Last July I lost my job. I worked for a company that demanded a lot, paid well, left me sleep-deprived and juggling working from home and managing my family. Although all my friends had been telling me for years to find another job, I was scared. The first week of July the phone call came from the CEO that the company was restructuring and, effectively immediately, I was being laid-off. You know all those stages of grief? I grieved for a lost job I had never loved. My “isolation” phase included a great deal of Lo Mein takeout, which was then accompanied by 15 extra pounds registering on the scale. When I finally reached the “acceptance” stage, I pulled out the computer, typed up a resume and began applying for jobs.
My degree is in Elementary Education. I taught first grade on military bases in Panama and Puerto Rico for Department of Defense Dependent Schools for 9 years. My husband works for the U.S. Army and upon moving to Texas we decided to have another child, which led to the work-from-home job so I could stay home with our youngest child. Throughout my “grief” stages, I realized that going back into the classroom wasn’t my passion anymore. What did I want to do with this next stage of my life? I spent 7 months applying for hundreds of jobs I thought I might like, going to interviews and either never hearing back from anyone or receiving those depressing “Thank you for applying, but at this time we’ve chosen another more qualified candidate” e-mails. I felt worthless and unwanted. It led to more Lo Mein consumption, more pounds, and new stretchy pants.
And then in the first month of February of this year it hit me: I LOVE food (and had lost my enchantment with take-out Lo Mein upon creating my own Lo Mein recipe which was lower in fat and WAY tastier). I love entertaining. I love creating menus. I knew I did not want to pay for culinary school. (I started in Hospitality Administration at Florida State University before switching to Education, when I realized I wanted a family and didn’t want to move around to move up.) I did not want to be stuck in a restaurant kitchen. What could I do to combine my personal strengths and talents and make money? I started browsing the internet and began reading about personal chefs. I found the Culinary Business Academy online and purchased their at-home study program. When my box arrived, I made the commitment to myself that, by the end of February, I would launch my own Personal Chef business. I chose a name for my new company, Lavish to Lite Bites, LLC and launched a business Facebook page, announcing to everyone that I was starting my own business. Making that public announcement to my friends and family made me accountable to follow through with my goal. I created an LLC, took an online class and exam to obtain my Texas Food Safety Manager Certification, passed my Personal Chef exams through Culinary Business Academy and began to network. No words can express the self-doubting moments that I had to deal with during February.
My first client was referred to me by a friend. She was going to start a Detox diet and needed someone to help her eat correctly and follow the diet specifications. The second week in March I was in my first client’s home. I was a MESS that morning! Not only was I walking into my first client’s home with hidden key location and alarm code in hand, I had to create a menu for 7 days that involved breakfast, lunch, dinner AND snacks….all of which could be FROZEN or were safe to consume over the next 7 days if stored in the refrigerator! When I jump into something, I JUMP IN! Over-ambitious? Yes. I realized at the grocery store that there was NO way I was going to be able to make that happen and get home to meet my youngest as he stepped off the bus. I did a ½ service and had to go back 3 days later, at my cost, to finish her service. I’m happy to report that she is still my client. In addition to her, I have picked up many other regular clients over the course of 3 months.
My business plan was centered on busy families and preparing meals for them for a week. My current clients are all single or couples who want delicious meals created just for them, all of them striving to eat healthier. In the process of starting my business, I have lost all my Lo Mein pounds and have gained a huge smile and positive outlook. My business plan has been modified greatly over the past few months. I’m allowing my business to take me where it takes me. Learning to listen to my inner voice has been an ongoing challenge. Turning down clients who I know are not the “right fit” for my style has been difficult, but necessary.
In addition to preparing meals for a week or two, I’ve been teaching cooking classes to groups and individuals. Dinner parties and special events have filled in my evenings and weekends. I went from being unemployed last year to employing “independent contractors” to help me at dinner parties. How amazing is that?
No service goes exactly as planned. Ingredients seem to miss the grocery list even though I check my lists twice or thrice! I’ve been in teeny-tiny kitchens, commercial kitchens, gourmet home kitchens and everything in-between. I’ve met amazing “clients” who have become friends. I LOVE MY JOB! I’m the owner of a business that is growing rapidly and challenging me every moment of every day. It is exciting and exhilarating. Interacting with my clients and potential clients via my website blog and Facebook business page is so much fun.
Making the choice to become a Personal Chef and launch my own business, practically overnight, was one of the best decisions I have made in my life.
Lavish to Lite Bites, LLC