Kesha Jefferson-Aycock, Owner & Personal Chef at Catering By Design, LLC
She is a locally known Personal Chef and Caterer in the metro Atlanta area since 2005. Catering to numerous companies for various events, she has gained the reputation of displaying professionalism and culinary craftmanship to every client.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- About Catering By Design, LLC
- Type of dishes they offer
- Type of events they cater
- About the $25,000 enhancement grant they won through the Coalition to Back Black Businesses
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:02] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio, brought to you by on pay. Built in Atlanta, on pay is the top rated payroll and HR software anywhere. Get one month free at on pay.com. Now here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:31] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of Atlanta Business Radio. And this is going to be a good one. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor on pay. Without them, we couldn’t be sharing these important stories today on Atlanta Business Radio. We have Chef Kesha Aycock with Catering by Design, LLC. Welcome, Chef Kesha.
Kesha Aycock: [00:00:55] Hello there, Lee. How are you?
Lee Kantor: [00:00:57] I am doing well. I’m so excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about catering by design. How are you serving folks?
Kesha Aycock: [00:01:04] Oh, my goodness. We are serving the metro Atlanta area as well as surrounding counties and out of the state. We are serving up some of the best southern and American cuisines that you can put your hands on.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:22] So how did you get into this line of work? Have you always been interested in, you know, chef-ing and being in the food business?
Kesha Aycock: [00:01:31] Yes, I have. I started off watching my parents and grandparents. My father was a chef in the military, so I had an awesome experience watching him make beautiful few food in the presentations as well as my grandparents. They used to feed a lot of people from the church and within the community, and I think I was one of the grandchildren that actually was involved and wanted to know more about it. Because I saw the togetherness, I saw the friendliness, I saw what it brought to the family, how we got together, and the good times were amazing and the food was more awesome that you can possibly imagine. So that’s one of the ways that I really was intrigued in getting into the business.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:20] So what was your kind of first foray into the business? Did you work at other places and then eventually started your own business? Or like, Well, what was the path?
Kesha Aycock: [00:02:29] Well, first I started catering, caring for close friends and family members, you know, just getting together barbecues, birthdays, celebrations, things of that nature. And my husband and I looked at the overwhelming response of the people that was not basically related to us, but wanted to say, know, wanted to ask, hey, do you guys do this full time? What are you doing? My husband and I was like, No, we just do it for close family and friends. And it was like, Well, I have a wedding or I have a birthday party and I would love for you guys to do it. And we were like, Okay, so we kind of got our feet wet that way. And then the best form of communication was word of mouth, as well as actually being at an event where we catered and it just exploded from there.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:17] So what happened at that event? What made it so special that people couldn’t stop talking about it and referring you out?
Kesha Aycock: [00:03:26] Well, it was the food, honestly. And not only the food that we that we made made it very tasty. It was the experience with it. It was the love and the passion that we have behind it. It was something that it was it’s in us. So if something is in you, it’s going to come out. And the way that it came out, it came out phenomenally. So people started asking us, hey, you know, can you do this for us? And we were like, Sure. So that was the passion behind everything. That’s how we originally got started.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:03] Now, what were some of the dishes you were serving then, and what was your kind of unique spin on them, though? That was so awesome.
Kesha Aycock: [00:04:14] Well, we started doing things that we were familiar with some of the ingredients and recipes that we grew up with, like the Southern style macaroni and cheese, smothered chicken, collard greens. And then some of the American dishes came a little bit later as we kind of ventured into creating a certain spin on some of the classic American dishes, like the miniature hamburger sliders. We kind of made our own little recipes from those dishes. The lemon Herb Selman, the lollipop and lamb chops, grilled asparagus. I mean, the list goes on and on.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:53] So how does it work when these events contact you? Do they, like, have a menu that they’re picking from or do they tell you, hey, we would love for you to do this? And they they’re kind of kind of giving you the menu or does it work both ways?
Kesha Aycock: [00:05:07] Yes, it does for both work. Tai Tung today. Work both ways. We do cater to your expertise. Maybe there’s a family tradition dish that you may want. Or you may go to our website at WW. Catering by Design LLC DOT and from that website you’ll see the menu selections and you can kind of pick from there. And we kind of cater to what you what you really want, what you may want to experience at that time.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:39] Now, is there a sweet spot in terms of the size of the event or does it really matter? Can it be like for ten, 20 people or does it have to be 100 or 500 or 1000?
Kesha Aycock: [00:05:51] No, not at all. It can be any size. We do intimate private dining. Sometimes it’s just a husband and wife anniversary, or it may be a corporate event where they have in 304 hundred people. It could be 100 people. Really? There’s really no size. We even do personal dining, such as during the height of the pandemic, we decided to reinvent ourselves to be available to all of our clients as well as the new clients. Because during the pandemic, everybody was cooking and nobody wanted to go to the store. So they reached out to us and say, Hey, we have a family of four. We want to eat for two days. So can you create something like two meats, three sides, your bread rolls, beverages, just so that we can get through the weekend? I don’t have to cook all week. So that was a phenomenal opportunity that we had during the pandemic. It actually exploded because we were getting text messages and calls and emails and the clients were going through our website saying, Hey, we need food. Can you please cater something for us? So that was that went over very well.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:02] So you were kind of doing like meal prep for your clients that they had, you know, kind of probably better, much better quality than they could get on their own. But it was done by a professional chef.
Kesha Aycock: [00:07:14] Yes, that’s correct. Because as you already know, during the pandemic, a lot of the grocery stores were bare. So being a personal shopper, licensed personal chef, you have access to a lot of companies and grocers that are not privy to the public. So we were able to get food and prepare these food, these dishes, which a typical person wouldn’t be able to have access to.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:42] Now. What’s the most rewarding part of your work? It sounds like, you know, these events that are catered by you, you’re really making an impact to making a difference.
Kesha Aycock: [00:07:54] The most rewarding part of our work is at the end of each event, the look on their face, the gratitude that they show, the happiness and joy that they feel, indicating how well they were treated and how honored they are. Well, how honored we are to be a part of whatever event it was. It’s the look on the face and the satisfaction at the end of each event that we get from our clients that says it all. That is way worth more than any dollar amount that we can ever receive coming from our business venture.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:34] Now, can you talk to us about the Coalition to Back Black Businesses? How did you get involved with that?
Kesha Aycock: [00:08:42] Oh, my goodness. Okay. So this experience was I was in ah, and I’m still in on this has been a couple of months now, but the Coalition to Back Black Businesses, I’ll receive information from them through a platform of the Eureka Entrepreneurship Mentoring Ship Program. I became a member of this. You can sign up for free. They offer mentorship for entrepreneurs that are in need of going to the next level or becoming more successful than they are. A lot of small businesses don’t know where to turn when it comes to trying to get their business to the next level. So during the course of the mentorship, they the Coalition to Back Black Businesses, along with their founding partner of American Express, offered a $25,000 grant and also continued mentorship coaching through their 2021 grant program and catering by design applied for the grant, and we were one of the 20 recipients that received the grant. It was an amazing experience and we are forever grateful to all of the organizations that was involved. And those organizations consist of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the National Business League, US Black Chambers Inc, Walker’s legacy and of course, the Eureka Entrepreneurship Platform.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:10] So you apply for this grant and then ended up getting it. What was the criteria to get it? Was it. Had they choose you?
Kesha Aycock: [00:10:20] Well, the the criteria was first and foremost, you had to be a small business. And they have a financial you have a financial obligation to not make a certain amount of money. And I believe it’s like under 1 million. I can’t remember the exact amount, but they can. The United States Chamber of Commerce recognized small businesses based on the amount of money that you currently make. And so that was the first criteria you had to be licensed in your business, whether it was whether it was a catering company, whether it was a any type of business, honestly, just any type of business, you had to be licensed. And third, you had to go through the mentorship program, through the Eureka platform. And during the course of the mentorship, a coach would have to recommend you to to be a part or recommend you to be awarded the recipients. And I was told that many participants were a part of I think it was well over maybe 100, maybe 200 people applied. And from the referral that the coach gave, along with your dedication to being a part of that mentorship program, you apply for the grants and you just kind of hope that you won. And I think what really put us on the edge to be one of the 20 recipients is the the what do you call it, the referral from the coach. You build a relationship with your coach during the course of X amount of months.
Kesha Aycock: [00:12:05] You go online, Zoom conferences, you ask questions, you do homework. And I had an amazing coach by the name of Priya Gopal. We built a relationship so strong that she saw the dedication, hard work and the drive that we had to become successful. And she knew that the $25,000 grant will be the seed money that we would need to help open up a restaurant in the future. So it’s the dedication that she saw, along with how hard I was working and how hungry I was so that, you know, I was able to apply for this grant. And when I received a phone call I was in complete. I just I didn’t have any words. It was just absolutely amazing. So those were some of the requirements that you had to have. You had to be dedicated and you can’t just come on and I’ll just look at it another day or I’ll just do the homework when I get ready. Any time you want something, you got to work for it. It’s not always easy, easy. But when you have people that’s behind you and they see the potential that you have, they’re going to push for you just as hard as you push for yourself. And that Eureka platform, they saw everything that we want it to be and more.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:34] Now, that’s a very important statement you just made, and a lot of entrepreneurs really should listen to that. There are places that want to help you, but you have to take the action and get involved. You can’t just sign up for stuff and hope things go your way. You got to do the work. You’ve got to kind of be the person that these mentors are kind of pushing you towards. So any advice for a business owner out there that maybe, you know, a lot of entrepreneurs think, I got to do this on my own or it doesn’t count, but there’s so many people out there that want you to win and succeed. There’s places that want to help you be the best you you can be. Any advice for that entrepreneur to take that step and ask for help and get mentored and find those things like Eureka that can help take you to new levels?
Kesha Aycock: [00:14:24] Yes. The advice that I give to anyone that wants to do it is you got to you got to make sure that you’re hungry when you’re hungry. Just imagine your meal, right? You’re hungry, your stomach is growling and you’re ready to eat, right? So you have to prepare to eat. So first of all, you got to find out what you want. Do I want a burger? Do I want a pizza? Do I want a good old dinner from Red Lobster or whatever it is you decide on what you want. That’s number one. Number two, prepare for that meal. I need a fork, a knife, a spoon, and I have to sit at the table. And if you’re not sitting at the table or wherever you. Wherever you are, you cannot prepare for this meal. You cannot. And my my advice to give to anyone that wants an opportunity to be heard or to be seen or to get to where they want to go is. Be your best. Dig, dig, dig into anything and everything that is surrounding you. Yeah, I have to take away a lot of the negativity because the negativity that we received through the whole process, not from Eureka, but from other people that we knew that we thought that was going to help us. They actually told us that there is no funding or there is no grants for you to succeed your your business. It’s not out there that’s just make believe. And the first thing that I did was I killed off the negativity. I was like, there there is funding. You know, we may not have the funding to get started because, you know, you might you know, you work a regular job and you just you don’t know what to do.
Kesha Aycock: [00:16:18] And the money is just not always there. The government, the United States government has given so much money toward small businesses, not just black businesses, just the small businesses, because we’re the ones we’re the bread and butter of the business industry. It’s the small mom and pop businesses that’s trying to get to where a lot of the multimillion dollar businesses are. But we’re the ones that makes America thrive. So whenever you receive negative information, don’t receive it at all. Just kill it out, take a breather, start digging, started looking, asks questions. And that’s the one thing that I do. Everybody that knows me, I ask tons and tons of questions and I don’t stop until I get the answer that I need. I’m up early in the morning. I’m late, I’m up late at night looking on the Internet, finding out what website can I go to, who can I ask? Who can I meet with just to find out where can I go to get what I need to become successful? So if you’re listening to this broadcast, it is not by an accident. It is not by just some coincidence. It’s because you’re there’s something great in you. There’s something in you that’s motivated. But you have to push the button to motivate yourself to keep going. Nobody’s going to do this. But you. You can have a team of people behind you, but if it’s your dream, nobody’s going to see your dream come true unless you push through. So keep going. Don’t stop. Ask questions. Do what you got to do. Go where you got to go. And I promise you, I’m a witness that there is funding out there for you, so keep going. Don’t stop.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:10] Well, Chef Kesha, a very inspirational words. If somebody wants to connect with you and learn more about Catering by Design LLC, maybe book some catering, maybe just talk about business. What is the website? What is the best way to get a hold of you and your team?
Kesha Aycock: [00:18:26] Okay, so they had this. We have several platforms and where you can reach us first and foremost is Catering by Design LLC. That’s our website. There’s an inquiry tab under the label where you can reach out to us about that. Or if you want to see some of the work that we’ve done, we’re on Facebook, which is at one catering by design and also Instagram catering by design underscore. And if you just you can reach us through Messenger, Facebook or just an instant message or DM from Instagram to get in touch with us. And again, that’s WW Catering by Design LLC or for Facebook at one Catering by Design and DMS for Instagram at Catering by Design Underscore.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:19] Well, Chef Keisha, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing such important work and we appreciate you.
Kesha Aycock: [00:19:26] Thank you so much for having me, Leigh.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:28] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see y’all next time on Atlanta Business Radio.
Intro: [00:19:36] Today’s episode of Atlanta Business Radio is brought to you by on pay. Built in Atlanta, on pay is the top rated payroll in HR software anywhere. Get one month free at on paycom.
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