Just a list of the projects Jonathan Morris is attached to gives a clear indication why the young man was selected as the Top 100 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year.
The entrepreneur who has come to epitomize entrepreneurship in Fort Worth didn’t grow up here, but he always had ties here and moved here in 2012 after leaving agency work. But make no mistake, being an entrepreneur was in his blood.
“Within my DNA was entrepreneurship,” he told Brandom Genglebach, president of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce at the organization’s Annual Meeting in October. “Ever since I was a kid, I was always selling things to my classmates, so very early on, I think I got that entrepreneurial bug and since then I’ve been coming up with new ways to create other services.”
As a kid he sold bookmarks to classmates in elementary school and later sold burned CDs to fellow students.
For Morris, Fort Worth is an entrepreneur’s dream.
“I could not imagine a better landscape to be doing business in, particularly small business,” he told Genglebach.
Take his first Fort Worth venture, the Fort Worth Barber Shop.
“When I opened up Fort Worth Barber Shop in 2014. … I looked around and I was like, ‘There has to be the barber shop for me in the city.’ I looked online and I asked my friends and I asked my family in Fort Worth. And everybody essentially was really apathetic to their barber shop experience.”
So he opened his shop and found that there were others in the area seeking a similar experience.
“And so when that happened, very quickly the community responded,” he said. “Just by positioning something a little bit different than what Fort Worth had seen before.”
It was that similar eye for experiences not available in Fort Worth that spurred Morris’ next project, Hotel Dryce.
“I always had this idea in the back of my head that love to start a small hotel. Quite frankly, I think that that was birthed out of traveling and staying at what I felt like a cool, small hotels that really give visitors a sense of where they are,” he told Gengelbach.
When the former ice building in the Cultural District came up for sale, Morris and his business partner, Allen Mederos, decided to buy the building just as the Dickies Arena was about to open across the street.
The 21-room, three-story boutique hotel designed by Morris and local architecture firm Bennett Partners, will include a lobby bar, a courtyard and will include works created by local artists and small businesses. It should open in 2021.
It will, Morris notes, “tell the story of Fort Worth,” to the guests.
“It is an opportunity to express what Cowtown is, what Funkytown is, what Panther City is, why we love this city and express those sentiments to visitors,” he said. “But we’re also very excited to create this space where locals want to be too. We’ve got this, what I think would be one of the best courtyards in the city, and an intimate lobby bar. We want people to connect in those spaces and we want locals to meet visitors and visitors to meet locals and, and be a gathering place that again, expresses our love to the city.”
“Developing a project isn’t easy, but Jonathan believes strongly in the idea,” said Michael J. Bennett, CEO of Bennett Benner Partners. “ We’ve faced a lot of adversity along the way, with more to come, but he believes deeply in the idea and he’s thought it through, and that gives him this calm confidence that’s been impressive to observe.”
On top of all that, Morris is about to bring the world to Fort Worth as he will be one of the first programs on the upcoming Magnolia Network, a joint venture between Waco’s design duo Chip and Joanna Gaines and Discover Inc. The show, called Self Employed, will see Morris traveling the country to visit with fellow entrepreneurs.
“Eventually what we landed on was this idea that I would go around the country and talk to other entrepreneurs like myself, who are creating businesses and really leaning into entrepreneurship, and have inspiring stories to tell,” he told Gengelbach.
The opportunity arose via another Fort Worth entrepreneur, Red Sanders of Red Productions, who was pitching ideas to the Gaines for their new network. The show will be authentically Morris and showcase his love of Fort Worth and the entrepreneur spirit.
“The idea of essentially taking that thing that I’m already doing on a day-to-day basis, but just very casually and turning that into a television show that can be amplified,” he said. “Those same conversations that I might just be having in a coffee shop with one of my friends who just opened up a new restaurant. … That same conversation or types of conversations being amplified to a really large audience seemed like a fun idea. So I said, ‘Okay Red, let’s do this.’ ”
More entrepreneurial words have never been spoken.
Jonathan Morris and his entrepreneurial ventures
3621 Byers Ave.
Fort Worth 76107