story

Her First Business

Jana Martin’s entrepreneurial journey started when she was thirteen years old.

“I wanted a leather jacket, and my mother said, ‘well, you better get a job.’”

There weren’t too many jobs for thirteen-year-olds in Middle River, but Jana saw a sign on the school billboard that offered $35 for mowing Woodman Cemetery.

She took the mowing job and saved up $1,500 and bought her leather jacket, a piece of clothing that she keeps as a testament of hard work and determination.

A Grandmother’s Influence

During her growing up years, Jana spent a lot of time with her grandmother. “I was with her every chance I could get,” Jana said, “because she was super cool. She loved Jesus and she wasn’t afraid to tell people that.”

She learned a great deal from her grandmother, Diana Josephson, over the years, not the least of which was while she worked for her at the Evergreen restaurant. Her grandmother was instrumental in her development, teaching her about cooking and how to make money in the food industry.  Jana was encouraged by her experience at the restaurant where she was able to earn tips and “make some good money.”

Her grandmother also helped her develop deep spiritual roots and a level of comfort in thinking about mortality. “Grandmother and her friends talked about death a lot,” Jana said.

She vividly remembers her grandmother telling her, “Remember when I die, to check underneath everything, because all your names are underneath, so you can you find out where your stuff is.” Her grandmother added, “and when I die, don’t forget my policy’s paid for down at Green Funeral Home.”

After high school, she went to Valley City State University and graduated with a degree in business management in 2003. She went on to graduate from the University of Minnesota, earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mortuary Science in 2004.

Loving People, Food, and Jesus

After college, she married Matt Martin, a young man with whom she had much in common. They both came from entrepreneurial backgrounds and shared a love of family, food, and Jesus.

Her background, educational preparation, relationships, and life experiences came together in a unique way to prepare her for a career with Johnson Funeral Service as a funeral director and for being a business owner.

In addition to her work with Johnson Funeral Service, she and her husband own and operate a food truck business and Johnnie’s Café, an iconic, small diner in Thief River Falls.

She is a deeply spiritual person and along the way, she has found great meaning in helping people, whether she is serving up comfort food or consoling a grieving family.

Like her grandmother before her, Jana loves Jesus, and she’s not afraid to tell people. “I get asked all the time, ‘how do you do everything?’ Well, it’s Him (God), because I honestly don’t know how I get it all done every day.”

Jana’s ideas keep coming.

“We’ll see what the future holds. It’s going to be fun to see what he (God) is doing next. I don’t know what it is, but I’m ready for the ride.”

Visit Johnnie’s Cafe’s Facebook page for more information. 

Starting your own business? Advance Thief River offers business coaching and business navigation services. Read more here.

Join the TREK Facebook group.

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