This story comes to us from Women’s Economic Ventures. HEAT Culinary was one of WEV’s first applicants under the Microloan Management System (MMS), and has gone on to great success since receiving a loan from the organization.
“MMS has been tremendously helpful for us,” said Devon Johnson, WEV’s Director of Lending. “We’ve been able to grow our program in ways we couldn’t before, and our consistency and turnaround time has improved substantially. MMS’s underwriters enable us to give applicants an answer in days instead of weeks, and offer clear suggestions for technical assistance and credit counseling for those who don’t qualify for a loan.”
What or who inspired you to go into business?
I have been instructed by the best in the culinary world and was inspired as I watched them grow their businesses and restaurants. The challenge and thrill of doing this on my own has been the best experience in my professional life. I wouldn’t trade the sleepless nights for anything, even the security of not taking this risk!
What aspects of your business are you most excited about?
The fast growth of it is incredibly exciting! It’s amazing how quickly word has gotten around about HEAT Culinary. I’ve been able to open a storefront and food truck, and have many other things in the works. HEAT is providing an amazing service to the community, and all I want is to share my love of cooking with as many people as are interested in learning. I am inspired and encouraged by the support I receive from the community—without it, I wouldn’t be able to make this all happen.
What do you hope people say about your business?
One of my favorite things to hear when I’m teaching a culinary class or serving from the HEAT food truck, is the horns that honk from cars driving by. My students and clientele have become like family to me, and I love hearing their support as I teach others. My goal is to hear people say they’re “going to Nikki’s” when they’re taking a class a long day at work or school—not just “I’m going to HEAT.” I strive for a real connection between my clients and myself, and for it to feel like more than just a business relationship.
What advice do you have for people dreaming of starting a business like yours?
Do it! Be prepared for rocky months, some tears, and having to re-shape your business to accommodate realities you may not have foreseen. Remain thankful for the chance to share your passions and for people you meet that will help you along the way. The best wisdom and advice often comes from unlikely sources, so be sure to listen to both your fans and critics.
Do you have any new developments you’d like to share with us?
Absolutely—there always seems to be a “new development” at HEAT! To continue to foster the mutual growth of the Santa Barbara County business community as well as bring people together, HEAT is excited to be starting “HEAT in the Field” and “HEAT on the Beach” events this spring. I will be pairing my services with local farms and vineyards for lovely dinner nights where HEAT prepares food for everyone to enjoy. There will be music, laughter, and hopefully a strong sense of community as people from all walks of life sit down and break bread together.
How important do you find goal setting as a business owner?
I review, change and add to my goal list daily. Every night before I go to sleep I review them and think about how I can achieve my goals. Every morning I wake up thankful for another day in which I get to do my best and move closer to reaching them.
What role did WEV play in opening (or expanding) your business?
WEV encouraged and supported my dreams of owning a food truck with initial financing to purchase and re-build the truck I wanted. I know that I can rely on their support long into the future as HEAT continues to grow.
What do you know now that you wish you had known at the very beginning of your business?
That every plan you make and every scheduled time you think things will be completed by is probably wrong. I’m a planner, but I’ve learned to do all my scheduling in pencil because there’s simply no point in using ink anymore.
Where can we find more about you?
Sign up for a culinary class and come hang out with me for a bit! Check out my website which includes plenty of info on all the amazing things HEAT has going on that you can be a part of.