By Sarah Jester
The impact of COVID-19 on the catering and event industry cannot be overstated. Gatherings all across the world have been delayed or canceled for the months ahead, leaving many businesses scrambling. However, many have pivoted their business strategy to serve others in this time of need, like Certified LGBTBE® Your Custom Catering & Events. The Charlotte, NC-based catering and events firm has partnered with a local nonprofit to help give back to the community.
“During COVID-19 we had to cancel or move more than 30 events to date due to government mandates and closures,” explained founder Nattiel Turner. “We partnered up with a non-profit, Hearts Beat as One, to feed children that were food insecure due to school closures in the most impoverished zip codes and also families of those laid off due to bar and restaurant closures.”
Turner’s business normally caters events like weddings and corporate affairs, as well as institutional catering for schools, crisis centers, and nonprofits. Now, they are feeding hundreds of children and families every day at multiple locations.
“The donations and grants to Hearts Beat as One cover the product needed and payroll for the staff working to prepare meals,” said Turner. “While we are not profitable, we are sustained and our employees can continue to support their families.”
Turner worked in management in the hospitality industry before going on to found Your Custom Catering & Events in 2012, which was LGBTBE certified in 2019. Through LGBTBE certification, he has opened up numerous opportunities for his business.
“I have been able to leverage corporate and non-profit contracting for both event and institutional catering,” he explained.
When asked what was unique about Your Custom Catering & Events, Turner cited the individuality of their business-client relationships.
“Each client is viewed as unique and we avoid a cookie cutter approach meeting each client where they are and meeting their individual needs,” he said. “We are able to offer a tailored approach and source food from local providers while keeping our costs at a minimum.”
Through his business, Turner aspires to create a foundation to help alleviate the effects of food insecurity through partnerships with local farmers to increase community access to fresh food, in addition to cooking classes for children and young adults. He had some key advice to offer to those with similar goals, as well as aspiring LGBT entrepreneurs.
“Surround yourself with a network that can help guide you in the beginning,” said Turner. “Accounting, marketing, suppliers, etc. Do not be afraid to screw up and be criticized as you move toward your dream.”
Have you repurposed your business to aid with relief efforts related to the spread of COVID-19? Click here to submit your story.
For additional ways to help you, your business, and the LGBT community during this time, visit the NGLCC COVID-19 Resource Hub for the LGBT Business Community.