Flavors Culinary Group mastered the COVID-19 pivot

Does reimagining your business in a time of social distancing and quarantine seem daunting? Samia Bingham is a great example of what it looks like to see a pivot as an opportunity to push yourself to serve your customers better. She turned expertise in the government contract sector into an innovative business plan, creating a shared culinary workspace where chefs can access training and business development resources, as well have access to a network of government contracts. Then, when COVID-19 hit, Samia provided her space's chef members with a network of resources to keep going, from virtual business development opportunities to connections to delivery services, so that they could keep their businesses running during this trying time.
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If you’d like to support Flavors Culinary Group, you can follow them on Facebook or share their website with chefs in the Maryland/DC/NVA area. Watch the video above to learn more about their mission to be “the We Work of kitchen spaces.”

EnrichHER: What motivated you to start your business?

Flavors Culinary Group: I spent about 10 years as a contract specialist with the Department of Defense. As an employee of the federal government, I had the expertise on how to obtain those kinds of contracts, and I wanted to take that expertise and just get on the other side of the table. And that’s essentially how Flavors Culinary Group came about. We’re a boutique hospitality industry solutions firm providing and specializing in food service management contracts and also shared culinary workspaces. Originally, our services just included government contracts: providing food service, management, acquisition, consulting services. Also, I wanted to find a lane within government contracts that wasn’t so overly saturated and food service management is absolutely that.


EnrichHER:
There have been a lot of really interesting pivot stories coming out of the restaurant industry in terms of changing focus or methodology during the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you speak to how that has affected your business?

Flavors Culinary Group: Our government catering contracts were definitely affected because they weren’t having their soldiers on base. So we could not provide those catering services and our catering service for our food service contracts. We manage the contracts and our chef partner actually does the catering portion of it. So that definitely got placed on hold when COVID began, and that was kind of difficult for our chef. A lot of FCG’s chef members have reported higher earnings because they’ve switched over to vending in open markets. They’ve been able to go to a pick-up or delivery option utilizing our kitchen that they are already a part of. They are utilizing GrubHub or UberEats, and also some just some local delivery companies that have popped up due to COVID to expand their businesses. It definitely is challenging for our particular industry.

EnrichHER: Has pivoting in this way changed the way you communicate with your chef members?

Flavors Culinary Group: Our members are now in a private Facebook group. Now we’re providing more business development services for them. We have different speakers coming in; a lot them are connections I’ve cultivated over the years. We have a company coming in to talk about building your business credit; we have a banker coming to talk about becoming bankable and tapping into those SBA loans and lines of credit. Later on, we have a trademarks attorney coming in to talk to them about trademarking their business and brand experiences. So right now, we’re fully we’re fully engaged with our community online to help them.

EnrichHER: One thing that comes up over and over in the conversations we have on EnrichHER Society is the importance of networking and mentorship. Can you share about a relationship that helped advance your business?

Samia Bingham

Flavors Culinary Group: I don’t want to be cliche because this is an EnrichHER interview, but I definitely want to shout out EnrichHER Society. That community of like-minded business professionals that are in a single place has been valuable. You don’t have to go to a bunch of different business groups or community meetings. EnrichHER has also provided education; I joined the Business Financing Masterclass, which has been instrumental in terms of financial understanding, and really knowing what my numbers and projections meant. Sid has really helped as we started conversations with investors the past few weeks as well.

And then also Black Girl Ventures. I met Shelly Bell a few years ago when she was hosting one of her pitch competitions. That’s another amazing organization that I’ve been able to tap into, to go to different events wherever they’re held since they have different chapters all over the US. I’ve been able to connect with so many people and it’s just such a great community.

EnrichHER: We like to give our entrepreneurs the last word in these interviews. Any final thoughts to share with the community?

Flavors Culinary Group: One thing we’ve learned recently from dealing with the COVID pandemic is that investors are people. They really just want to understand our business. They want to understand how they can make money while also supporting our dreams. Utilize investors and find those that are in alignment with your business concept. Really consider it. Don’t be afraid. I think a lot of women-owned businesses shy away from communicating with investors or get told, “Don’t give up equity in your company.” But that is not the true way to go about, you know, growing our businesses, because investors aren’t scary. They’re just people.
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