Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I’ve lived abroad most of my life, starting with the Peace Corps after
college. I’m also a great cook. After a year of unemployment I realized
life was telling me to do what I have always wanted to: create a
private catering business and market my yummy Asian creations to
stores and restaurants. Especially in this time of local and organic,
people seem very excited to hear about what I am doing. Do you have
any advice for me?
Dear Entrepreneurial Chef:
Obey the law in all things. Register your business everywhere you
need to. Be especially careful about regulations for businesses that sell
food; they often limit pets and access to the places the food will be
prepared. Come up with a simple clear business name that tells what
you sell. It’s always tempting to go for something personally
meaningful, but think what a potential taster will hear.
Create (or pay someone to create) a very simple web page with attractive pictures and info on quantity. Content analysis is expensive so you may have
to wait on that.
Be very careful when you do pricing. Make sure you
account for all costs, from ingredients to packaging. Make friends with
the buyers at the local natural food stores and begin to get small
accounts. You’re not big enough even if Costco wanted you, so learn
as you go. You’ll make mistakes but try to keep them small.
In the short run you’re likely to undervalue your time. But as you grow
your business you’ll resent doing everything for free. While you may
begin with social networking, happy to make special orders for
neighbors/friends/their friends, you’ll soon resent a knock on the door
with someone saying, Do you have any of the fabulous curry? I need
dinner. Set up hours when you’ll be on site for pre-ordered pickups;
anyone who knocks other times or without pre-ordering may be out of
Most important: make a business plan. Watch what you spend and be
sure you have enough capital on tap to pace your growth and cope
with the unexpected.