Dara and I met when we were practically babies; we were 18-years-old and both freshman at the University of Maryland, College Park. After college we both moved to New York City, Dara started working in PR and I was working in television. Although we never actually talked about it, we both ended up feeling very burnt out and depleted working in notoriously toxic work environments, and both ended up seeking out other career opportunities as a result.
We had children around the same time, and started businesses, and again, we never really explicitly discussed the parallel paths we were on. I feel so grateful to have Dara participate in this series so that we can finally talk about all these overlaps and challenges and opportunities that we have encountered pretty simultaneously over the years. If anything, this story is a great reminder that talking shop about business should be a more commonplace experience among women. We have so much knowledge and wisdom to share!
Dara Lyubinsky: Nourish Culinary
1. What is the name of your company and what do you do?
I’m the founder of Nourish Culinary Company which provides custom personal chef and catering services in the Washington D.C. Last August, we launched what our customers are calling “D.C.’s elevated meal delivery service,” Well Fed, in response to an increased demand for those same personal chef quality meals, delivered.
2. How long have you been in business?
I started out as a personal chef in 2008 and have been at it ever since!
3. How did you decide to launch your own business?
I started my career in Public Relations/Media in New York and had a really toxic and abusive boss. I realized that I didn’t want to grow into the rolls that would come next in that career path. I also knew in my gut then that at some point, I would work for myself and employ other people in a totally different way that was positive, encouraging, compassionate and kind and that working hard would be even more rewarding if it was for my own business. I had left the media job with the mean boss and was working at a PR firm and decided to attend culinary school at night. I wasn’t sure what I would do with that education, but I knew that I didn’t want to regret never trying it out. The week in 2008 that I completed my culinary arts degree, I was laid off from my PR firm job. It was the perfect opportunity to start fresh so I was off to the races.
4. What challenges did you face in the process of launching your business?
Well, In the beginning, I didn’t have any clients! I would walk around Whole Foods in a chefs’ coat handing out business cards and giving cooking advice. One day, someone actually called me back! It gave me the confidence to pursue opportunities that were probably above my “experience” level, but still within my wheelhouse and level of capability. The food industry can be quite chauvinistic and “boys club-y” and I had no interest in playing that game. I had been bullied in one career and wasn’t interested in doing that again. I sort of decided then that I would create a place where anyone who worked with me would be a person first and an employee second.
5. Did you feel as though there were resources available to you, specifically as a woman business owner?
I've never really thought about myself as a "woman" business owner. I happen to be a woman and I happen to be a business owner. I often feel like I can be/have been my own biggest roadblock... and when i'm in the right frame of mind, I know that the resources out there are almost endless. There are organizations big and small that support female entrepreneurs. A lot of the time, just talking to people I know and finding answers or resources within (or within 1 or 2 degrees of) my own network of friends and family has been very connecting and helpful as i've grown.
And also - Moms. Sharing information with other moms and letting other smart moms help me think about challenges i'm facing has been really helpful. Sometimes just having a new/different/less connected perspective has really opened up avenues and ideas that I wouldn't have otherwise come up with. I worked with a business coach for a little while who specializes in food-businesses and it was helpful to work with someone who really understood parts of my business that so few other people understand.
Local facebook groups have also been a huge boost for my business. Connecting with and collaborating with other female business owners has only led to great referrals, ideas and partnerships.
Do you have a mentor?
Several. I am also a mentor TO several different people.
Books you recommend?
Three Women. Untamed. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. Setting the Table.
What do you love most about running your own business?
Not having to ask permission to fit work around my life.
What is your least favorite aspect of running your own business?
The lack of separation between work and life.
What is your best piece of advice for other women who are thinking about launching a business?
Make sure you understand business, and not just your craft.