Starting a Business? Do Your Homework!

When I opened my business, Baystar Catering, in June 2012, I thought I knew how to begin, but now I realize that a plan is essential.

I am originally from Newfoundland but lived away for 24 years.  For 17 of those years I made Tokyo, Japan my home.  In the heart of Tokyo my brother, my husband and I owned and operated a restaurant called the Salty Box Grill.  Besides being a successful restaurant, we facilitated catering functions for embassy events and private parties for expats.  I loved living and working in Japan, but as my children got older I thought it very important for them to know Canada, and of course Newfoundland.   So, I returned home with my two boys and have not looked back since.  I took a job at a local golf course as event manager, which I absolutely loved, but I always longed to have my own business. In my spare time I picked up a few private clients and continued to cater and plan their events.  This is what I loved to do.

It took me 10 years to finally bite the bullet.  I put in my notice at that regular paying job. I had a dream and enough passion to pursue something I knew I loved and be my own boss in the process.  I figured, how difficult could it be? Being in the catering business one way or another for 24 years, I had a few contacts already, so all I had to do was register and hand out my business card, right?   Wrong!

I registered my company, Baystar Catering, a division of Bayswater Enterprises Inc., in June. It took me another three months before I received my food license.  I now realize I should have taken those three months to prepare a business plan.  All I was focusing on was the food license and how long it was taking for the inspection. Once I had my licence, I thought everything else would naturally fall into place.  I had a good idea on my menus and the type of service I wanted to provide, but now I realize that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Try and apply for a company credit card as Baystar Catering; my bank knew Millie Foley but who was Baystar Catering?  It took a lot of paper work but I did it.

After the 100th person asked if I had a website, I knew that had to be next on the list.  I didn’t have a budget for that. I put the word out there and a golf friend of my husband’s came to the rescue.

I have a web site, menus and a credit card, now what?  Who are my clients? Where is my target market? How can I get to them? I thought I knew all of that stuff.  The waters became quickly muddled as my ideas didn’t proceed according to my plan.  I feel I could have prevented most of this stress and worry if I had done my homework first.

Things are starting to come together now.  Baystar has many repeat clients.  We cater to a variety of private functions including breakfast and lunch delivery, dinner parties, cocktail parties, graduations, wedding receptions, gift openings, birthdays and anniversary celebrations.  Incorporating my experience of living in Tokyo, I created one of our specialities, Japanese Dinner Parties.  We even take along several male and female Kimonos to allow guest to take photos in traditional Japanese attire.  Many people can become stressed just thinking about hosting a party.  Baystar Catering’s flexibility, coupled with our international experience makes us an ideal partner.  Nothing is too much work!

Starting your own business is not for everybody, but when things start happening it’s the best feeling in the world.  It takes a lot of hard work and you have to be willing to listen to others who came before you. You have to do those lists and then do more lists.   NLOWE is a great place to start.

I am involved in several programs at NLOWE and because of them I am keeping on track and getting busier every day.

mildred sml IMG_9825 - Copy (2)Millie Foley is the owner and operator of Baystar Catering, located in St. John’s.  For more information you can contact Baystar Catering at 709-576-2297 or  709-730-1524 or email Millie at milliefoley@bellaliant.net.  You can also find Millie on Linkedin and Baystar Catering on Facebook or visit their website www.baystarcatering.ca.

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