Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Nakia Laubscher, founder and executive chef of chefate, located in Denver, Colorado, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
chefate is chef-guided grocery delivery. Our clients are busy professionals who have many hobbies and love to cook but struggle to find enough time to pursue all their heart's passions. With chefate, our clients can choose chef-developed recipes from our cookbook to quickly create their shopping lists. The grocery shopping is done by a chef, and all groceries are delivered in reusable produce bags and shopping bags. The client does all of the food prep and cooking, but if she has any questions along the way, we offer 'phone a chefpro' to get direct access to a chef. We also encourage donations with each shop which we drop off at local food pantries.
Our mission is to connect busy people with joyful food. Our definition of 'joyful food' incorporates positivity from three sources – individual, community, and environmental impact.
Individual food positivity incorporates the principles of Intuitive Eating in banishing any restriction or guilt around food and embracing deep nourishment and satisfaction as we eat. Individual food positivity also includes creating happier experiences in the kitchen by offering guidance from chefs to encourage more confidence and creativity in our clients' culinary adventures.
Food positivity in the community is centered around our efforts to combat food insecurity. Everybody should have access to safe, nutritious food. By donating to local food pantries, we are doing our small part to help those who are food insecure. Community food positivity is also about celebrating and connecting through our cultural foods. Each of us grows up with recipes unique to our family, and when we share those foods, we share a piece of ourselves and our family's history. Connecting through food creates delicious opportunities to understand how we all experience life uniquely.
To us, environmental food positivity means respecting our food and protecting where it comes from. By only using reusable produce bags and grocery bags, we aim to reduce the amount of plastic in landfills and prevent deforestation by paper bags. Additionally, each of chefate's recipes links to other recipes for ideas to utilize your leftover ingredients. By minimizing our food waste, we lessen our impact on the environment and show respect and gratitude for our food.
Tell us about yourself
As a kid, I remember loving to spend time in the kitchen with my family. Whether it was making pies with my grandma, pizza with my dad, cookies with my mom, or anything and everything with my grandpa – I found the process of cooking fascinating and a ton of fun! As the years went on, my parents allowed me to experiment in the kitchen. I made dozens of not-so-great dishes but learned so much in each of these 'failures.' This sparked my interest in food science and trying to figure out where things had gone wrong.
I moved to Denver to study at Johnson and Wales University, where my passion for food science grew. This led me to a career in Research and Development upon graduation. My position as Research Chef allowed me to combine the foundation of food science with the creativity of pastry arts.
During the spring of 2020, I was working with our Retail team. I heard a lot of frustrations from people about their grocery delivery experiences – the produce was of poor quality, illogical substitutions were made when stores were out of stock of specific ingredients, and items were damaged from careless handling. I knew there had to be a better way to provide groceries, one of the most important and personal goods in our lives. Because of my chef background in the food industry and my passion for recipe development, I realized that I could offer a unique service that blended chef expertise and personalization into a joyful grocery delivery experience.
In August of 2020, I launched chefate, and I love that I get to talk about food every day. Seeing my clients fall in love with cooking and creating delicious dishes they weren't familiar with before motivates me every day. One of my favorite parts of chefate is providing culinary advice for at-home cooks so they can build confidence in their cooking skills. This confidence breeds creativity and more joy in the kitchen. We strive to give our clients back their time so they can enjoy food and pursue their hearts' passions.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
We only have one life, so why not pursue your passions with everything you have? You don't grow when you are camping in your comfort zone. Stepping outside of what you're comfortable with feels risky but is necessary for personal growth. The opportunity may feel like a risk, but consider the risk of allowing that opportunity to pass you by without making the most of it.
In taking this risk, I've been able to build a business that provides a path for personal growth and joyful experiences to our clients and community. Living outside of your comfort zone is exhilarating, makes life more fun, and exposes you to amazing opportunities you never imagined. Embracing risk will most often yield successful results if you stay true to your focused goals and values.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Well, as a small business owner, you wear many, many hats. My food service and R&D background have prepared me well for recipe development and helping clients through their cooking concerns. However, there’s a lot more that goes into running chefate.
In starting this business, I needed to take time to learn and build my skills in marketing, sales (and how to navigate sales as an introvert), finance and accounting basics, and web development. I love learning new things, so I was excited to learn more in each of these areas. It can feel intimidating to be a beginner at something. Still, I believe that learning a new skill can also be empowering. With practice, education, and determination, great things can happen, and we can accomplish incredible goals!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- View everything as an experiment. Your 'failures' are just collecting data about what doesn't work for your business. In your successes, you've proven a hypothesis right and now get to replicate the process and evaluate continued results. Looking at your work as a test or experiment helps lessen the pressure of perfection. Nothing is ever perfect anyway, so let go of unrealistic expectations.
- Start networking. And if you're shy and nervous at your first networking meeting, just say so! I have found incredibly supportive, generous people in the small business community. Most of us want to help each other. Just be yourself (even if that person is introverted and uncomfortable speaking to groups), focus on why you love your business, and we'll support you!
- Enjoy it! Don't let yourself get too overwhelmed with work or stress that you forget the passion that drove you to start a business. The journey is the joy!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.