Miles-Kevin Baron is a multi-talented entrepreneur who owns and operates Avenue Catering Enterprises, alongside his wife, Lisa. Avenue creates unique and customized menus to provide delicious food for events of all sizes, and they power their business cash flow with a little help from Fundbox. We talked with Miles about the standards and vision behind his business, and what he wishes he knew when he started.
Q: What kind of business do you run?
Avenue Catering is a premier custom catering company in the Pacific Northwest, specifically in Washington. We create the food for different activities like conferences, weddings, anniversaries, remote locations, corporate campuses, remote islands, outdoors, you name it, at any time of the day no matter if it’s for ten, 300 or 10,000 people in attendance.
We are not limited by a fixed menu. We listen to what the customer wants and what the event is and based on that information we get our creative juices flowing and work with them to create the best possible meal for everyone.
We’re not part of a restaurant or venue. We don’t keep food or main ingredients on hand. If somebody wants a steak dinner for their wedding, we source the meat as fresh as possible and all the ingredients necessary from local businesses when possible.
Q: Why do you do what you do?
We purchased the company from a previous owner. My soulmate and business partner Lisa worked for them for seven years before they decided to move on to other things and approached us with the opportunity. We saw a niche and decided to go for it. What’s more fun than helping create parties, helping people celebrate important events, and getting paid for it, too?
We kept the name and one of the chefs, but became more focused. We kept most of the team together. We had a relationship with these people and knew that they’re hard workers and their experience would be great asset.
“We focus on freshness and quality based on the customer’s wants to help them make a fantastic event.”
Q: What is your guiding philosophy behind your business?
Fresh, Fabulous Food. We focus on freshness and quality based on the customer’s wants to help them make a fantastic event. We want the event to be a success and work with people’s budget as much as we can.
Q: What makes your business unique?
There are two main points about us that make us unique. The first is that it’s all about our customers and their preferences with fresh and quality ingredients. We have no problem looking for specific ingredients. We’ve had customers give us special recipes: they might love grandma’s special chili and want to share it with others, but they know that she can’t necessarily do it for 300 people. We can take the recipe, with care and respect, and serve it to everyone attending so the customer can be part of the process.
The second part of our philosophy is, Anywhere, Anytime. We believe that if our customers can get there, we can get there. Others don’t have the ability to prepare and transport it in an effective and safe way to, let’s say, an island. If you do any research in the Pacific Northwest, there are families that have their own islands and get there with helicopters. We have to get there our own way. There are caterers [besides us] that are willing to do events in these type of places, but if they don’t have the proper equipment it would be a disaster. We have portable kitchens and ovens, we can drive our vehicles through restrictive compounds and cover the logistics to deliver the food to those events.
Q: Do you believe that’s why your business has been so successful?
Yes. In addition to being a custom caterer and going to these places, our senior events coordinator and chef were born and raised in this area. They know what people want, what would be interesting to cook, what ingredients are available or in season and where to get it from. Fortunately, we have access to these fantastic ingredients. Knowing the customers, their preference in food, and where to buy it, is an advantage.
“Knowing the customers, their preference in food, and where to buy it, is an advantage.”
Q: What do you wish you knew when you first started your business?
I really wish we knew about Fundbox when we started! With food services, especially catering, by the day of the event, everything has been paid for in advance, by us. The food was purchased maybe a week in advance, labor to prepare it, up to and including the event, even the utilities and payroll are all out of pocket until we get paid by the customer. Factor in corporate net-7 and net-30 customers and we’re floating a lot of money before each event and sometimes up to 30 or 45 days after an event. We got involved in high-interest loans and credit because we weren’t aware of other options.
We (my Lisa and I) saw Fundbox’s services one night and we talked to our financial advisor about it. And it’s a relief. Now we get the money for an event when it’s invoiced so we don’t have to float these funds on our own. If we’d known about it two years earlier, we could’ve avoided a few things and it would’ve made our lives a lot easier.
In I WISH I KNEW, we talk to business owners about their career paths, their business growth, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. Want to share your small business lessons or stories? Tweet us @fundbox and use #IWishIKnew.