Entrepreneur Peytyn Willborn talks opening her Italian restaurant, Truth, in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood

Photo courtesy of Peytyn Willborn
Photo courtesy of Peytyn Willborn

Raised in Chicago’s notorious Altgeld Gardens housing project, Peytyn Willborn discovered early on that nothing would be given to her and that she’d have to go out and get it if she wanted it.

Becoming the “school stylist” to her classmates while in high school, Peytyn soon learned the beauty business from the bottom to the top while working in a salon as she pursued her cosmetology license. She then opened her own salon at the age of 24, where a chance meeting with comedienne and actress Mo’Nique would send her to Hollywood to work as a stylist on a number of shows.

Never one to rest on her laurels, Willborn parlayed her earnings from her styling gigs into a chain of daycare centers in her hometown of Chicago, in addition to other business ventures.

Rolling out recently sat down with WIllborn to discuss her various business endeavors including her latest coup, the chic Italian eatery Truth located in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood.

Tell us how you got started on the road to being an entrepreneur.
Believe it or not, I have never had an actual job, so it’s safe to say that I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. As a teen, I was the “school stylist” to my classmates at Simeon. I then began working in a beauty shop immediately after receiving my license and opened my first salon at 24. That led to my meeting Mo’Nique and other stars and being afforded the opportunity to become the stylist for The Parkers, Moesha, Six Feet Under and other projects.

Tell us about Kids ‘R’ First, your franchise of day care facilities.
After more than a decade of being in the beauty industry, I was ready to move in a new direction. It wasn’t until a suggestion that I look into childcare because of my love of children that I even thought about opening a daycare. It took quite a bit of planning, but I launched Kids ‘R’ First in 2004 with more than 100 children on the waiting list. That lit the fire for two more day cares, opening in 2006 and 2008.

How is your “Future Moguls” campaign going?
It is going phenomenally! Just a bit of background, the campaign is an initiative to encourage and equip young aspiring business with the tools needed to launch their entrepreneurial endeavors. So far, I have visited two schools, Simeon {my alma mater} and Chicago Vocational Academy. As a matter of a fact, one of my students recently visited my new restaurant, Truth, and showed me one of her college acceptance letters.

Speaking of Truth, what was the inspiration in starting the restaurant?
I have been patronizing and fully supporting the businesses of others for years and felt like it’s time to recoup some of that support. Also, and most importantly, I wanted to bring something different to my south Chicago neighborhood; expand our palate. I noticed that there were virtually no restaurants that served Italian cuisine near my Bronzeville home within a 20 mile radius, so I decided to change that.

Was it important to you to contribute to the revitalization of Bronzeville as opposed to choosing a more trendy neighborhood for Truth?

Extremely important. Beautifying the community, providing jobs and stimulating some economic growth within the neighborhood were all imperative in my decision to open Truth. I grew tired of having wonderful dining experiences so far from my home, primarily downtown and on the north side of Chicago. I wanted to make sure that my neighbors knew that we are worthy of having wonderful establishments in our backyards, as well.

How do you juggle all of the different hats you wear?
Through prayer, rest and organization. (laughs)

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to young entrepreneurs?
Pay yourself 25% of your earnings and split the rest among bills and investments. No matter what the method: stocks, bonds, CDs or under the mattress. Saving and spending wisely is always key.

Do you have a favorite book that you highly recommend?
Super Rich by Russell Simmons is definitely one of my favs for aspiring and established entrepreneurs. Great tips about getting and keeping your business(es) off the ground.

Any favorite quotes or affirmations?
Once my children became adults, I repeatedly told them that “I’m no longer your fisherman, but I will forever teach you how to fish.”

What’s next for Peytyn Willborn?
TV! I am in the midst of filming a reality show. More details will be available soon but in the meantime, just rest assured that bigger and better things are on the horizon for Peytyn Willborn!

Instagram/Twitter: @PeytynWillborn

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