Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Shelley Elson-Roza, Co-Founder of Heirloom Fine Foods, located in Omaha, NE, USA.

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

We are a locally sourced, organic-focused catering company and event venue based in Omaha, NE. We are dedicated to supporting local agriculture by sourcing food from local farms and meat suppliers to obtain the highest quality ingredients while focusing on healthy, delicious, and nutritious food, often by reimagining classic dishes for life's most special moments.

Tell us about yourself

I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and worked in the management consulting and hedge fund industries for 10+ years before deciding to follow my dream to attend Chicago's top culinary school (Kendall College) and start our business alongside my husband, Tony. During culinary school, I worked at a highly established catering company that executed the James Beard Awards and society events, volunteered at a local urban garden, staged at local area farms with restaurants, and worked Outstanding in the Field's Chicago dinners. After moving back to our hometown, Omaha, I worked at the Grey Plume Provisions and Saddle Creek Breakfast Club and taught cooking lessons at the Union for Contemporary Art before committing to Heirloom full-time. I'm passionate about healthy cooking, entertaining, and throwing a great celebration, and I love finding a good excuse to bring family and friends together over a shared meal and glass of wine.

We were motivated to start Heirloom when we were planning our own wedding in Omaha from Chicago. We wanted to show Omaha off to our friends and family from around the country, the romantic vision we have of Nebraska's blue skies and cornfields. We could not find a caterer to source food organically or locally or that offered vegan and vegetarian options, so we decided to do it ourselves!

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

We survived COVID as a small business! We opened our commercial kitchen and small event space in August of 2020, so that came with its own challenges. We've been fortunate to have the opportunity to cook for some of the most interesting people in Omaha and their guests on exceptional properties around town.

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

Our business is seasonally driven. Although we understand its seasonal nature, it is still challenging at times to plan ahead enough to get through the slow months.

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

That's a tough one! I finally feel like we're returning to a more stable environment, but our industry has changed a lot since COVID. I would recommend...

  1. Have at least 2 years of savings to cover your personal expenses in the early years. Many small businesses don't pay themselves in the early years.
  2. Have really solid contracts in place for your locations, and don't do anything by "handshake." We've had to learn this one the hard way, unfortunately.
  3. We created a business from our passion, but every day I have to remind myself that it's a business first. People will take advantage of you if you don't keep this front of mind.

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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