April Vendor of the Month: Veselka

We are proud to announce our new Vendor of the Month initiative here at FoodtoEat!

Starting on April 1st, every month we will be highlighting one of our favorite vendors whose food we love and who we think our clients will love too! We are hoping to give these vendors more exposure by offering a specialty menu item that is chosen by the vendor and only available to FoodtoEat clients during the month of April! We will also be giving a little background about the vendor and how they got started for our clients to get a better understanding of the people and places that create their food.

This month, we are so excited to offer a custom menu item from Veselka to our clients! Veselka will be creating a special that includes your choice of a vegetarian grilled cheese (Havarti cheese, roasted beets, walnut pesto on 7-grain bread) or a meaty grilled cheese (Muenster cheese, Baczynsky’s county ham on pullman loaf), each served with a bowl of classic, creamy tomato soup.

Veselka

If you aren’t already familiar with Veselka, it is a New York City staple.

It was founded in 1954 and since then has grown into a landmark Ukrainian restaurant in the East Village, serving its famous pierogies, borscht, goulash and stuffed cabbage! Originally founded as a Ukrainian coffee shop that served simple soup and sandwiches, in 1990 it grew into a 24-hour location, serving the dishes that it is known for today. In 2004, Veselka celebrate its 50th anniversary and in 2009, released their first cookbook! It is currently owned by the founder’s son-in-law, Tom Birchard, and is managed by the founder’s grandson, Jason Birchard. Together Tom and Jason make sure that the original family tradition that Veselka was founded on is kept alive!

Don’t miss your chance to take advantage of this awesome special! It’s the perfect way to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day with your team on Thursday, April 12th! Email catering@foodtoeat.com to order your April grilled cheese and tomato soup from Veselka!

Women’s History Month Series, Part 4: “We all rise together”

The last (but definitely not least) feature in our Women’s History month Series is Elizabeth Solomon, the Founder and CEO of King David Tacos! Liz’s mission is to bring her Texas-style breakfast tacos to the hustle and bustle of corporate life in NYC and these tacos does not disappoint! Delicious and filling, they’re exactly what you need to spice up breakfast at your office or prepare you for a long day of meetings. Did we mention the queso?  (drool).

When and how did your business get started?

King David Tacos (KDT) is a woman-owned and Brooklyn-founded business, established in June 2016. We aim to bring one of the best exports from Austin, TX to the daily lives of New Yorkers: breakfast tacos. We got started just like any good business—on a wing and a prayer…right? But seriously, we started this crazy journey after I had just about burned out on the advertising industry. So I decided to pursue every Texan-in-New York’s dream: bringing a food to NYC that is so prevalent in Texas and makes so much sense for the New Yorker lifestyle but is nowhere to be found…until now! We are focused on making breakfast tacos that are simple and delicious, and we tailor everything we do to the fast-paced lifestyle of discerning New Yorkers. We opened NYC’s first breakfast taco cart at Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park in September 2017 and the second cart opened on Wall Street in November 2017. But we’ve been catering to offices all over NYC since we started!

What is the inspiration behind your business?

Besides being a forever homesick Texan, King David Tacos was actually inspired by my dad, David. He was called “King David” in jest by friends and colleagues- he was a big, burly guy who really could command a room. He loved New York, he loved food and he was really passionate about the idea that NYC needed a breakfast taco cart. King David Tacos is in homage to him. But beyond all the mushy stuff, I do believe that there is/was a big hole in the market for a wholesome, satisfying (without being indulgent), grab & go breakfast. Besides the fact that breakfast tacos bring people joy (as do most tacos), we are also filling a need.

What is the biggest/hardest lesson you’ve learned through running a business?

Everything is hard when you’re running a business! But the hardest part (in food specifically) is consistency. I think that’s something we can really pride ourselves on now- a consistent product. I don’t think people realize how much work it takes restaurants to output the same dishes over and over, giving you, and the person after you, and the person after that, the same experience every time. Obviously a lot of successful restaurants do just that but before I was really behind the scenes, I couldn’t appreciate the work that goes into creating consistency. I mean, you’re dealing with people and so many other factors, not just machines (at least in most kitchens)!

But big picture, I think the hardest thing that I’ve had to learn, or really, the biggest challenge for me, especially since I changed industries, is how to build our employee base properly. I’m really lucky to have a core team now that I trust immensely. But it took time and some anguish to get here. Back in the day in advertising, when I was hiring people to work on my accounts, I was  hiring people that are pretty much like me. People that are going to help me do my job and probably do a lot of the same things day-to-day that I do. But when it comes to running your own business, you’re hiring for all aspects of the operation. You’re hiring someone and then training them and then managing them as well as the rest of your employees and getting everyone to gel and work together like a well-oiled machine. It is a huge challenge! But when it works, it’s hugely rewarding.

How do you think being a female business owner has impacted your business?

Can I answer like Adam Rippon? “Being a female business owner has impacted my business just like being a male business owner would—I work really hard, just with better eyebrows.” 😉

The other part of the answer is, yes, being in food especially, I get some surprised reactions when people realize that the owner/chef is a female (especially being called King David Tacos). At our carts, I’ll be standing with one of our male cart attendants, and consistently, people look at him and ask, “Are you the owner?” I just laugh, and the employee standing with me will laugh too, because it’s an honest assumption. I think it just shows how deeply our societal norms are ingrained, no matter your intentions. The flip side of that is that I get a lot of bonus excitement by women and men alike to support a woman-owned business.

Working with FoodtoEat means that you support the mission to promote female, minority and immigrant run businesses. Why do you think the FoodtoEat mission is important?

The mission is important from an economic perspective for sure. Diversity of ideas breeds better business, and all of that. But taking it a bit further, I think that we come at it from a unique perspective too, because half of the mobile food vending businesses are actually minority and immigrant-run (at least in NYC). It’s important to highlight innovation and support good business coming out of these kinds of industries because being in the minority— whether it’s via gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity— can put you at an automatic disadvantage. But having people look out for you and lift you up benefits the group (I mean the human race, the world) as a whole. We all rise together.

What would be your advice to other female entrepreneurs that are trying to start their own business?

Learn to trust your intuition, be persistent, and get comfortable being uncomfortable. When you have an idea that’s new, it’s going to receive push-back. You need to be strong enough to (a) navigate and course-correct when needed but (b) also know when to barrel forward.

 

Women’s History Month Series, Part 3: “Create the platform that supports the mission”

 

Our third feature in our Women’s History Month Series is Yemisi Awosan, the founder and CEO of Egunsi Foods, a Harlem-based food company that focuses on producing locally-sourced refrigerated African food. Although they now focus on their individually packaged farm-to-table soups, Egunsi Foods still offers catering through FoodtoEat and is the perfect option if you want to try something new for lunch and introduce your office to a flavorful and unique cuisine!

When and how did your business get started?

I started Egunsi Foods in 2014. In order to see if there was any interest in West African food, I started testing out the market, offering my services through catering and as a personal chef. Once I found that there was an audience for this cuisine and that my idea was validated, I was able to create an extended product line that is now sold at Whole Foods Market, Fairway Market, on FoodKick and Goldbely in New York City.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

My inspiration is to tell/share the story of my Africa, my culture through it’s food. I partner with farmers in West Africa to source their raw materials for Egunsi’s final products. My philosophy is to actively give back to African farmers and create a long-term impact through social entrepreneurship rather than a short-term donation through philanthropy.

What is the biggest/hardest lesson you’ve learned through running a business?

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that you will be the most passionate about your vision for your business. But you have to find ways to have others buy into that same vision that you have; and it may not be at the same level as your passion, but you need to find people that fall somewhere around that neighborhood and understand and appreciate your product.

How do you think being a female business owner has impacted your business?

I think being a female business owner has impacted my business in that I have to be extremely detail-oriented and super organized because I have to wear many hats as I run my business.  

Working with FoodtoEat means that you support the mission to promote female, minority and immigrant run businesses. Why do you think the FoodtoEat mission is important?

I believe that the FoodtoEat mission is important because they create the platform that supports the mission. They are providing the opportunity that allows the mission to be actionable.

What would be your advice to other female entrepreneurs that are trying to start their own business?

Go after the dream(s)/goal(s) that you set for yourself. You don’t want to look back years from now and wish that you could have gone after them. Even if it doesn’t work out or if it doesn’t work out as you envisioned it, at least you tried and gave it your all. So no regret- I live by this philosophy.

Women’s History Month Series, Part 2: “The future is most definitely female”

 

Our second feature in our Women’s History Month Series is Ashley Jaffe, the co-founder of Blank Slate Coffee + Kitchen, NYC’s cutest cafe located at 121 Madison Avenue! Ashley and her husband, Zach, strike the perfect mix with their upscale “coffeehouse” food, offering gourmet breakfast and lunch options as well as artisan coffee, craft beef and wine. Their food is known for adding a twist to your favorite, classic dishes and using fresh ingredients that makes their food as delicious as it is picturesque (see our Instagram where they are frequently featured)!

When and how did your business get started?

We opened our first store, Blank Slate Coffee + Kitchen, in November 2015. I come from an extensive public relations background (specifically focusing on food & beverage) and had always wanted to take the leap into the operations side of the business. My husband had been operating bars and restaurants for years and was looking to open a new daytime concept. So we decided to partner up and open a café together!

What is the inspiration behind your business?

We set out to open a restaurant/coffee shop hybrid! We love coffee and great food and at the time, the concept really didn’t exist. We never understood why coffee shops were only offering soggy grab & go sandwiches. Customers should be able to get a great meal and a killer cup of coffee at the same place. So we set out to give them just that.

What is the biggest/hardest lesson you’ve learned through running a business?

I’ve learned the importance of a strong team that you can really trust. A business owner works so hard to ensure every last piece is perfectly in place, and then it’s up to the staff to execute those practices. Sometimes it’s great and other times a cashier just broke up with her boyfriend or is having a horrible day and is rude to every customer that walks in, which is not okay. I’ve learned the importance of extensive employee training and constant one-on-one conversations with each and every employee about the importance of customer service and quality work. As a business owner, you need to work endlessly to ensure that you have the right team that’s happy and proud to do good work for you. At the end of the day, your business is in their hands. 

How do you think being a female business owner has impacted your business?

I’ve seen the good and the bad of being a female-owned business. I’ve had not-so-nice people come in asking to speak with my husband, even after I’ve told them that I’m the co-owner of the business. But I’ve also seen so many people be extra supportive of our business because it’s female-owned. Wanting to shout us out on social media or order catering from us rather than a different restaurant simply because they want to support other women has been amazing to see!

Working with FoodtoEat means that you support the mission to promote female, minority and immigrant run businesses. Why do you think the FoodtoEat mission is important?

I think the mission is amazing – especially in the food business. Women and minorities make up the majority of our team and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them! It’s so important to give these groups a voice and it’s incredible that a company in this space has recognized that.

What would be your advice to other female entrepreneurs that are trying to start their own business?

Go for it! I promise you- you will be more pleasantly surprised by the support that comes your way than the obstacles that you think you may face. The future is most definitely female!

Women’s History Month Series, Part 1: “Never Stop Hustling”

 

Our first feature in our Women’s History Month Series is Lily Brynes, the founder and CEO of SPOTS NYC! These delicious, customizable mini cupcakes come in four different flavors: birthday cake, brownie batter, red velvet and vanilla. Each cupcake contains an edible logo or message, making them exactly what you need for your next happy hour, pitch meeting or birthday party! 

When and how did your business get started?

In 2014, my now-fiance, Samson and I, decided to ditch materialistic Valentine’s Day gifts in exchange for ones with more personal value. After many failed ideas, I got the bright idea to whip out my edible printer and bake some mini cupcakes with our picture on them. I knew the cupcakes would be meaningful since they would be personalized, homemade and delicious. Needless to say, Samson loved them. Shortly after posting pictures of what I was calling “SPOTS” on my personal Instagram account, I found that others loved them too. Following my instinct I made the decision to walk away from my corporate job to pursue SPOTS NYC full-time. I haven’t looked back since! Today, we’ve worked with companies such as Amazon, Google, American Express, Starwood and Target. As well as a handful of celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, Sarah Jessica-Parker, Neil Patrick-Harris, Mariah Carey and Reese Witherspoon… just to name a few!

What is the biggest/hardest lesson that you’ve learned while running a business?

How to turn mistakes into an opportunity! It’s inevitable that you will make mistakes (running a business is hard!) but it’s about how you deal with those mistakes that makes you a better leader. For instance, if you handle the mistake in a creative and unique way – your client wont remember how you messed up, they will remember how you went above and beyond to correct the mistake. You have the power to control the narrative!

How do you think being a female business owner has impacted your business?

Being a female business owner has been so special. Not only do I feel like I am helping to change the world (lean in, ladies and take a seat at the table!!), but I also have access to an amazing network of other female founders. When we come together and support each other – there’s nothing that we cant do! It has never been more important to be a strong woman! 

Working with our company means that you support FoodtoEat’s mission to promote female, minority and immigrant run businesses. Why do you think this mission is important?

I think FoodtoEat’s mission is the MOST important thing to support. We need to do everything in our power, especially right now, to make this world a better and more accepting place. Female (and immigrant run) businesses should become the MAJORITY!!!

What would be your advice to other female entrepreneurs that are trying to start their own business?

Never stop hustling. Never let anyone get in the way of your dreams (especially a man). Don’t just reach for the stars, reach for the sun!!!