“PCV helped to groom me to become a CEO, founder, and owner, and they really helped me understand the business-side of my business. Until then, it was a lot of passion and commitment, but I didn’t understand all of the back-office stuff.”
Vanessa Silva has always been comfortable in the kitchen. As an introverted child growing up in Brazil, food was how she preferred to communicate. Cooking became Vanessa’s love language, and by the time she was 10 years old, she was quite fluent in that love language, preparing special dishes for her parents’ dinner guests and family gatherings.
In early 2016, Vanessa was approached by a business woman who wanted to open an art and cooking school for children. She told Vanessa that she could put forward the money to open the school if Vanessa would be the sweat-equity partner. The two agreed to run the business fifty-fifty. Later that same year, Culinary Artistas opened in a 2,400-square-foot space in Ghirardelli Square, across the street from the beach. Six months later, however, Vanessa’s business partner had to pull out. Not only that, she left Vanessa $40,000 behind on rent. If Vanessa was going to be able to keep Culinary Artistas open, she was going to need some help.
“I didn’t know how much money we were putting in and how much money we were getting out each month,” Vanessa said. “All I knew was the pulse of the business seemed right. Every month, we were getting more students. I could understand those indicators, but not the rest. Our fixed costs? Sales projections? I didn’t know any of that.”
Vanessa realized that she needed more formalized business coaching. That’s when Vanessa connected with Pacific Community Ventures. Whereas Vanessa was appreciative of her friend who’d offered her free business advice, having a coach to meet with on a weekly basis made a big difference for Vanessa.
“It was huge,” she said. “PCV helped to groom me to become a CEO, founder, and owner, and they really helped me understand the business-side of my business. Until then, it was a lot of passion and commitment, but I didn’t understand all of the back-office stuff.”
According to Vanessa, her PCV business coach helped her to analyze and understand Culinary Artistas’ finances, as well as how the business’ revenues might fluctuate seasonally. Her coach has also been able to provide legal counsel, and PCV connected Vanessa with someone to assist her with marketing.
With a business coach in her corner and Culinary Artistas doing better than ever, Vanessa’s 2020 was off to a fantastic start. Culinary Artistas had 27 employees on its payroll, and Vanessa was considering opening a second location. She was even flirting with the idea of starting a subscription-model business aimed at parents and children wanting ingredients and recipes to prepare healthy food at home.
Then March came, and the COVID-19 pandemic made Vanessa rethink everything.
“Immediately, the business I had was dead,” she said. “One week, our calendar was booked through June, and the next, everything was gone. I went from feeling on top of the world to feeling like everything was running through my fingers and there was no way to hold it together.”
Vanessa wasn’t just stunned, she was scared. She was also resistant to the idea of shifting her business online, given that cooking had always been something that she enjoyed doing in-person with others. However, after seeing how happy her daughter was after taking an online dance class, Vanessa changed her mind and gave her team the greenlight to move forward with online classes.
It was an immediate success. Vanessa and her team have hosted over a dozen team-building events with corporate clients, and in the past 30 days, her team fielded nearly 60 inbound inquiries. Culinary Artistas’ online cooking classes are attracting between 30 and 50 kids per class, and over the summer, Vanessa and her team hosted a 12-week, in-person camp for over 100 students. Lastly, Culinary Artistas has sold almost 500 cooking kits, giving Vanessa an opportunity to begin to get her nascent subscription business off the ground. Amazingly, despite the global pandemic, Culinary Artistas’ revenue is up 25 percent compared to 2019.