Kym Bailey-Norris has a knack for coming out tops when the financial chips are down. She’s done so on two occasions – once when launching her business, Tantelizing Taste Events, and then again when the recession hit and her corporate clients cut their catering budgets.
“Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge in launching the business was finding a financial backer,” says Bailey-Norris. On deciding she wanted to leave her job to launch her own events catering company, Bailey-Norris first did her homework. “I worked out that I’d need R1,2 million to set up a professional kitchen, purchase equipment and have sufficient cash flow to get me through the first year,” she says. But her financial backer pulled out at the last minute – two weeks before the business was set to launch and after she’d already resigned from her job.
Fortunately, Bailey-Norris is nothing if not resourceful. She managed to find two new investors on the strength of a guaranteed three-year order from a large financial institution which was her first client.
However, their combined investment only amounted to R450 000. “Life’s not perfect and it was less than half of what I’d worked out I needed, but you do what you have to do. We catered for that first event for 350 people out of a domestic kitchen, with one oven, two gas boiler tables and two prep tables,” she recalls.
The business took off and Bailey-Norris built up an impressive list of big-name corporate clients. Then in 2009 the recession hit and her biggest corporate client stopped all catering overnight. “One of the first things to be cut was entertainment budgets. We lost 80% of our corporate business,” she says.
She explains how she launched into survival mode: “We downscaled our overhead costs as much as possible, giving notice on the large and expensive premises we were renting and asking full-time salaried staff to work half- time or part-time. And then we just targeted as many businesses as we could, cutting our margins by 30% and taking on lots of smaller events.”
The strategy paid off. Not only did the business weather the storm of the economic recession but it only lost one staff member as a result of the changes that had to be implemented. “I was very lucky to have very loyal employees who stuck with me through it all, even though it meant they had to make personal sacrifices,” says Bailey-Norris.
In 2011, Tantelizing Taste Events was back on an upward growth trajectory and today handles between 40 and 70 events a month.
Looking back Bailey-Norris says, “Both experiences taught me valuable lessons about never being complacent. You never know when things will change in business so you’d better be prepared for anything.” – Juliet Pitman
Player: Kym Bailey-Norris
Company: Tantelizing Taste Events
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