FORT WORTH, Texas — Fort Worth’s Jonathan Morris is an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. Wearing an easygoing charisma that belies his relentless drive, Morris turned a modest barbershop into a mini-empire. After opening Fort Worth Barbershop in 2014, he launched The Lathery — a retailer specializing in grooming products — three years later. He’s also co-founder of Memo Hospitality Group, developers of Hotel Dryce, the 21-room boutique hotel in the Cultural District set to open in the spring.
Morris’s made-for-TV success story is actually appearing on the small screen and streaming devices. In his just-launched series, Morris will cast a spotlight on other entrepreneurs around the country as host of Self Employed. The show will air on the Magnolia Network and is now streaming on Discovery+. The show’s first episode went live on Jan. 4, along with a preview of the Magnolia Network — owned by Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines.
The series follows Morris as he crisscrosses the country looking for the inspiring stories of people who started their own businesses. Morris said he and Red Productions, the Fort Worth-based production company that produces the program, began working on the show last year.
Morris worked with Red on a few projects related to his businesses, and the production company pitched the show to the soon-to-be-launched network. After spit-balling various iterations to the networks' heads, the local brain-trust eventually landed on the idea that spawned Self Employed.
“[Red Productions] showed the Magnolia folks some of the things we've done through the barbershop,” Morris said. “They liked the idea of talking about what entrepreneurship means, and they felt that I would be a good representative of what it looks like across the country.”
The pilot features Valery Jean-Bart, who quit his job as a civil engineer to pursue his dream of owning a cheesecake bakery — an idea inspired by a ritual he and his Haitian-born mother created while she was being treated for breast cancer. Every Sunday, the pair would make and eat a different flavor of cheesecake. After she passed away, Jean-Bart made the leap.
“We're looking across all different industries and not looking for any specific type of business outside of it being entrepreneurial driven,” Morris said. “We’re looking for people who have interesting stories — and stories that can even inspire other people to pursue their own entrepreneurial endeavors.
“We’re going to look at businesses in different stages of growth,” he continued. “So some folks will be launching their first business; and some who have reached some level of success; and people who have had huge success in several years of business. So we're going to try to kind of tap into different stages of entrepreneurship.”
Morris and company are still in the process of shooting the first season. COVID-19 has stalled the process of shooting every show on the network.
“It's been definitely challenging, but, just like any business, we're having to pivot and kind of work around it,” he said.
Though Morris is searching the country for people to feature on the show, Self Employed will have a decidedly local flavor. Fort Worth business owners Sarah Castillo of Taco Heads and Tinie’s Mexican Cuisine, Kari Crow of MELT Ice Creams, and Black Coffee’s Mia Moss will all appear.