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Tina Cusker
La Cuisine

La Cuisine, Tina Cusker

Title / Role: Owner
Location: Bozeman, Montana
Formed in: 2021
My successes.

La Cuisine was founded on the belief that relationships are strengthened around the table. We strive to offer the tools and the skills to be more confident in the kitchen, so our clients feel more open to inviting others to their tables. La Cuisine was blessed to be awarded #1 New Business in Bozeman in the 2022 Bozeman Magazine Reader’s Choice Poll and 2nd place awards for Buying Made in Montana AND Shop for Gifts. We also received the 2022 Gallatin’s Greatest and 2023 Bozeman Reader’s Choice awards.

La Cuisine is designed around Brett & Tina’s worldwide culinary and travel experiences from seven years in Europe, rooted in our Montana beginnings. La Cuisine’s efforts to build community between small groups of individuals are also poised to build professional relationships and strengthen our small business community together.

Our mission is to provide families and homes with the culinary tools and skills to create delicious meals and cultivate memories in the kitchen, the heart of every home, while building community across the Gallatin Valley. Owners Brett & Tina Cusker are both 5th generation Montanans with respective successful careers in the U.S. Air Force and as educators. After living in three foreign countries and six states, the Cuskers are passionate about serving their home state and the local community. They use this business to give back to their fellow veterans and raise awareness for the sacrifice of the entire military family. Brett and Tina met at Montana State University, where they both earned their Bachelor's Degrees, have been married for 32 years, and share two grown children.

What do you do?

La Cuisine is a French-inspired kitchen store and a culinary classroom. We partner with local chefs, restaurants, and caterers to offer weekly cooking classes. Our retail store features many Montana-made artisan goods and premier European lines for kitchen and dining. Our business is thriving, and we owe much of our success to our small business partners across the state that help us shine. We believe we are stronger working together rather than competing with one another.

What inspired you to start your business?

The vision for La Cuisine was forged in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when hearts were hurting as families were separated, life challenges heightened, and individuals struggled with isolationism as businesses shuttered and communities were locked down.

Upon reflection, we realized a blessing that had come for many during this time was a transformation and revitalization of a family mealtime around the dinner table and an appreciation for the meals and social experiences with those we hold most dear.

What's special about your business?

Our community partnerships set us apart.

Our military give-back mission to our fellow veterans is distinct. We offer twice annual Military Honor events, free events to eight couples, retired, reserve, active, and surviving spouses. We partner with The Wine Gallery and a high-end local restaurant or chef to treat 16 guests to an exclusive cooking class featuring special gifts for all and an opportunity to share the evening with fellow service member families.

What influenced you to seek help from SCORE?

While I come from many generations of small business owners, I've never personally opened a business of my own. Guidance in accounting, writing a business plan, and scaling the operation were all reasons to get advice from a professional at SCORE.

How SCORE helped.

SCORE has helped me fill the gaps in my business knowledge. Most of the services I have utilized are financially related, but just encouragement and support from a mentor holds a lot of weight. When someone speaks highly of you in the community and helps share your business vision with others, those referrals equate to dollars down the road. Rick believed in my business enough to request the local Chamber of Commerce to offer me a complimentary Chamber membership for my first year. This led to relationships and networking opportunities I might not have otherwise been able to maximize. The domino effect cannot truly be measured from that point. As long as I deliver, those initial relationships are golden.

My business officially launched in 2021. We bought the building at the end of 2020 and began working on the business and architectural plans on January 1st. We released ecommerce on April 1st and the brick-and-mortar store opened on September 25th. We have been growing since and have far exceeded expectations from the onset. The support from SCORE and the broader community has been humbling, to say the least.

What's great about my mentor?

My mentor, Rick Sanders, walked me through some accounting structures and offered insight and advice on my business plan.

Rick is an expert in his field. His vision is bigger than mine for creating an accounting structure my business can grow into.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a small business?

Acknowledge that your business will require at least double the effort and time you imagined it would if you want to succeed. You have to be willing to do more and be more because you simply haven't thought of all the issues, challenges, and successes in advance. Lean on mentors and reach out to other business owners for collaboration and sound-boarding. And most of all, rest when you can. It's kind of like being a new parent... this business is your new baby. Sleep when it sleeps, and take care of yourself first so you can take care of your employees and customers. Delegate early and often because you can't do it all.

What would you tell a fellow business owner about SCORE?

Seek advice from those who have walked your path before and those who have expertise in your areas of deficiency. We can't all be perfect at everything, nor should we want to. Be willing to delegate to those who can work faster and better in areas where you struggle. These areas can be identified more easily by working with those who have more experience than you do.

Additional media
La Cuisine owner photo
℅ Bozeman Chamber of Commerce
2000 Commerce Way, Bozeman, MT 59715

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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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