Business owners rely on their years of friendship to pivot their catering model during the pandemic
Starting a business venture with a friend seems like something out of a child’s imagination, but it is the case for best friends Kristina Gutierrez-Carreon and Sheena Rosell. After deciding they wanted to create healthy food together using high-quality ingredients, they opened Fresh Cut Catering in 2014 in Chino, Calif.
The business is a true team effort: Sheena works as the executive chef and Kristina manages the day-to-day operations and together, they work to create meals that are both delicious and healthy by incorporating healthier ingredients such as: leaner meats, fresher vegetables, low sodium, and whole wheat products. They also have a grab & go branch of their business, which offers meals for busy, on-the-go customers who don’t want to eat fast food or be on a diet.
After initially treating Fresh Cut Catering as a side hustle and feeling tired of waiting for the “perfect time,” Kristina and Sheena decided to jump on their dream job and cater full-time in early 2017.
As most would imagine, getting new clients and signing new contracts is not an easy task when starting from scratch. With minimal footprint in the catering industry, Kristina and Sheena started knocking on doors and posting flyers to offer their services. Eventually, they secured enough contracts to earn recognition in their area, and they began to cater for corporate clients, birthday celebrations, weddings, and much more.
And while their business had secured several contracts for 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in their plans and flipped their business upside down. Kristina shares, “Out of options and out of capital, we applied to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) hoping it would save us. To our dismay, the program ran out of funds before we could get to it.”
In the last year, Fresh Cut Catering hasn’t been able to secure many new catering contracts. Kristina and Sheena then decided to focus on the grab-and-go branch of their business, to offer a variety of meal plans and have them delivered to clients’ homes twice a week. But pivoting their business model wasn’t enough: they still don’t have enough capital to pay for bills, operational expenses, licensing costs, and everything else.
As Kristina and Sheena continue to navigate federal and state relief programs in the hopes of securing more capital during the global pandemic, Kristina shares, “Small businesses need a tremendous amount of support right now. Access to capital in the form of direct grants and resources are beneficial for us to keep our businesses running.”
Kristina advises fellow small business owners to “lean on people for help. We’ve participated in events at chambers and business organizations, and we usually found someone willing to lend a hand, help you, offer some advice, point you in the right direction, or even just be a shoulder to lean on. Being more involved in the business community and taking advantage of what they have to offer is key to staying level headed. Our businesses have already been down, and now the only other way to go is up.”