After a decade working as a advisor, UChicago alum Nicole Jordan, BA ’96, discovered herself at a crossroads.
With a level in economics and aspirations to be an entrepreneur, Jordan may apply to enterprise college. Or she may nurture her love of cooking and entertaining and go to culinary college.
Jordan opted to take the trail much less traveled, and in 2005, accomplished coursework in culinary arts and administration on the Illinois Institute of Artwork (now defunct). Ultimately she launched Nicole Jordan Catering, which prides itself on its high-touch service as a lot as its meals.
Now Jordan, an alumnus of the Polsky Heart’s Monetary Fundamentals and Small Enterprise Development packages, is launching a second enterprise, City Operation, that leverages each her enterprise consulting expertise and culinary expertise to assist fellow small meals companies develop and turn out to be financial engines of their communities .
“I need to put seven-figure companies on the block,” stated Jordan, a Chicago native who lives within the historic Pullman district on the South Aspect. “You could be small however not small minded.”
From Consulting to Catering
Jordan traces her ardour for cooking to her grandmother, who began working on the Knickerbocker Resort as a maid and finally labored within the kitchen, the place “she was a beast,” Jordan stated. “All 4’11” of her. ” She later opened and ran her personal restaurant along with her Jordan’s uncle, inspiring Jordan along with her culinary and entrepreneurial abilities.
Selecting to go to culinary college planted the seed for Jordan’s profession change, but it surely took some time for her to go away the acquainted confines of enterprise consulting. She ended up spending 20 years in consulting and venture administration, with a give attention to advising startups on every little thing from healthcare advantages to expertise. An try to start out a catering enterprise on the aspect was shelved given her hectic journey schedule.
In early 2016, along with her last bonus secured, Jordan give up her job at JPMorgan Chase and left company America for good. With the assistance of a buddy, she formally launched Nicole Jordan Catering out of a shared kitchen house within the Beverly neighborhood.
“Thank goodness I had lived the lifetime of a startup as a advisor as a result of I used to be principally leaping off a cliff every single day,” Jordan stated.
Because of her strong skilled community, Jordan’s enterprise ramped up rapidly via phrase of mouth. By September 2016 she had moved into a personal kitchen in McKinley Park, a central location that she hoped would assist her entry a downtown clientele and provides her room to take bigger orders.
Drawing on her consulting expertise, Jordan targeted on offering superior customer support. She approached her relationship along with her clients as a partnership to optimize their expertise along with her over the lifecycle of their engagement.
“I’m a staunch believer within the buyer expertise,” she stated. “It has engendered a number of buyer loyalty.”
Jordan made loads of errors alongside the best way. One of many greatest, she stated, was undervaluing herself when setting costs.
“I did not cost sufficient,” she stated. “I left some huge cash on the desk.”
Regardless of her enterprise background, Jordan had lots to study working her personal. She participated in quite a few small enterprise assist packages, together with the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Companies initiative, earlier than discovering her option to the Polsky Heart.
Jordan enrolled in Polsky’s Small Enterprise Development Program in spring of 2021 and that summer time in Small Enterprise Monetary Fundamentals, a brand new 10-week program, funded by the Fund for Equitable Enterprise Development, that provides instructional workshops, tailor-made technical help, and session associated to monetary capital pathways and preparedness. Each packages are for minority- and female-owned companies on Chicago’s South and West sides.
Monetary Fundamentals gave Jordan ways for approaching monetary construction, together with cope with debt, and inspired her to leverage her viewers in numerous methods to create different sources of income.
“It put me in a routine and in a room with different companies and networks, getting me out of my very own head and getting another perspective,” Jordan stated.
The brand new insights got here at a crucial time, because the COVID-19 pandemic had compelled her to step again and reevaluate her enterprise. With all catering orders canceled for a lot of 2020, Jordan stayed afloat by benefiting from each small enterprise grant and mortgage accessible, feeding front-line employees, and utilizing the time to strategize.
She determined to shift away from doing small non-public occasions, like weddings, to focus completely on institutional shoppers like hospitals, universities, and companies, which are inclined to have larger occasions with extra easy budgets that enable for efficiencies.
“The economics stated you have to refine to the niches that convey extra profitability,” Jordan stated. “It helps to be extra standardized in our strategy to catering.”
Marriage of Skillsets
As her menus and catering processes turn out to be extra streamlined and standardized, Jordan is stepping again from the daily of chopping onions to give attention to rising her new technique consulting enterprise.
The City Operation goals to assist food-based small companies handle what Jordan calls “jankiness” of their operations and construction themselves internally in order that they function extra effectively, productively, and profitably.
The tip purpose, she stated, is to shift the mindset of companies of colour in order that collectively they will develop and create a ripple impact of profitability for different companies locally.
“Being small doesn’t imply that you’re small potatoes,” she stated. “Shifting just a bit bit can actually increase the expansion of a enterprise and affect a group the place you’re actually creating the economic system. You’re the economic system.”
Article by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, affiliate director of media relations and exterior communications on the Polsky Heart. A longtime journalist, Alexia most not too long ago was a enterprise reporter with the Chicago Tribune. Attain Alexia through e-mail or on Twitter @alexiaer.