Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food services but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Marissa & Nick Sowers, Founders of Sweet & Sowers, located in San Francisco, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are personal chefs in San Francisco! More specifically, we provide seasonal, farm-to-table fine dining to clients in the comfort of their own homes.
We offer in-home chef services from family dinners to multi-course tasting menus (and everything in between). We also deliver finish-at-home two-course meals and weekly meal prep kits to clients all over the Bay Area. We share new cuisines and techniques weekly, keeping local, hyper-seasonal produce always at the forefront.
Tell us about yourself
We spent years contributing to culinary teams at restaurants across the country, many with Michelin recognition. We met while working at a restaurant in New York City. We fell in love while learning how to work together as a team in the kitchen. We moved to San Francisco together to further our respective restaurant careers, and in 2016, we began cooking private dinners for clients in San Francisco on the side. We immediately fell in love with the creative process and personalized experiences we could provide to clients beyond the restraints of a high-octane restaurant setting.
It wasn’t long before we realized that we’d found our “thing." The vibrant, dedicated community of farmers in the Bay Area has inspired and enlivened us from day one. In fact, it’s a big reason we moved out here! Chefs in San Francisco are so lucky to get to work with the bounty of this region (and they know it). There is nothing we get more joy from than cooking with incredible, fresh, in-season, and local produce grown responsibly and sustainably by hardworking people who care.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Our biggest accomplishment as business owners thus far has been building our incredible client base. Getting started as a small business owner is intimidating. It takes a lot of time to build a strong client base. Every single relationship matters. Word of mouth is a powerful tool.
The professional relationships we’ve built in the Bay Area are a result of simply doing things right. No shortcuts, no unreasonable prices, just hard, honest work and a kind demeanor. Our business has steadily grown year after year, and we know our earnest and optimistic approach to hospitality is the reason.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Work-life balance is always our goal. It’s really difficult to prioritize your own free time when an entire business rests on your shoulders. As chefs, it’s been ingrained in us not to stop until the job is done. That energy is beneficial in the kitchen, but sometimes we need to intentionally turn it off.
The truth is, with a small business, the work will never be 100% done. If we get burnt out, nobody wins. So it’s critical that we go against that initial stress-based urge to work every minute of every day and instead take deliberate time to enjoy the lives we’re working so hard for.
As we build our business and hire more staff, that value of work-life balance is always at the forefront. We want to be part of a healthy change in the service industry. We spent years running ourselves ragged in restaurants. Yes, we earned our stripes. A lot of it was incredible, and we wouldn’t change our experiences for the world, but maybe the industry won’t always have to be that way. Maybe there is room for chefs to be excellent and enjoy their lives, too. We’re trying…
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Follow your passion. Pay attention to your interests and where your curiosity wanders. It’s cliche, but it’s true. If you want to succeed as a small business owner, you’ll have a much better time if you love what you do. There’s no faking that.
- Don’t overthink it. Once you have a good idea (and hopefully the aforementioned passion), take steps to make it a reality. If you spend too much time in the planning phase, you might start overthinking. Planning and research are essential, of course, but try to take steps to bring your idea into the world as soon as you can.
- On a similar note, we feel very strongly that it is essential to lift up other small businesses as we grow. There is room for all of us to thrive. We always give shoutouts and credit to small businesses we patronize. We are just as invested in their continued success as our own because we need each other!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Eat your vegetables, and thank your farmers!
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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