Sherehe Kenyan Kitchen[caption id="attachment_2022" align="alignright" width="300"] Graduation day at Ventures.[/caption] Service Area: King County, Tacoma, and North to Everett Availability: I deliver Friday through Monday and prefer a week's notice Contact: 253 332 1615 or firstname.lastname@example.org Q: Tell us about your business? I cater home-style Kenyan food and drinks. You can't miss my signature Chai, brewed with fresh ginger, honey, and international award-winning Kenyan tea. My snacks include samosa a meat or vegetarian filled pastry, wrapped in mild tropical spices. All my meals are stewed in fresh natural fibers and herbs for flavors. I am the oldest of nine and developed my cooking experience and skills while helping my mother to cook for our large family. My siblings and family started expressing how good my food tasted and would always look forward to my next meal. I am a mother of one adult son and I noticed he too would comment positively about his mom’s cooking. He recently joined me here in the United States where he graduated from college and has been very helpful in supporting my business startup. Q: How did you get the idea for your business? While I was living in Kenya and working in an office in Nairobi Kenya’s capital city, I started volunteering at church as well as community events, then I moved to the United States and continued to volunteer at my church and certain community events, people in the community noticed that my food was tasty and encouraged me to cater small events for them, my church also put me in charge of food and beverage organizing during special occasions. The requests grew to where I have catered community weddings between 200-400 people. [caption id="attachment_2024" align="alignleft" width="225"] Lucy at her citizenship swearing in ceremony.[/caption] Q: What makes you different from other types of Kenyan restaurants? I am passionate about what I do, I care that people enjoy what I cook and I get great fulfillment from seeing them enjoy my food. I am creative and health focused. Working as a caregiver, I have the opportunity to feed healthy food to the seniors on my shift. They love and wait for my soups because they have not had any other employee treat them so special. I buy special containers for them so they can feel good about their food and they look forward to the days that I work. My employers are aware of this and I work hard to encourage my co-workers to pay special attention while feeding our seniors. Q: What do you like best about your work? The opportunity to share my ethnic food and social culture with other people, the chance to feed my clients special healthy meals and improve their health and quality of life. I enjoy interacting with others through food. Q: What is your biggest challenge and where have you found help? Time, I have a full-time job as a caregiver and it is not easy work either, I put so many hours of work in a week that I don’t have enough time to do my business tasks in time. Venture’s program “building business, changing lives” and also their coaching activities have been helpful. Startzone is currently helping me develop my business documentation, costing, pricing and invoicing. Q: What is something people might be surprised to learn about you? That I have a social life with close Christian friends and somehow, we find time to get together, pray and have fun singing Christian songs and supporting community events, and that am changing lives through food. Q: What would you say to other small food business owners thinking of working with FIN? I would highly recommend it, every immigrant interested in a food business ought to know about FIN, I would never have thought of growing my business without their help, I would still be cooking only for my familiar community. FIN staff has been so helpful in the process and I am gaining more confidence because of their encouragement.
Startup Q&A: Swahili Food Seattle
Q: Tell us about your business?I cater East African food across King County communities. I cater small occasions, birthdays, graduations, small parties and individual meal orders. The African community loves my food because it meets their cultural appetite and is affordable. I’ve found there is a lot of interest in Kenyan cuisine outside the African community as well and I always enjoy meeting people who want to try African foods.
Q: How did you get the idea for your business? What inspired you to start this business?I saw that many Kenyans were getting very busy and did not have time to cook traditional meals. I worked in the food industry back in Kenya and have always loved to cook, I realized I could fill that need. I was number four in a family of twelve, I started cooking at a young age and everyone in my family loved my food. When I came to America, I saw that many Kenyans were busy and did not have time to cook traditional meals. The idea to start a catering business came very easily to me and I did not enjoy any other kind of job when I came to America. When I talked to family and people who knew me back in Kenya, they would always tell me I needed to start a Kenyan food business.
Q: What makes you different from other types of African restaurants and caterers?[caption id="attachment_1658" align="alignright" width="300"] Chapati, Samosas, and Goat Stew[/caption] My recipes are based on traditional Kenyan dishes but I improvise changes that give them a local Seattle flavor as well. I learned to cook from generations of family traditions and have carried these traditions with me to America. My cooking is made from organic produce and fresh spices from Africa’s spice capital of Zanzibar – you will not be able to have only one taste. I also cater to special needs and my clients’ timeline – responding to calls and making deliveries outside normal business hours
Q: What do you like best about your work?Flexibility, the joy of seeing people appreciate my food and services, I enjoy interacting with people and sharing the experience and food from my culture. It is always fun to meet people who have visited Kenya and for those who can’t make it all the way to Africa, I am pleased to bring my culture to them.
Q: What is your business’ biggest challenge?I am trying to grow my business so I can have my own commercial kitchen. I don’t want to run a restaurant but instead to provide catering services and supply local restaurants and grocery stores with fresh Kenyan food. In order to do this, I need capital to buy equipment and, eventually rent a large space to work from. I am challenged by financial resources to grow my business, hire staff, and expand my business ideas. For now, I am focusing on building my catering business and marketing to new customers.
Q: What is something people might be surprised to learn about you or your business?That I never went to school to learn cooking skills, they can’t understand how I taught myself to cook such tasty food.
Q: What types of services or programs have been helpful?I’m telling you, I learned something I could not have imagined with I joined FIN. I knew that I could own a business but not necessarily how to do it. For instance, I learned how to operate in a commercial kitchen and how to scale recipes for large orders. Before this I cooked by feel and taste but I needed to learn how to measure and create consistency between dishes. My next adventure will be to improve my marketing skills. [caption id="attachment_1663" align="alignleft" width="288"] Benson cooking from the FIN booth at the Federal Way Farmers Market[/caption] Q: What would you say to other small food business owners thinking of working with FIN? That FIN is the ultimate program for people like me with a passion for food business. I would encourage other immigrants to join FIN and be intentional about taking the advantage of available resources, FIN has resources that can meet their every food business need, their financial support is very practical, I can’t believe they paid my public health permit, there is nowhere else you can find this kind of support, FIN has treated me like a parent treats and cares about a child, it is a unique program if you are committed to the process. I would encourage them to be very persistent to the process.
Connect with Benson to make an order or volunteer.
P.S. Benson would love help with creating marketing materials.
SeaTac Course in English English: Calling all entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs in South King County! Do you have a business idea you’d like to pursue, or an existing business you’d like to grow? Register for the Ventures Orientation in SeaTac on Monday, September 11! Ventures and the Food Innovation Network are partnering to offer the first-ever business training in SeaTac. You’ll get an opportunity to learn about our program for small business owners with limited resources and apply for our 8-week Business Development Training course. The orientation is free and will be at Lutheran Community Services NW in SeaTac: 4040 S 188th St., SeaTac, 98188. Registration is required to attend, so click here to register now or call 206-352-1945 to register via phone or for more information.
We are excited to host the 2nd Annual FIN Resource Fair May 12th from 5:30-8pm at Foster High School. This year we will be bringing together resources for both entrepreneurs and community members. Folks can get help starting a food business, finding a job in the food industry, or taking food and nutrition classes. More than 20 resource providers will be participating. We will have fun children’s activities and feature food from the FIN entrepreneurs. Join us in celebrating the diversity of South King County through food! If you are interested in coming or want to invite others, visit us on Facebook.
Startup Q&A: Soozveen Catering
FIN is excited to support the launch of four new local caterers cooking out of our shared commercial kitchen in Kent. The catering businesses each received a small start-up grant and reduced rent fees and are now fully licensed and insured caterers. FIN partner, Project Feast, is a core tenant, training culinary apprentices who operate the lunch cafe, Cafe Ubuntu. FIN is working closely with partners Ventures, StartZone and Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship to ensure each entrepreneur is matched with a business coach, receives ongoing training and identifies market opportunities such as catering events, farmers markets, and festivals. The seven entrepreneurs are operating under 4 catering businesses and will be cooking up cuisines from around the world. Swahili Seattle Food, Soozveen, Rekebot Coffee House and Mian Dian cater dishes and flavors from Kenya, Iraq, Ethiopia and China. Many thanks for the support from Seattle Foundation, Communities of Opportunity, Port of Seattle, and City of Kent. Their generous support has helped FIN and partners to build out the commercial kitchen and ensure the entrepreneurs and apprentices have the support services needed. And a special thank you to Project Feast for spending the many hours managing the remodeling project! If you have a catering or special event coming up, please give a FIN entrepreneur a call!
From Motherhood to Social Justice ActivistaAt 31, Jaqueline Garcia is a force of nature. From empowering Latina mothers to small business advisor, it is motherhood that really fueled her ambition. Jaqueline left Mexico and a burgeoning dentistry practice when she and her husband moved to San Francisco. Intending to continue dentistry in the States, a different course began to unfold when they moved to Seattle and Jaqueline became pregnant. Although happy, she was very far away from her support system. Jaqueline explains: “this was a moment that I felt very isolated from family and depressed.” That moment was also the catalyst for her to become a community leader. (more…)
In Your Face Pie Company owner Elaine grew up in the Bronx, New York with her artist minded family. Her father made wooden toys that functionally disabled adults would sand, paint, and sell. Elaine watched her father, knowing one day she too would give back to her community. Years later, after her husband's job offer in Seattle fell through, she felt dangerously close to not being able to provide for her daughter. Before moving to Seattle Elaine had earned undergraduate degrees in Acting & Directing, Technical Theatre, and a Master’s degree in Performing Arts Management. Upon leaving NYC, it became difficult to find work as many employers felt she was overqualified for the positions available. “No one wanted to hire me. I had a child at the time and I just needed a job.” Although her husband eventually found a new job and supported them, she wanted to make something of herself. Elaine's father was the first to suggest that she begin a career in baking. Elaine fell in love with the idea and immediately enrolled in baking courses, eventually earning a certificate in Pastry and Specialty baking and learning the operations skills necessary to run food catering business. She quickly opened a chocolate company and eventually a small catering company. Eventually she closed the doors on both businesses and focused on raising her two daughters until they graduated high school. Though her passion for owning food businesses never faltered. Inspired by her father's philanthropic heart and her daughter's career in the Marines, Elaine began dreaming of a pie company. She set out to start a pie cafe where anyone who walked in the door would feel at home. In addition to her pies she would also provide employment and assistance to retired veterans. To start this new journey, Elaine enrolled in courses at Start Zone which led her to make connections with the Food Innovation Network and later Ventures. Through being tenacious and hardworking she graduated from Ventures’ Business Development Training program, received both her LLC and business license, and is working on developing the catering side of her business. Her company features over 40 varieties of sweet and 18 varieties of savory pies. What advice does Elaine have for other budding entrepreneurs? “Learn everything you can about your business and be a champion for your business. You have to want it, you have to want so bad that you can taste it. And I can really taste it.”