Work is the Salt of Life
By Tiffany King
In the new office space of Henshaw Companies on St. Simons Island is a large photo of Justin Henshaw, taken ten years ago, standing in front of his Coasters food truck—one of his first businesses. Since that time, the name Henshaw has become synonymous with new business in the Brunswick and Golden-Isles community—which is fitting because Henshaw describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur by nature.” He is the owner and CEO of Island Sound and Fuse Frozen Co.; president of the Golden Isles Wedding Association; and a franchisee of Jimmy Johns, Smoothie King, and Salata that is coming soon. His current and future businesses fall under Henshaw Companies. Henshaw’s motivation to start new businesses and grow his brands comes from his strong work ethic and belief that work is the salt of life.
Henshaw is a native of St. Simons Island. He was raised by his grandmother after his mother passed away when he was young. His grandmother worked two jobs, and they lived on a dirt road in a cinder block house off of Menendez Ave. He was showered with love but was spoiled and had no discipline. That all changed when he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2001. Henshaw was living in New York City at the time, pursuing a career in acting. He witnessed firsthand the tragedy of the events on September 11, 2001 and was motivated to enlist in the Marines soon after. He served for seven years, doing multiple combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. His time in the Marines was invaluable, as it instilled the discipline he would soon use in business.
After being honorably discharged in 2008, Henshaw returned home and learned that the College of Coastal Georgia was offering four-year baccalaureate degrees. With the GI Bill in-hand, he enrolled at the College. Henshaw was part of the first cohort of students who earned their bachelor’s degree from the College.
“When I went to school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was 28 at the time and I was very combat-oriented, so I didn’t have a trade to fall back on. People suggested that I major in business,” Henshaw said. He majored in business administration, which later proved to be the right decision.
Henshaw created his first business while studying at the College. He wanted to make some extra money and remembered that in high school, he used to DJ at weddings on the weekends. It was a lot of fun, and he was good at it. He used his savings from his last deployment, purchased a sound system, and called local hotels and resorts, asking to be on their referral list. He started to book a lot of events and began to hire friends. Island Sound grew into a wedding entertainment business and now covers most of the East Coast, including 12 states.
“When I started Island Sound that taught me right away that I like this. I like rubbing two dimes together and making a quarter,” Henshaw said. “I like the magic of it. When you create a business, it’s like creating life—it has organs, breathes, and has a heartbeat. That’s what Island Sound taught me, but without the Marines, I wouldn’t have had the discipline to do it.”
His next business idea started as a project in an entrepreneurship class. The project involved students creating their own business, and Henshaw chose to focus on a food truck. Food trucks were beginning to become very popular, and he was encouraged to turn his project into a reality—that’s when Coasters was born. The photo of Henshaw in front of his food truck hangs as a reminder to that very special time.
“That picture was taken 1/11/11. I thought that was very clever, but in reality I was opening up a food truck in the middle of January with freezing, ice rain, serving hot dogs in a parking lot. I call it my successful failure,” he said. “Coasters was the most successful business I ever had because it made me into what I am today—forged in fire. It taught me costs, management, about the municipalities, and what is required to open up a restaurant.”
Although Coasters was popular, managing two businesses while still being a full-time student was a lot to manage. Henshaw realized that having a food truck didn’t fit into his long-term plans and sold the business. However, his experience with Coasters motivated him to get more involved with the food and beverage industry.
By the time Henshaw graduated in 2011, he started two businesses, earned a bachelor’s degree, and was now on the hunt for a new business venture. He began to develop Fuse Frozen Co, recognizing the popularity of self-serve frozen yogurt shops. In 2012, the first Fuse store opened. Henshaw has gone on to open three more Fuse locations in Glynn County. When Jimmy Johns was looking to develop in Southeast Georgia, Henshaw reached out to them and became a franchisee in 2018. Then came the purchase of the two local Smoothie Kings in 2020. He is currently renovating the old Burger King on Demere Road into Salata, a fast-casual restaurant specializing in customizable salads and wraps.
2021 marks 10 years since Henshaw graduated from the College. One of the most powerful lessons he learned from his time in college was time management, he said.
“I was older, and the Marine Corps tell you where you need to be and at what time. It governs your life. When you’re in college you don’t have that. To this day, I’ve never had a real job. The College taught me time management and project management,” he said.
Henshaw’s time at Coastal was also a new beginning for him. Living in New York for two years, then joining the Marines after 9/11, gave him a lifetime of experiences before he was 28 years old.
“That time was great and made me who I am, but when I went to college at 28, I felt like I was 18. It felt like I was starting all over again, and those previous 10 years didn’t happen,” Henshaw said.
His favorite college memories revolve around hanging out with friends at the beach and bringing his DJ equipment to a friend’s house for parties. One of his favorite professors is Professor of Economics Dr. Don Mathews.
“Dr. Mathews is one of my favorite professors of all time—ever. I audited one of his classes before COVID happened just because I think he’s an awesome teacher. His son Ben Mathews runs the entire food and beverage division for Henshaw Companies. His first job was actually working for me at Coasters,” he said.
Never Stop. Keep Moving Forward
Henshaw loves new challenges and new projects. The four pillars he wants to build Henshaw Companies on are: service, retail, real estate, and food and beverage. His current companies fall under all except one—retail—but Henshaw has some ideas for that division.
“My goal is to never stop and always keep moving forward for the betterment of the company and our team members,” he said. “I don’t believe anything is ever appreciated or valued without work. The things you enjoy and love the most take work—not just business but relationships, marriage, and children. It’s amazing how the things you love the most in life are the things that require the most attention and work. It’s that way in business as well.”
Henshaw believes that the secret of happiness is work. The scripture “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart” from Colossians 3:23-24, which can be spotted on Henshaw’s truck and business, is what he firmly believes. Work is the most powerful, wonderful thing any person can do, he said, and can help one live a fulfilled life.
His advice to alumni, especially those who recently graduated, is to find something you are passionate about and put your best foot forward when you start and leave a job.
“Everybody starts a job great until about a week or month later. You define yourself not by how you start a job, but how you leave it,” he said. “I tell employees, ‘I know you’re going to quit one day, but do it with honor and do it well.’ That will define who you are.”
Henshaw doesn’t see himself slowing down or stopping anytime soon. He’s always working on multiple project ideas and coming up with ways to keep his businesses growing. One day he might scale back his involvements, but that is a long day from now—he loves creating and doing business far too much.
Learn more about Justin Henshaw and Henshaw Companies at www.henshawcompanies.com.