Joining the Potato Revolution: Jehan Strouse
A Minneapolis native with a degree in nutrition, Jehan Strouse migrated to New Orleans where she co-organized the NOLA Veggie Fest for five years before opening her very own 3 Potato 4 location.
Growing up in a supportive, loving environment, Strouse recalls nothing but good memories from her childhood. As part of a half-Egyptian family, at the age of six her family moved to Egypt. Living there for 12 years, this resulted in strong family ties, and the ability to speak both Arabic and French. Returning to the U.S., she spent some time moving around before settling in Seattle where she attended Bastyr University and earned her Bachelors in Nutrition.
After graduating she ventured to New Orleans and pursued a full time career as a broker of natural products. Then, while attending a wedding in Providence, Rhode Island in October 2012, Strouse ventured to Salem and was introduced to the company that she today is so proud to be a part of.
Visiting a strip-mall in a popular part of town, here Strouse found a 3 Potato 4. Intrigued by the concept she struck up a conversation with the employees and found out the restaurant was a new franchise that was just getting started. “I was immediately interested in what the brand had to offer,” she says. Prior to her discovery Strouse had been interested in starting up a steampunk style vegan coffee shop, but was challenged with many roadblocks. “When I found 3 Potato 4 I realized it offered me the chance to be flexible with carrying some of my favorite vegan and gluten-free products and drinks.”
Offering an eco-friendly, biodynamic approach to a national franchise brand, 3 Potato 4 serves up delicious organic, baked-not-fried potato fries in its streamlined 1950’s themed restaurants. Focused on being green, the restaurants feature a variety of gluten-free, 99 percent fat-free, non-GMO, hot ‘n’ crunchy potato snacks. Along with the popular super food, all menu items are vegan or vegetarian, including the 50 innovative made-in-house signature dipping-sauces, dairy-free soups, fair trade beverages, and desserts.
Contacting Guenevere Blanchard, founder and CEO of 3 Potato 4, Strouse says their shared philosophies set way for a comfortable, strong relationship between the pair. “I saw opportunity in the concept and I wanted to bring it to New Orleans. I had been involved in organizing the NOLA veggie festival for five years but stepped down to build my franchise and have an impact on vegan things year round versus working hard for a week long festival,” she explains. “My passion was driving me to do it.”
Starting the franchise process at the tail end of 2012, Strouse’s 3 Potato 4 restaurant opened seven months ago. “It took a while to manifest in the build out, find the location, and get the pieces in place, but it was worth the wait,” she says. A fan of the easy concept, supplied marketing and national branding, the company’s established website and menu templates made it possible for Strouse to continue employment as a natural products broker while also launching a franchise.
“The simple concept meant that I could hire a manager to help out in the store and it would be easy to train them. The extra help makes it possible for me to conquer and divide between my two jobs.”
Describing the franchise process as extremely supportive with excellent training, Strouse says Blanchard’s managing style is very fair and that her clear communication provided a loaded package of franchising instructions.
Covering what is expected from the franchisee as well as equipment required, Strouse says the entire process was a positive experience.
Provided with ongoing support through branding and online forums, Strouse and Blanchard chat on a weekly basis to discuss business politics and brainstorm new ideas. “If I need new flyers or signage all I have to do is ask,” Strouse says, adding that she really loves the restaurant’s theme and catchy art.
Actively involved with her franchise, Strouse has put into play several unique ideas to drive traffic since opening. For a short period of time she implemented two-wheel-Tuesdays, encouraging customers to bike to the shop for discounted treats; an event she may revisit once her beer license is in place. Other events focus around health, veganism, and other types of social and educational workshops.
“We held a vegetarian and vegan singles event that was a hit, and are hosting a Meat-Out event to celebrate the national day of eliminating meat from diets,” she says. “We’re also excited to be a part of the NOLA vegan bike ride and have participates meet in our shop.”
Using her connections in the vegan scene to organize the events that will help draw people in and generate interest in relatable topics, the main goal is to bring in customers.
“We have plenty of fun stuff planned, but overall the events are for the greater good of the company,” she explains. “I’m doing things different from a standard franchisee, and while I could have run my business in a 300sq ft store, mine is 920sq ft because I wanted something bigger so I could host events, have more seating and provide a hangout spot. We have Wi-Fi here, and lots of different resources like literature and books on hand for customers.” Getting into the rhythm of the business, Strouse says she is getting busier by the day, and has perfected the right hours to operate.
For Strouse the most rewarding experience has been her happy customers. “When people find my restaurant, love the food, and thank me for being there in a city like New Orleans that is known for its greasy and unhealthy food, that’s the best feeling,” she says. “I’ve made a lot of people’s days by being here, being open, and serving awesome, healthy food.”
Proud of her product, Strouse says it’s important to offer this type of food because it’s what people are looking for: cutting-edge, vegan, gluten-free, organic, non-GMO food. “I’ve been working in the natural products industry for 15 years and it’s booming and growing exponentially. People are waking up and realizing that they can have their cake and eat it too.
They can have amazing, healthy, crueltyfree food that tastes great and at the end of the day isn’t going to give them cancer, a stomach ache, or indigestion.”
Lacking in challenges with the company, Strouse says the staff are wonderful and very easy to work with. “Anyone who has the opportunity to open up a 3 Potato 4 franchise should. It’s a brilliant concept with low start up costs, and if you open it in the right area everyone will do great,” she says.
“To bring an awesome concept to a new area and be on the ground floor of a franchise that I foresee growing into something very big is amazing,” she says.
“Larger franchises cost a lot more to buy into, and being on the ground floor is important in several ways,” she explains. “It’s not just because the cost is great, but it’s also to be part of the revolution 3 Potato 4 has begun.”
When Strouse isn’t busy working she enjoys riding her motorcycle, spending time with her dogs, traveling, practicing yoga, cooking, and dining out at the best vegan restaurants she can find.
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