Commercial kitchen becomes a reality with bank loan

A Fresh Connection Catering, LLC of Pinellas County

A Fresh Connection Catering, LLC of Pinellas CountyChef Lisa Prather has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. In 2008, after working in corporate America for more than 20 years, she saw the writing on the wall with the downturn in the economy and decided she wanted something different for herself.

“It was a fantastic first career,” she said. “It helped me build the financial foundation to bring my business to the next level.”

After considering multiple business plans she’d created, it was a girlfriend who made the connection between all those business plans for her. “I was sitting and talking with my girlfriends over a glass of wine one day and I said ‘guys, I don’t know what I want to do. I have all these business plans but I can’t decide which one I want to do.’ And then one of my friends said ‘do you know what all of those plans have in common? Food.’”

From there, Prather graduated from the culinary program at Art Institute of Tampa while working full-time in 2011, and she hasn’t looked back since. “I love to cook and I love to serve people, and I love to make people happy,” she said.

And so, Florida Chefs Workshop, a café, catering company and commercial kitchen available for other food businesses to work out of, was born. When she decided to grow the business from solely catering into a trifecta it now is, Prather reached out for assistance from the Florida SBDC at Pinellas County.

“SBDC at Pinellas County has been fully instrumental in building this business and helping me get the funding I need to push this to the finish line,” Prather said. “They helped me focus on what was important and what my purpose in building this business was.”

Prather then attended the Florida SBDC at PCED Finance Fair to interview banks that might be interested in helping fund her dream. After interviewing a few of them, she found a bank that was interested in her concept. “I put a lot of my own money into it at first,” she said. “This is overall a $300,000 project and the bank invested about two-thirds of that.”

Moving forward, Prather plans to continue her work with the FSBDC at PCED and specifically, business consultant Yolanda Cowart. “My next step is to work on the growth of the business and understanding where we should go from here,” she said. “If I get four or five more clients in the kitchen, or if we get some steady deals with catering, I’m literally going to blow out of this place.”

Prather has been discussing expansion options into the Tampa and Clearwater areas.

In the meantime, Prather is encouraging others to utilize the Florida SBDC at PCED as well. When potential clients walk in to look at her commercial kitchen, they are in varying stages of business. Some may just have a concept and a love for cooking, while others are ready with their business plan and just need to launch the business. “I’ve already referred several potential clients for Florida Chefs Workshop, over to the SBDC,” she said. “SBDC is a solid place for them to really take their idea and make it a reality. I’m so thankful and grateful for meeting Yolanda and having the opportunity to work with the SBDC. It doesn’t cost a thing but they put their heart and soul into helping you get to that next level.”