Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Raina Ratcheson, Owner of WholeHearted Epicure, located in Lynnwood,WA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
WholeHearted Epicure is a Personal Chef service that specializes in bringing customized dining events into your home. I specialize in creating memorable celebrations that work for almost any food restriction, intolerance, or medical need as well. Have a Vegan at your dinner party and don't know what to do? No problem, I'll ensure they're taken care of, and everyone's needs are met! Services I offer vary from live pizza oven cooking to 5-course tasting meals to family-style and backyard wedding buffets in a variety of different cuisines. I also offer a limited meal preparation service where I create lesser versions of events for clients weekly.
Tell us about yourself
I have been cooking since I was a kid. We grew up fairly poor; hunting, gathering, and fishing were a normal part of my daily childhood. We'd always come together as a big family and share what we had. When I became older and moved away from my family, I continued working for dinner parties on the side. There's just something about bringing loved ones and close relations to a dinner table and celebrating that is a unique experience. It warms my heart whenever I'm invited to share a special moment. The devotion that I put into the food and brand of Wholehearted Epicure is related to how much I want to develop that feeling for everyone. That aliveness of coming together and sharing exceptional moments and creating memories. For that moment, I treat my clients just like they were my own family. Sparing no expense of detail to make sure the gathering is as perfect as possible.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I could say it's some of the minor celebrities I have cooked for or some interesting people with fascinating titles in the business world - but more importantly, I think this business has evolved in many ways through the years, from being something that was a side income, to my full-time income, and now it's my part-time income while I go back to school. It molded with me and supported me how it needed to throughout the years. I don't know of many businesses that allow for that much adaptability and can be such a pivotal part of their life journey.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
It's a very small community, and the business side can often be a bit of a siloh. Without spending tons of money from this organization, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work in keeping up with marketing, new avenues of revenue, and ensuring the business continues to sustain what I need it to. It's a lot of constant research and testing. I would love to say all I do is cook and run around meeting new farmers and ranchers to improve my supply chain, but it's not so simple to keep the administrative side alive.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Think about your brand early on. Make sure you've well-defined who you're trying to market to. The sooner you figure that out, the sooner you land that ideal client every single time, and the less you end up in nightmare situations.
- Say No. Define your boundaries. I think early on, and even afterward, when we're fighting against something like a recession, we sometimes say yes to just get money in the account. Sometimes saying no is better than a bad review, someone speaking poorly of you, or even putting you in a legal bind later. There are people just not worth working with or for, and you don't need to enter those situations. Know when and where you can compromise, but know when it's best to walk away.
- Call me old-fashioned, I have contracts, but I try my best almost never to use them. I have great insurance if I ever mess up, but I pride ten years of work on mostly a hand-shake. Yes, even with the high liability in the food industry. I have never been sued and never had a problem. I attribute great success from reasons 1 & 2 for that. It's a small thing, but it's something my clients respect me for and appreciate. Few companies and people are willing to exchange like fellow neighbors. From the beginning, I want your experience to feel like you're doing business with a good, trustworthy neighbor in your community. I have your best interest in mind, and we can mutually respect each other to do the same. I'm not saying to run your business without contracts; I'm mostly saying run your business like you don't need one in the first place. If you know you're doing your best and ethically working with someone's best intentions in mind, that mentality will show, and the trust will come to you.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I love being a part of this community and pride myself on being a small hidden gem, much like that hole-in-the-wall restaurant with the best food you've ever had but could have never imagined at first glance. My clients get a kick that they know this little gem, and I'm in their back pocket of fun things they can choose from for their experiences. I love that's something I can uniquely provide to them. I've met families, became a part of others, spent tons of time with new friends, and got to know some fascinating people. I love being a part of this community and thank everyone who continues to let me be a part of keeping it alive.
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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