Two aspects of my childhood in Wilmington North Carolina, helped inspire me to become an entrepreneur. Segregation and Bon Ton Potato Chips.
Many in my family went into business because segregation denied us job opportunities. Both parents were civil rights activists, my dad drove a taxi and my parents eventually opened a dry cleaners. My grandmother also drove a taxi and had a juke joint. Going into business felt natural to me. But could I handle the challenge?
The Bon Ton potato chips sales competition proved I had the mindset for business. When I was 8, my school gave each of us cases and cases of chips to sell for a fundraiser. All of my classmates were going door to door but I quickly realized I could cover more ground if I setup distributors, outlets and salespeople under me. I pulled together a network of friends and family and outsold everyone.
Today cooking is my passion. And just like that Bon Ton competition, I love to pull together my knowledge of diverse traditions, flavors, and kitchen techniques to create something different and special. In my youth I poured over cookbooks and learned from my grandmother’s juke joint recipes. (Brown Dog Candy anyone?) After earning my bachelors degree in creative writing, I travelled the world from Venezuela to the Philippines studying culinary traditions. I worked on a 300 acre organic farm in upstate New York where I trained chefs, managed the café and catered special events. I even took over an existing restaurant, the Welcome Mat, in San Francisco for a brief time. I revamped the menu and garnered a loyal following.
Now I want to take all that I’ve learned from my studies, hard work, and adventures,
and expand my business on both the catering and wholesale side.
Toliver Works Food offers delectable, healthy vegan and vegetarian cuisine. I am developing a line of soups for my wholesale markets including small groceries, cafes, as well as nursing homes and large tech companies. I will also continue catering for both small and large events. What makes my soups special is the use of my unique homemade dry spice mixes, sauces, vinegars, and oils which incorporate the flavors gleaned from my years of travel, study, and cooking. By using locally sourced vegetables, I also hope to help minimize Toliver Works Food’s carbon footprint and offer local communities a healthy and delicious alternative to fast food fare.
Today, some of my most popular soups include:
Cauliflower in Japan
Butter Coco Yam
Corny Corn Chowder
My soups sell well and I get wonderful feedback from my loyal customers.
Now as my catering business grows, I also want to scale up production while developing a robust wholesale business. I need capital to grow. For my catering arm, I need to purchase serving ware and containers to display and transport my meals. For my wholesale business, I need branded packaging and labeling supplies, and a computer for my accounting, marketing, and recipe work.
A loan of $7,000 will enable me to buy display equipment for my catering business, marketing materials, packaging and labels for catering and wholesale delivery, inventory and equipment for bulk food production and transport, and a computer for social media marketing, recipe entry and adaptations, and book keeping.