My name is Narissa Watts and I’m the Manager of Talent for High 5 Hospitality, joining the family in February of 2018. I have 2 boys, Isaac who is 16 and Liam who is 13. I moved to Delaware in 2007.
I was born May 18, 1977 in Niskayuna, NY to my parents – 2 young hippies in case my name didn’t give it away. I have a sister, Caley who is 2 years younger than I and a brother, Sean, who is 10 1/2 years younger. I grew up in upstate NY until the age of 16 after which we moved my Junior year of high school to Maine. A bit of a non-traditional upbringing – my Mom worked during the day in advertising and my Dad worked nights playing in bands and later became an antique dealer. Being the oldest of 3 kids and the child of free spirits, I learned responsibility early on. In looking back and now raising my own kids, I shouldered responsibility a bit too early – which created a very anxious child and adult. At the time, I thought waking up to the TV blaring and getting your parents up to bed after they had passed out on the couch was part of being a kid – it was what I knew.
Extended family was always a huge part of growing up – holidays & summers were spent on Lake George in Ticonderoga, NY with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I suppose they knew more than they let on when it came to free spirit living. I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for the world – I love my parents dearly – it’s made me who I am today but there were certain things I took note of and paid attention to when I became a parent.
In the summer between my junior and senior year, I had the opportunity to travel to California for the summer with a family I babysat for when living in NY. I had never flown or been away from home for more than a few days. Where most parents would say “no.” Mine said “yes.” Luckily, I was going to be traveling with a family I had known and would have the opportunity to travel with a Broadway show, The Who’s Tommy, a production the family worked with. I flew by myself from Boston to San Francisco for the first time on an 8 week adventure. The experience was amazing, to live a show life, hanging out with actors and actresses who I would later see on popular TV shows. We spent a week in San Francisco, then drove along the Big Sur (I was a new driver), spending a week in Carmel, CA, then 6 weeks in Los Angeles. Homesick does not even begin to explain what I felt. My family thought I was crazy to take the trip – but was so very glad I did. It was my first dive into getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.
College years were spent at Keene State College in NH for a semester and returning to the University of Southern Maine where I graduated with an Undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Women’s Studies. One of my proudest moments was defending my senior thesis and walking across the stage to get my degree while 7 months pregnant. I was going to be the first person in my family to get an undergraduate degree, even if it meant working 2 jobs, getting married and starting a family.
My Goals have shifted throughout my life and will continue to shift as I get older and come upon various stages of my life. One thing that has stayed true and is so very important to me as a Mother is to lead by example – be the same kind-hearted person when no one is watching as you are when there’s an audience. I’ve tried to and continue to instill in myself and my children – it does not matter what job you are doing – do it the best you can. Giving up is never an option.
What do you want to be when you grow up? Working with HR did not even cross my mind. I was going to be an oceanographer or manage bands – until I figured out I didn’t like biology or business classes. Starting out in the home furnishings industry, taking phone orders, working thru college, I stayed with the company 8 years, leaving as the night and weekend manager as well as the catalog copywriter. At the age of 30, we decided to move to Delaware. We had spent time in Maryland as that’s where the boys’ paternal grandparents lived. I was leaving my parents and siblings to start over 500 miles away, isolating myself with a rocky marriage, 4 yr old and 1 ½ yr old. I took a position with Emile Henry USA, a cookware distribution company in New Castle, Delaware. In the 8 years there, I worked with sales reps and retailers from across the country (Macy’s, TJ Maxx, Amazon, independent retailers), learning a ton about the industry and I was given the opportunity to travel multiple times per year. One of my proudest moments with this organization was starting their foodservice division – which allowed me to work with award winning chefs and high end restaurants across the United States. It was my view into the restaurant world and I loved it. It created an excitement and drive within me I had not known. The fast pace, the passion, the ever changing landscape and of course THE FOOD! As the business grew so did my desire for more – my impatience got the best of me and I ended up leaving to pursue a career recruiting for the housewares and foodservice industry. I was being told I was crazy. Leaving the comfort of my current role to start a new career, working at a specialized recruiting firm in Center City Philadelphia. Looking back – it was crazy but it was a decision that put me where I am today in HR. Working in a major city is an experience in itself. The hustle bustle – high pressure – stressed out energy opens one’s eyes to city life and the race that goes with it. During that time, I worked with major brands recruiting Executive level talent in the sales and marketing fields. I worked with HR departments at companies such as Oneida, Anchor Hocking, Le Creuset, All Clad & Conair to name a few. I admired their positions and the role they played within each of the companies. The HR departments of these large corporations had their finger on the pulse of the business. Through industry leader training – I was able to see the consultative end of hiring and loved it. Commuting to Center City was taking its toll on myself and my family. In May of 2017, I sat down for an interview with Katie Rullo. Mark Ford had put me in touch with Katie – I served on the local little league board with Mark and had the pleasure of holding our registration events at the Bear BWW. I worked with Chef Robbie Jester during my time at Emile Henry USA. The meeting with Katie went very well, but H5H was not quite ready for me. So I took another position as a General Manager for a large convenience store chain. Another crazy move – I think my craziest week was 80 hours – I learned more in those 6 months on how to run a 24 hour business than I could have anywhere else for a year. It’s non-stop. In February of 2018, I reached out to Katie to check in – see if anything had changed on H5H’s end. The convenience store business was not for me. Within a week I was interviewing with Mark Trewartha – offered a role and became super excited to join a Team with amazing energy.
Who is my biggest influence? It has to be my boys, Isaac and Liam. Isaac is in tune to so much – often I was/am too busy to see what was going on for myself. He knows what he wants and goes after it. Teaching me the only person standing in the way of what I want out of life is me. Liam is an inquisitive young man who marches to the beat of his own drum – teaching me to look at things in a different light. I would not be where I am at this moment without them. Being a Mother is the hardest job no one prepares you for – nothing I do will make me swell up with pride as much as these two young men.
In closing, thank you for letting me share my story. My goal within this organization is to counsel and encourage Team Members to be the very best they can be. We have a couple of different ways to look at what’s been dealt to us in life. You can wallow in the really crappy stuff and let it hold you back OR use what’s been dealt to you to empower yourself – use it as the fuel to be the person you want to be – those bad, hard, tough to swallow times in life are a test. I’ve taken the bait and fallen more times than I want to remember, I’m stronger for all of it. My Mom always told me you either win or you learn. My Dad always quoted Robert Frost – took the road less traveled and it has made all of the difference.
Working for Bobby, Steve, Mark T and with each and every one of you has shown me a side of business and myself, I will forever be thankful for as I move forward. I have never worked for/with such a collaborative group of people and am so very excited for what’s ahead.
What’s your Story?