Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food services but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ela Olarte, Founder of Good Chef Chicago, located in Chicago, IL, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I have a personal chef business. I provide meal services such as in-home private dining and meal preparation. My customers are anyone who enjoys eating well and values spending time with their family instead of spending time in the kitchen after a long day of work or anyone who wants to host a brunch or dinner party without the hassle of cooking and cleaning. Clients enjoy the intimacy of their own home to celebrate special occasions or have friends get together for fun. Customers range from parents and recently engaged to business professionals/CEOs.

Tell us about yourself

I didn't know I wanted to work in food during college as a BFA major, but I was lucky enough to share a full working kitchen which is where I actually learned how to cook for myself. I realized I enjoyed it so much that I was spending more time looking up recipes and ways to make a delicious meal with leftover ingredients than working on my school projects during my free time outside of my rigorous class schedule. I also enjoyed feeding my friends and giving unexpected treats to people at work. I took a couple of professional culinary courses to sharpen my skills and basically bought many textbooks from the Culinary Institute to study on my own before I decided to dive deeper and start my own business journey. I realize you don't need a degree in everything you decide to do. You just need to care about your clients, learn basic accounting, and keep working at your craft. I didn't have all the answers at the time because starting a business is never a linear process, but all I knew was that I enjoyed cooking, feeding, and serving people, so why not try to do a business? I found two of my mentors through working as an event helper and looking up private chef websites online.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My first accomplishment was figuring out how to manage my own website. But it was also landing my first big client.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Managing energy and prioritizing tasks that need to be done first. Understand your core competency and where you will be most effective on a given day.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Invest in yourself: keep reading books or listening to podcasts/audiobooks about business and stay current in your field.
  2. Fight through the initial discomfort of reaching out and asking questions from the people that are already doing what you want to do. Mentors help, and so does horizontal networking... it's the people you don't expect that will help you spread the word about your business.
  3. Think long-term and try not to be discouraged by short-term setbacks.

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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