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Meet Chaundrea Simmons of Shea Vegan Culinary Services

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chaundrea Simmons. 

Hi Chaundrea, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I started Shea as a food photography Instagram page. In my spare time, I would cook meals and take pictures of the food that I made. Admittedly, my photos were not as good as they are now; but after connecting with a local food photographer, a couple food photography classes, and hard work, I began to take better photos. This led to my followers inquiring about how to purchase my food and I started Shea Restaurant. Shea Restaurant, LLC began as a pop-up dinner party series. I had so much success with catering four-course vegan dinners all over Cleveland, Ohio that I started the process of opening a restaurant in February 2020. This process shuttered because the landlord went in another direction due to the Covid outbreak in March 2020. Also due to Covid and the restrictions on public gatherings, my ability to host these dinner parties became impossible. This forced me to pivot to offer private chef and small catering services to comply with Covid safety guidelines. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
My business has definitely experienced some bumps in the road. As I stated before, my restaurant opening process ended right in the middle of a pandemic. The hard work I put in, could have understandably stopped any chef from continuing in this career. This forced me to sit and think of a way that I could have more control over what I loved to do. I came up with going into people’s homes and delivering meals to their tables right from the privacy of their own kitchens. It wasn’t any easy pivot, at all! The marketing of a service like this was very hard to market to my audience. Vegan private chef? In Cleveland? Never heard of it! I didn’t know that this would make a great market strategy at the time, but it turns out that this is a service that is very unique. I get calls from all kinds of people; people with severe allergies, heart conditions, and just people that want a different type of dining experience. I’ve had a lot of struggles but to list them all would take me all day and overshadow how much pleasure that I receive when I hear excitement about my food when I see the smiles that erupt from faces after taking a bite of food that I crafted with my own hands. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
My business is a vegan personal chef service offering the residents of Cleveland and surrounding areas with delicious plant-based food. I prepare vegan scratch-made meals in people’s homes and for small catering events. The main component of my business is providing private brunches, lunches, or dinners in the comfort of the diners’ homes! I am very proud of the relationships that I have gained as a result of providing meals in people’s homes. We go through the fun of planning the menu together and then I prepare and serve them the determined meals as they’re sitting around their decorated table. I touch every part of the process, from sourcing ingredients to picking the flowers, to ensure that my diners have a wonderful dining experience. 

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
Running a business before Covid-19 was already hard enough but then Covid-19 changed the entire way that we conduct business. It forced me to overhaul my business and do things differently to keep up with the new way of things. It taught me how to be more flexible and adapt to an ever-changing business climate, which are important skills to have even outside of a pandemic. 

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