LA Chefs is the largest catering service in Southern Alberta, centering on larger events, between 150 and 5000 guests at a time. “But that is not where we started,” explains Marci Stickel. “We began as a mom and pop operation serving beef on a bun out of our garage what seems like a long time ago.” laughs Marci.
“I remember a day in May 2006; we had three weddings on the go and one minivan, which we had dubbed “White Lightning”, to do the deliveries. It was a long day but we did it,” she explains. It was at that point and after too many 20 – hour days, that sparked the realization the business needed to expand. So Marci and then business partner Loren, started looking for a larger venue. As the business continued to flourish, even further expansion was necessary. In November 2006, ‘LA Chefs Catering & Events’ was branded and implemented a strategic business move to partner with the Coast Lethbridge Hotel & Conference Centre in an exclusive catering arrangement.
“It was a hard decision,” states Marci, “We wanted to stay loyal to our smaller clients, but knew the expansion was a smart business decision for the company.” Now, LA Chefs handles multiple events on most days of the week, and during the summers up to ten weddings on any given weekend.
Community Futures Lethbridge Region was also a big part of the company growth. “They were open-minded and willing to listen; they validated the ideas and understood the direction we wanted to go. They saw our passion. We were able to secure financing and re-invest in our business,” explains Stickel.” We grew so fast, once the decision was made.”
Marci’s background was in finance and accounting and she never had dreams of being in the catering business. However, with this new business direction and expansion, she realized she was a businesswoman. “I cared about business and I cared about people.” It was the right combination for LA Chefs, who now employs seventy-five energetic people to help Marci the the various business functions in the day.
Her recommendations for business success are simple. “You must be passionate about your business and hire passionate people, then empower them. Do not be afrtaid of divesting control to your staff. The moment we decided to empower our staff and let them run with it was the moment our growth exploded. Instead of one passionate person trying to grow a business, we now had multiple passionate people trying to grow a business.”
Talented employees, innovative ideas combined with passion and a sprinkle of risk, establish the vision needed for successful entrepreneurs. It seems to be a tried an true recipe for LA Chefs Catering and Events.