Great food is a result of fresh ingredients, and a terrific banquet is a result of great service. And that’s where I come in. As a college freshman, I began planning to start a food service and hospitality staffing company that would provide banquet servers, cooks, bartenders, housekeepers, and more to hotels, catering companies, convention centers, event venues, and other food service companies in the Indianapolis area.
To people who know me, I was probably the least likely person to start a business. I was interested in translating for a living, and I began college as a Spanish major at Xavier University in Cincinnati. During that semester, I began to seriously question my passions in life, and I wondered if studying Spanish was right for me. While at home in Indianapolis one weekend, I was having a late night conversation with my high school sweetheart, Aaron, about what I really wanted to do as an adult, so I asked him about his passions. He expressed a deep desire to start a business that gave something back to the community, and the more we talked about it, the more it interested me. We talked late into the night, and we decided to take action.
Taking action included me transferring to Indiana University, changing my degree to business, and planning for the new business venture. Since Aaron and I had both worked in the food service industry and staffing industry for several years, we had a clear direction of the type of company we wanted to start. We enlisted the help of those around us for advice and moral support and started writing a business plan. Laying out all the details for the business was very important initially because we needed to make sure that it was even possible to start and run a business while maintaining full-time status in college. Although Aaron and I are both from Indianapolis, we decided to start the company about 1 hour west of Indianapolis in the small city of Terre Haute, Indiana with the help of a family friend who offered us the 2nd floor of his restaurant for office space at a discounted price. Despite all the hard work we put into marketing the company in Terre Haute, we found that the business would never grow to the level that we had hoped, so we decided to call it quits in Terre Haute and moved to the capital, Indianapolis!
Undaunted, we took what we learned in Terre Haute and headed to Indianapolis to give it a try, and in early 2007, we started working with a large special events company willing to give us a shot after many failed attempts with the big staffing firms in Indianapolis. This client gave the company the boost that it needed and things started coming together nicely and we slowly and selectively started adding clients. Since Aaron and I were running the business on a shoe string budget, saving money was one of our top priorities so the first employees to work were me, Aaron, and our family and close friends. We soon started looking for affordable office space and came across what seemed to be the smallest office in the world. Just bigger than a closet, this 12 foot by 12 foot room gave us what we needed to conserve our money and start interviewing potential candidates to place with our clients. We were very proud of that small office, and it translated into savings for our clients. As the summer continued, we diligently grew the business and enjoyed much success.
At the end of the summer in 2007, we were back at school for our junior year of college and things with the business were going smoothly. We had hired a family friend to work part-time in the office through the week to conduct interviews and other tasks that we were unable to handle since we were over 1 hour away from the office at IU. We developed routines to make the business more efficient and continually drove back to Indianapolis after our IU classes were over every week to conduct orientation and training for our new employees.
One Friday evening in October shortly before our training class was set to begin, a tall man in a suit walked into our office, introduced himself, handed us a stack of papers, and walked out. Our hearts sank as we found out that the stack of papers he handed us was a court order stating that we were being sued by our former employer and that we had to be in court in five days for our preliminary hearing. Being face to face with a law suit, we didn’t know where to turn and it seemed that we would have to throw in the towel. We were being sued for a breach of confidentially and a slew of other allegations, but we knew we were innocent and neither of us were ready to just fold under the pressure even with a looming lawsuit in which we were going to be going head-to-head with a multi-million dollar staffing firm.
It was clear that this was going to be a classic example of the big guy on the block trying to bully the new guy. After the suggestion from a mentor of mine at Indiana University, we hired attorneys near IU so that we could quickly form a plan of attack, and the next thing we knew we were sitting in court. Missing class and postponing tests, we pled our case to the judge and ended up winning the preliminary hearing. We stood our ground and several months later the lawsuit was settled with the other company.
Fortunately, there was life after the lawsuit for us. Sales have grown dramatically to over $300,000, we have over 400 staff members, and we have developed some great relationships with over 40 clients. We also now have one full-time employee and three part time employees that work for us in our office, and me and Aaron are planning to work for the business full-time upon graduation. As the economy begins to bounce back from struggles, it is very rewarding to be able to employ ourselves right out of college while providing meaningful jobs for people that might not otherwise have them.
As a young woman in business, I have learned a lot through the ups and downs of running my company, and I feel fortunate to enjoy my passions on a daily basis. For those with an idea or a dream, I suggest starting with something that excites you, and then look for opportunities to make that dream a reality. I started with founding a business, but with some imagination, I was able to incorporate my passion of Spanish through bi-lingual business operations for Hispanic staff members. I hope that my story inspires young people to reach for their dreams, whether or not it involves starting a company. Success can happen to the most unlikely people with little resources as long as there is determination and creativity.