Changing lives is nothing new for the James Beard Foundation. The mission – to nurture and honor chefs and the food culture they create – is etched in the hallowed halls of the James Beard House. When it comes to supporting women’s initiatives, the Foundation has three leadership programs geared to help them succeed – but it takes more than inspiration to reach profitable success in the food business. That’s why the aptly titled “Owning It” event series is capturing the fascination of women throughout the country who dare to dream of culinary careers.
Women may arrive at Owning It events ready to unpack those dreams, but they depart with so much more. At the conclusion of an Owning It two-day workshop, attendees leave with real-world knowledge, a plan and the confidence to make sweeping progress. The formal definition of the program is to introduce emerging leaders in hospitality-related fields to share visioning, planning, fundraising and business ideas.
“Owning It is for everyone every level any age, from women working at the entry level in a restaurant to women their 60s just getting started with a career change,” said Stacy Carroll, director of impact for the James Beard Foundation. “We have open applications in each city, and we bring in experts in that city to advise and mentor the women who attend.”
Participants at the first two events in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., listened, learned and practiced pitches. They formed supportive peer groups and connected with industry leaders.
In the kitchen, Carroll says, women are natural nurturers, but those skills take a different turn when women own restaurants.
“Owning It includes tools women can use to transform a food concept into a profitable business, including critical feedback and participants form peer networks with fellow members,” said Carroll. “Owning It provides the space for education, reflection and valuable connections with women who have paved the way for others to find success.”
Get Inspired, Make a Plan
One such passionate mentor at the inaugural Owning It event in Atlanta was global soul food authority Deborah VanTrece. The restaurateur and chef behind Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours, and Atlanta’s famed Edible Art catering company, she was named one of Zagat’s Most Badass Female Chefs in America and recognized for her creative style. A sought-after advisor and speaker, VanTrece often shares her story to serve as a role model for others. She believes Owning It is the forefront for empowering women in this field with attainable, hands-on information from experts.
“I wish someone was doing this when I got started because it shows women what it takes to operate a business in this industry and was so much more than just a typical conference,” said VanTrece. “There was immediate conversation with feedback and next steps, and how they can keep it going beyond the conference because we are communities, growing and learning as women, and sometimes when you get caught between a rock and a hard place you don’t see a way out.” [Read more…]