SCORE Mentors The Saucy Chef to Success
What do you do when you're an empty-nester with no business skills who wants to start a business? "I always had a passion for cooking. I taught my kids how to cook. Then I read an article in a women's magazine about chefs who make house calls, and I said, 'That's me!'" remembers Karen Wetch, owner of The Saucy Chef. In 1997 after seeing SCORE mentioned in in an American Personal Chef Association brochure, Karen sought out her local SCORE Chapter. She was introduced to SCORE mentors Bill Perehudoff and Bill Scown. The combination of Karen’s drive and focus blended with Perehudoff and Scowns business expertise was a winning one and this empty-nester with now business skills is now a successful small business owner.
In the beginning, Karen cooked once or twice a month for seniors. She used that time to develop a rhythm. Now, she has consistent days she works and consistent clients. She cooks three days a week at most, dedicates one day a week to research and development, and reserves Sundays for paperwork. Along with her newfound business skills and former knowledge, Karen says a good personal chef is organized, personable and resourceful. "I spent six months conducting research, trying freezing and food replacement techniques. I never cook from memory and I always clean up before I leave a client's home.
"Because of the experience she's gaining, Karen not only works for seniors, but also working couples and new parents. In addition, she finds time to enter her new recipes in the local fairs and always walks away with awards. A local paper featured her in an article about personal chefs in June 2000. As her popularity and business grow, she is pondering a different business direction.
Choosing the days and times she works are what she considers the best part about being a small business owner. "I love being personal with a client and bringing joy to people's lives. I'm always looking for a better way of doing things. I love what I do."
Bill Perehudoff and Bill Scown were counselors in Santa Rosa, CA. The former was most helpful because he was a restaurant owner at one time. On the other hand, Bill Scown had never heard of a personal chef. Scown says while Karen did the basic start-up work, he got her to focus on that one slice of the market: seniors. "It's important to find your target and concentrate," he says.
"Karen was a very positive person with a very unique and interesting idea. I live in a retirement community and knew it was a great potential market," says Bill Scown. "Today, if you need cooking help, you can depend on Karen to bail you out."
They advised me on advertising, teaching me that frequency wins out over ad size. I wanted to get into senior communities so they helped me with referrals and taught me patience. It worked and I'm still getting calls today from those original ads," says Karen. “I continue to rely on SCORE’s services. I attended it’s Women in Business conferences in ’98, ’99 and ’00, the latter on the Internet. They keep me abreast of marketing workshops and seminars. I have learned that business is a whole different language-no emotion-just business. That’s very different from the operation of a personal chef.”