How I Found Success With A $20K/Month Catering Company After Starting Many Businesses
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, my name is Nestor Nidome and I am the founder and owner of Elegante Catering. Serving the Inland Empire (San Bernardino and Riverside county) and now have expanded to serve all of Southern California. Our customers, mostly higher middle class, have enjoyed our delicious menu ranging from full service plated meals, made to order pasta bars to buffet-style menus such as Mexican fajitas bar and tacos.
As for the style of events, we cater, well, we do all types. But our favorites and the ones we focus most on these days, are Weddings during the weekends and Corporate catering during the week.
Weddings because there is no higher compliment than to have the bride and groom come up to us complimenting us and letting us know how all their guests are raving about the food. As for corporate caterings we like to make it as simple as possible for them. We have 12 different menus they can choose from so that every month their employees enjoy a different menu. Plus once we have their information all they have to do is text us the Date, Menu, and Time they want. We understand that they have better, more important things to do than order food. This has allowed us to grow our monthly sales to $20,000.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
For as long as I can remember I have always been attracted to the idea of being a business owner. I’ve tried many businesses starting with my own DJ company. I got some business cards, printed them at Staples, passed them out, and waited for the calls.
It took a bit of time, but eventually, the calls started to come in and bookings started to happen. I did that for a couple of years until one of the DJ gigs some gangsters got into it and I was almost in the middle of a gang fight. Thank GOD things calmed down, but after that, I started looking for another business!
During this same time, the whole tech bubble was growing and I wanted a part of it. I took some coding classes in college and started using HTML to code my website from scratch. I kind of borrowed a lot of ideas from Yahoo but it was going to be mainly focused on my local city. I visited some businesses and got some of them to advertise. Things seemed to be going well when the bubble burst and I was once more left to venture out and look for something else.
I was determined to make it as a business owner so I started to read, listen to audiobooks, and go to business seminars. That’s when I attended a seminar about the vending machine industry and how people were getting rich with quarters and dollars! Singed me up! I said once again. With a little bit more experienced under my belt I was able to grow that business to 40 locations around my city! But I soon found that I needed a LOT of quarters and dollars to make a financial difference in my life.
I had my vending route but I needed more education on managing a business, so I started working for Pizza Hut as I had heard they had one of the best managerial programs in the country. I figure I could get paid to get educated. For about 4 years I worked my vending machines and worked my way up from a driver, to shift manager to general manager.
Finally, I had the opportunity to run my own Pizza Hut. The Area Coach told me that I needed a bit more time and that if I worked hard and did what he asked, after 6 months I MIGHT get my store but for now I could get a twenty-five cent race. I looked him in the eyes, told them to thank you for the opportunity, and walked out.
At that time the economy was booming and house equity was high. I sold my house, moved into my parents again, and bought myself a restaurant! A small little Mexican restaurant inside a Shell gas station. Now I had 2 businesses. My vending machine route and the restaurant. Finally the American dream! But then the 2008 economy collapsed! As the economy tanked and sales went down I had to let go of more and more employees and pick up their shift. By this time I had taken all the vending machines out and sold them. I was working 7 days a week, sometimes 14 hour days!
I was having a harder and harder time having enough money to pay the bills. So I started to cater tacos. I soon discovered that people, no matter how bad the economy is, still have parties! But I was working so hard just to pay bills. I found a buyer who luckily bought my restaurant and focused on catering.
It does not matter if I have the most amazing product in the world. If nobody knows about it, no one will ever buy it. Stop believing the product will sell itself. Products don’t sell themselves, marketing does. Learn how to market.
I didn't believe the food industry was for me, but I kept at it. At this time I was wondering online when I stumbled upon an ad that promised to teach me how to make millions of marketing online. I clicked on it, went through the motions, and soon I was learning Online Marketing.
I fell in love with Online Marketing and so I started studying everything I could. Meanwhile to make ends meet I was still catering a gig here and a gig there. For about 4 years I tried selling network marketing products, products on Amazon and I even created my info product. I made a few sales here and there but nothing was panning out. The truth is I never believed in the products I was selling.
Finally, as I was almost ready to give up on my entrepreneurial dream I found myself listening to a conversation about an engaged couple and how much they were paying for their catering. Till that day I never realized that the catering industry was so lucrative. I immediately went home and started doing research and WOW what I discovered changed the course of my life! That day I made a firm decision to apply everything I’ve ever learned to build the best and most well-known catering company ever. On March 16th, 2017 I registered under Elegante Catering and well that’s when everything changed in my life.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Well for our first product we only offered Tacos. We had your typical taco cart. You know, Tacos, rice, beans, chips and salsa bar. That idea came up back in 2008 or so when “The Taco Man” still was not as popular as it is today.
Back then most of the events we did we got a lot of “hey that’s a great idea!” nowadays there is no backyard party that doesn't have a taco man. Since then I started to expand and always be thinking about what the customer wants. Over the many parties we catered to I kept listening and taking notes of what customers would tell me they wanted. One of the menu items clients and guests would always ask for was Quesadillas. So I created a package that came with those. I created 3 packages. This was a great idea because it allowed me to generate more income while making the client feel happy with what they just spend.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Before launching Elegante Catering I was doing catering once in a while, just enough to pay my share of our expenses as my wife paid for the rest. I was able to save up about $1,000 from previous catering gigs and that became my seed money. With the experience that I had gathered from the past 4 years in Online Marketing, I was confident I could make this new venture take off!
For about a month or so I learned everything I could about the world of catering. I never realized this industry could make so much money. As my excitement grew I gathered all the information I could on traffic sources. Where were potential clients hanging out online? Searched for as many niched key words I would be able to blog about and get to rank.
I used my seed money to purchase a domain name (GoDaddy for $14 a year) and hosting for my new website ($8/month). Then I started just writing blog posts on catering subjects that were trending at the time. Something, anything to have on my blog to get started. I dug up all and any old pictures I had taken of previous caterings in the past.
Then to take more pictures I invited all my friends and family to a tasting event! I figured I would hit two birds with one stone. I would take lots of pictures then have them go on social media sites and have them give me honest reviews about the food! My thoughts were to make it seem as if I was an established business in the community. Which I kind of was but under another name.
Now on my website, I had 3 categories, Corporate Catering, Social Caterings, and Weddings. I figured I would try to make it as simple for the customer as possible. At that time I was only catering tacos so I had to invent other menus even if I had never catered them before. In my mind, I thought I would figure it out after I got hired.
Right now it was time to make this happen. That was a big lesson I learned that I implement to this day. I listen to my clients and the public. Then I create menus to fit those needs. Once I get my first booking for that I figure out how I will make it happen. I see it as I will let the public tell me what they want. If a particular menu I created never gets booked I just erase it and try something else.
Once things started to move I got myself a DBA, Business License, and found a commissary kitchen I could rent for $25 an hour, plus be able to have my Health Department Permit. Everything was ready for the big launch!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since the launch things that have worked to attract customers have been blogging. Over time I have been able to rank higher and higher on search engines. This has brought lots of new customers. Then there are sites like Yelp, The Knot, and GigSalad. I try to find as many of those types of websites and make sure I am in every single one.
Social media sites like YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram help a lot in getting Elegante Catering known and found by a lot of new customers.
I’ve never been a salesperson and I am still not. I hate it. Having all these new technologies online is like a miracle. In the past, I believe that my inability to sell and being very shy was the demise of previous businesses. I guess I just hate rejection. Yet with social media, emails, and ranking on search engines, I never see the rejections. All I get is the people who are very interested in hiring us. Now life consists of me providing quotes all the time, then people call me back book me and I do their events!
In my spare time, I like to keep on blogging, sharing pictures of our event on social media, and just searching for other traffic sources. If I would recommend anyone who is getting started in their business is this.
Learn online marketing and take it as seriously as possible. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in all my years in business has been that it does not matter if I have the most amazing product in the world. If nobody knows about it, no one will ever buy it. Stop believing the product will sell itself. What do you think the product will go out there by itself and find people to talk to and say hey buy me? NO! Products don’t sell themselves, marketing does. Learn how to market.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today we are doing better than ever! I am happy to say that each year we beat every single month's sales from last year. We have expanded our brand to now include different menus that target Corporate Caterings. We serve many local companies that buy lunch for their employees.
Things will always be harder than what you thought it would be. Stick to one business, one idea. Once you start a venture many problems will need to be solved. So like I said fall in love with being a problem solver.
We are also focusing more on weddings. We have introduced our PLATINUM and GOLD Packages that are becoming very popular with engaged couples. We are still listening to our clients always making sure we provide way more than what they are expecting.
Shortly, we plan to open up our Event Venue where we can rent out. This has become my main goal now and I’m currently looking at locations! It is something that complements our catering business and for us, it is our next natural step.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Be relentless and never give up! I don’t like saying that because it sounds so cliche. Yet that is exactly what got me here. The truth is there is no one secret, there are many. I learned over the years that it takes many skills to become successful and finding out what specific skills I needed was a big challenge. When I read books, authors write from their point of view. They give advice based on what they needed to learn and what they saw worked for them.
For me, it was many skills I needed to develop to get to where I am today. I read books on leadership, branding, mindset, health, and so on. At first, I was lost. I would read books I heard some guru recommending.
They helped, but it wasn’t until I sat down and asked myself “Where am I going? What skills do I see will get me there?” These questions put me on a quest to search for my answers and books I felt had the answers I needed. Some books I got a few specks of gold. While other books had some GOLD BRICKS that would help me make a big jump.
One last thing that, at least for me, was a big advantage. I tried not to listen too much to what the catering gurus said. When I do hear what they say there are always talking about what is trending. I don’t want to follow trends because I feel most trends don’t last. I don’t want to be caught in a never-ending trend-seeking cycle.
I listen to my clients and give them what they want. If that happens to be trending at the time, then so be it, but I did it because my client asked for it. I feel it is more powerful to always listen to a paying customer than some trend that might or might not work for you.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
At first, I just used a simple Word document and Google Calendar to track my customers. Now I use Hubspot as my go-to CRM. I find that it has everything I need for what my business requires right now. This is great because it got to a point I could keep up! I also use old school tools such as whiteboards, notebooks, and pinboards.
Another big tool I used is my daily goal notebook. I searched for the perfect notebook and still haven’t been able to find one. This goes back to what I was talking about. All these goal setting tools and schedules are designed by what worked for the designer.
So I grabbed what I liked for different people’s versions of a goal-setting notebook and created one to fit me. Here is what I do. On the first page, there are the major BIG goals I would like to reach by the end of the year.
Then the rest of the notebooks are designed to accomplish those goals. I write weekly smaller goals to keep me on track weekly. Then one page is dedicated to a single day. That day will have the weekly goals broken down into small simple to do goals. It will have daily tasks I must do every day. Plus I added a Must-Do List where I write leads or clients I NEED to follow up with.
I guess I could use my phone, but my problem has always been… If I can’t see it I won’t remember to do it. So this notebook which I have to write every day is my perfect reminder!
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Tim Ferris has been very influential. Grant Cardon, especially his book Be Obsessed Or Be Average. I get a lot of online marketing tips from Neal Patel. Brian Tracy and all his amazing books.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Some advice that might help get into the mindset that as an entrepreneur you are a problem solver. Start living and enjoying problems, because there will be MANY of them. If you are in that type of mindset you will start to see problems as something fun like a puzzle.
Here is another BIG advice, things will always be harder than what you thought it would be. Stick to one business, one idea. Don’t jump ship only because in your head you can see the whole plan spread out. Once you start a venture many problems will need to be solved. So like I said fall in love with being a problem solver.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always looking for drivers, cooks, servers, bartenders, and anyone who wants to work in the catering industry.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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