Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food services but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Daisy Austin, Founder of Fresh Picked Daisy - Vegan Personal Chef, located in Los Angeles, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am a personal vegan chef servicing the greater Los Angeles area. My main service is weekly/bi-weekly meal prep, but I also cook for small intimate dinner parties. Every cook day includes customized, seasonal menu planning based on my clients' taste preferences and any sensitivities or allergies they might have. A cooking day includes grocery shopping, travel, cooking in the client's kitchen, and cleaning up. Basically, my clients choose what they want from a customized menu. I come to their home, cook a bunch of food, and leave them with a sparkling kitchen and a fridge full of healthy home-cooked meals.
Surprisingly, most of my clients are not vegan but simply individuals and families wanting to incorporate more home-cooked, plant-based meals into their lives. Most of my clients are busy executives, families, celebrities, doctors, lawyers, and other professionals, but I really do cook for a lot of different people!
Tell us about yourself
I'm originally from Bakersfield in central California, where agriculture is a large part of the lifestyle and economy. Around age 9, I decided to stop eating meat for ethical reasons. In 2009, I graduated with a music degree from UC Santa Cruz, but I didn't have a lot of clarity as to what I was going to do with my career and life after college. One morning in 2011, I stumbled upon Chef Jesse Miner's website, which is one of the top-rated personal chefs in San Francisco. I had no idea what a personal chef was, so I contacted him to ask some basic questions about the requirements for becoming a personal chef. After a few emails with questions and encouragement, I was inspired and began working on starting my business. I founded Fresh Picked Daisy in Santa Cruz, California, and a few years later relocated to San Francisco, where I became a passionate personal chef, cooking for many people in the tech industry.
I took a few years off when I moved to Los Angeles, but I always had a deep yearning to cook for people in the back of my mind. I couldn't ignore it anymore, so I started my chef business back up again a few years ago. Coming from a highly creative and musical family, cooking allows me to express myself creatively and literally feed my art/creativity to my clients while also being my own boss! It's a very fulfilling career for me, and I am very grateful that I can do what I love in sunny California, where we have gorgeous produce abundant year-round, and the plant-based lifestyle is flourishing.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I'm sure everyone reading this has seen those dramatic, over-the-top cooking shows on TV. There's always a lot of drama that happens, such as something catching on fire, chefs getting injuries, dropping ingredients on the ground, last-minute major event changes, etc. Well, it has taken me a few years working in kitchens to be able to handle those types of situations and pressure, and I also confidently say that I can handle most kitchen curveballs. One memorable incident was nearly slicing off the tip of my finger when preparing a celebration brunch for a high-profile celebrity. When I was taking care of my finger, I burnt a huge skillet of potatoes and almost started a fire. Being able to handle these types of situations quickly and calmly has tremendously helped my confidence in myself as a chef.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Cooking is only a small part of my business. The other responsibilities, such as marketing, correspondence, financial planning, accounting, keeping organized, etc., are where much of my time is spent. I cannot overstate the importance of BALANCE as a business owner. I used to stress about administrative tasks, even when I was spending time with friends, family, or on holidays. I now set a time in my calendar a few times a week when I will sit down and focus on these tasks. If my calendar does not include administrative tasks that day, I try not to worry about them.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Good customer service is key. In the case of a personal chef, cooking in a client's home is a very intimate service, so the client must feel comfortable with having you in their kitchen. Looking through someone's drawers and cabinets is not necessarily comfortable for most people, so it is important to make customers feel at ease by being warm and personable but also professional.
- Don't quit your day job quite yet, or work at least part-time so you can pay your bills while going through the logistics of opening up a business. Starting a business takes time and money, and everything adds up quickly! Opening a business and getting a good set of clients doesn't happen overnight, so plan accordingly, and don't give up!
- Answer that phone call, text, or email, and FAST! We live in a world where customers expect immediacy and want instant gratification. If you don't answer that inquiry immediately, a lot of the time, customers will go to the next business on their list. This has happened to me many, many times, so I decided to buy a smartwatch to alert me of any inquiries, even if I have six burners going and three dishes in the oven.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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