Nadege Fleurimond is celebrating her 10th anniversary in business as a caterer. It’s quite an accomplishment for the Columbia political science major, especially when you find out that Nadege is only 30 years old.
Having started at age 20 as a student, catering out of her dorm suite, her jobs were always big. Within the first two months that she decided to cater, she catered a wedding for 150 people.
Her last two years, the department where she worked would hire her to cater all their parties, snowballing to private parties for professors and administrators.
Basically, she jumped in and got on the job training.
After graduation, she worked for a year for Yvette Clarke. She then went full time and it’s been catering, ever since.
As her website indicates, she has varied menus (and booking packages) including traditional American fare. Haitian food is the foundation of her cooking but she has learned how to preserve a recipe and stay true to the authenticity of the dish. And working with different chefs brings their talents.
Nadege says, “I am a fusion cook. I love blending flavors so my food represents the taste and flavors of Latin America, Asian and Caribbean cuisine for the most part.
Nadege used Columbia’s kitchens when she was there. In 2004, she started using incubator kitchens. Culinary incubators are commercial kitchens for small food businesses to cook their products for which, without a health department licensed commercial kitchen, they could not legally produce their food. They can be rented by the hour or day.
“It’s a way of using a properly licensed commercial kitchen without the everyday overhead,” she says. “As a caterer, I am not cooking everyday, so I find it very efficient to pay as needed, which is what incubator kitchens are.”
Zero to six kitchen helpers–prep cooks to full cooks–are hired. For events of 150-200 people, she will hire 10-15 along the way.
Nadege promoted her brand and food to a wider audience by throwing Sunday dinners called “Kreyol Fusion” and Tuesday after-work themed parties at Colors Restaurant. One night, an all-men competitive cook-off, a video hook-up in the kitchen projected their cooking to the diners, was more entertainment than any comedy club!
How do people find her? Word-of-mouth and googling. Her very professional website works for her.
Her clients are quite diverse. Last month, she catered events for NFL, Audi, and communions, weddings and a Haitian heritage event. A part-time administrative assistant and an accountant are her back room help.
Business success for Nadege is providing the service she sets out to provide in the most positive, effective and efficient way possible. She says, “It is about adhering to your ethics and your promise to your clients and customers at the risk of financial lost. And finally, it is about achieving financial success within that particular business.”
Regretfully, she didn’t work with any small business organizations when she was starting, “But I wish I did,” she says. “I learned so many things by doing and making mistakes.”
“I could have used professional services particularly a marketing or a PR person to help me shape my brand,” she says. “I’ve developed it, but it could have been shaped earlier.”
Any advice? She responded, “You have to have guts. Guts to be able to tackle the hard times. Guts to be able to deal with unhappy clients and customers. Guts to be able to deal with those times when things look bleak. And definitely guts to be able to appreciate and say thank you to those around you without fear of your own light being dimmed.”
Nadege’s recent “Old Hollywood Glamour” red-carpet night celebrated her 10th anniversary, giving awards aka Emmys to all those she was thanking for helping her along the way. Citations and proclamations from Councilman Jumaane Williams and Borough President Scott Stringer (they were not present) to Fleurimond Catering were part of the festivities.