As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, Chef Taryn Huebner created a space for her customers to indulge in small, intimate gatherings and enjoy gourmet to-go provisions. Here’s how she’s utilizing credit cards to elevate her business in trying times.
Chef Taryn Huebner & Oprah Winfrey
Taryn Huebner has been cooking since she was a little girl, with inspiration from her father.
“On his weekends, we’d go somewhere uber grown-up on Fridays – the Pump Room or the Cape Cod Room in Chicago – and spend Saturday and Sunday shopping for ingredients and cooking at home, often trying to re-create what we had been served the night before,” says Huebner. “Saturday mornings at his house were for Jacques Pepin and Julia Child instead of cartoons. I received my first wok in 3rd grade (it was red and electric), and I tried to take over the role of chef in my mom’s house.”
Naturally, she became a professional chef. For 20 years, Huebner cooked her way across the U.S. to the Dominican Republic, South Africa, Morocco and Cyprus. She cooked for a Russian oligarch on a super yacht, then spent a decade whipping up delights for Oprah Winfrey.
Other high-profile clients include former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, Gayle King, the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson and Dr. Maya Angelou.
Now, Huebner has returned to her Chicago roots and opened The Kismet Table: an Atelier. “It is a chef’s workshop, designed to share my experience through meals, intimate celebrations and unique private dining,” she says.
“The Kismet Table is a beautiful commercial space in Lincoln Park. A former cookbook shop, it has a fantastic show kitchen and dining space. We offer an ever-changing weekly menu of to-go provisions and have small-batch gourmet retail and housewares – both made in-house and by other independent crafters from around the world.”
“We host on-site dinner parties for private groups up to 12 (during COVID-19, larger once the world is right again), and deliver boutique catering right to customers’ doorsteps. It is an atelier – a workshop where I can dream, create and experiment and most importantly, host you and yours.”
To finance such a delicious endeavor, credit cards have been an essential ingredient.
See related: Business success in the time of COVID
Were there any hardships to overcome as you opened your doors?
Yes. I moved The Kismet Table to a brick-and-mortar location during the coronavirus pandemic. I had a career of producing exceptional events in peoples’ homes and when the pandemic hit, that was no longer possible.
I needed a commercial space where I could host small gatherings and safely cook meals for my customers. Doing all of this in such an uncertain time, without investors or start-up capital, was daunting to say the least.
Did any surprise costs catch you off guard?
Everything did! I was given an incredible break on the lease costs, but all the other costs, renovation, repairs, utilities, setting up accounts with purveyors – it was all so much more than I anticipated!
This is not something I planned for years, it was a necessary move to keep my business alive during a pandemic!
In what way have you been using credit cards for the business?
Credit cards have literally been my saving grace during all of this. I have used them to pay utilities, contractors, for equipment, furnishings, tools, retail goods and even stocking my kitchen with ingredients and provisions.
The general credit cards I have are the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card. I also have a couple of retail cards – The Home Depot and Bloomingdale’s.
Honestly, I charge nearly everything. Some get paid in full at the end of the month, but my Chase card carries a balance because I had an introductory 0% APR for 18 months on purchases (with a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74%). (This offer has since changed.)
So you’re leveraged right now?
I am. I won’t be debt-free until year two of Kismet. I knew this going in because it was such a quick start-up, but I try to be smart with my debt. We have done almost everything on a strict budget, with the intention of upgrading when the business is flush.
Is building and keeping good credit important to you as a business owner?
Absolutely! You never know when you’re going to need to rely on your credit for a new card, loan or business account. It represents who you are as an owner.
What are the future plans for Kismet?
I am definitely still in the start-up stage. This has all happened so quickly and I am definitely learning things on the fly. Holidays are the busiest time for my industry, so we really hit the ground running. I am trying my best to take advantage of the opportunities I have and still maintain my sanity.
I don’t have business partners, and there are days I don’t want to work on one more spreadsheet or invoice (I’m a chef for crying out loud!). But it’s all part of the bigger picture.
I try not to beat myself up when things don’t turn out exactly as I hoped. Most businesses take years to get to a truly successful plateau, and Kismet is just a newborn. But we’re thriving and I’m so excited at all the possibilities ahead.
Is there anything you wish you could do over?
Regrets keep you up at night and steal peace of mind. I’ve learned to simply move on and make new, possibly better, goals and decisions for the future. I have enough pressure; the whole world has enough pressure. Living in regrets accomplishes little more than self-sabotage. I prefer to learn from my mistakes and strive to do better.
What is your advice to future entrepreneurs?
Have faith in yourself! Surround yourself with positive, supportive friends and colleagues and build a team of smart, hard-working souls who share your values.
I’ve learned how important it is to have people whose experience differs from yours. You need their expertise or your business can seem very one-note. Invest in yourself now and have realistic expectations for the success timeline of your business.
Not allowing yourself the room to learn and grow will snuff out a flame so quickly.
What have you learned about credit along the way that you can also share?
Definitely be smart about interest rates and how you use your credit card points. As a start-up, I always put mine back towards my balance.