The Davies Allen Biz Buzz Blog: Culinary Crafts
D+ A: Could you tell me a little bit about yourself and the business?
Mary Crafts: I started [Culinary Crafts] almost 32 years ago in an effort to support myself and my family. I was actually the chief bread earner in my family, and at the time, I was a social worker. I had graduated from the Y in Social Work, but I realized that was kind of an 8-5 job where my children would need to be in daycare, so I just kind of tried to do different things. I taught piano lessons, voice lessons, Avon door-to-door, just trying to find something I could do to support my family. I started from small beginnings. My sons were only one and three. Now all three of my children are involved in the company.
D+ A: So why catering? What got you interested in this business?
Mary Crafts: Well, I always loved to cook, from the time I was little, it was one of my favorite passions. My mother was a great cook. She was the best cook in the county and when she would cook or hold a dinner party, everyone would always be at her parties. I thought maybe this could be something I could make money at to support my family. Even though I didn’t have any experience in the food world, I had a passion for it. I’m not quite sure what comes first, the chicken or the egg; Do you develop a passion in what you’re good at, or are you good at what you have a passion for? Either way, I ended up really loving this career. It’s been so good to me. Even after all these years, I still love coming to work. I love meeting new people, creating new menus, going to the events, serving people, working with my staff, all parts of it.
It’s given me so many opportunities to be of service. Everyone needs food. I get to do what I love and still get paid for it. But also there’s been that community aspect of it where we’ve been able to help when Elizabeth Smart was lost to take food to the searchers, help our homeless population, and donate galas for the United Way. All of those things have afforded us the opportunity to be in this business.
D+ A: What are your thoughts on structuring your business so that you can be involved but still have it run like a well-oiled machine?
Mary Crafts: Well, originally I did it all. I cooked, served, cleaned up, sold events, attended events, all of it. And then eventually you sort things out- what you’re best at, what you enjoy the most, the unique piece that you bring that no one else could bring to your business.
I was in the kitchen for about 10 years before I realized I could hire shifts that have a passion for food. I couldn’t hire someone in the front office to sell what I do and have the same passion, so I began to leave the kitchen and move into sales and marketing out here. I always tell my staff, my sales people, and my crew that we’re not selling food, we’re selling a life experience. They can go anywhere and buy food, but the experience that we bring to them is only available here.
D+ A: What emotion is behind that?
Mary Crafts: When I meet with people, that’s one of the first things I ask them. I say “Tell me what you want your event to feel like. Tell me what you want your guests to experience.Do you want to portray an elegant experience, where people feel completely pampered and taken care of? Or do you want to portray that this is comfortable to feel like you just came home, and sit in the backyard?” Everyone has a different vision. “Do you want to have ethnic food because you had your first date at a Thai restaurant and you want to serve Thai food? Trying to recreate a childhood dream?” There’s always something that sparks in them an experience that they want to create at their event, and once I know that piece, then it’s easy to begin to be creative and design around that.
D+ A: What advice do you have to other people who are looking to start their own business?
Mary Crafts: There are two types of people: Those who want to work an 8-5 job, be secure, have health insurance, go home, no phone calls on the weekends, and the entrepreneurs, the ones who live and breath their business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I admire the 8-5 people, unfortunately, I am not one of those people. Yes, I go on vacations where I don’t get cell phone coverage, and that’s how I get away, but other than that, I’m very tethered.
Those kind of people, it’s always with them. They’re always thinking about it. When they wake up in the night, when they get up in the morning, they live it and never let it go. If you’re someone who that sounds exciting to, then you can be an entrepreneur. If you’re someone who says “Oh my gosh, I would hate that.” Then that’s probably not the best thing for you. And there’s no sense in pounding that square peg into the round hole.
If you put an entrepreneur in a cubicle, they shrivel up and die, and become non performers.
D+ A: What would you say is your biggest mistake in your business?
Mary Crafts: I don’t believe in that. I think that regret is one of the worst human emotions because regret involved that sense of not being able to do anything about it. What a place to live. I never want to live there. There are things in my past that I wouldn’t want to re-live, but every single one of them I wouldn’t have wanted to be without either, because they are the reason I am who I am today. They are the reason I grew through those lessons to become this person. And that’s always hard for the person when they are in the middle of the problem, sometimes you have to know that you’re in a mess and that you’re going to get through it, and that’s all you know. But when you get past it just a little bit, it doesn’t take very far past it, you can look over that shoulder and say “Wow, that was horrible when I was in the middle of it, but thank heavens. Look what I learned.”
D+ A: What’s your personal inspiration? What keeps your moving every day or vision do you have that powers you through?
Mary Crafts: I ask myself every day “What would I do today if I were no longer afraid?” Because so many years of my life I lived in fear of what people thought, fear of how I looked, fear fear of failing, fear was everywhere for me. And every decision was made to keep myself away from pain or injury or being vulnerable, hurt, or exposed. And now to not to afraid of that. I find the more vulnerable I am, the more life embraces me.
Mary, thank you so much for your incredible insight and advice. For more information about Mary Crafts and Culinary Crafts, visit www.culinarycrafts.com.