Tunes blasting. Flavours mingling.
A place to think. A place to relax. A place to get lost.
Jennifer Wellsman’s kitchen is her happy place. She loves to cook, and the hours she spends in her kitchen may be solitary, but she never feels alone. “I have conversations with me, myself, and I,” says Jennifer, “just the three of us.”
A decade ago, Jennifer never would have guessed this was how she’d spend her days.
Her father always told her, no matter what you do in life, make sure you enjoy it because you’re going to be doing it a long time. Jennifer started out in advertising but knew it wasn’t her ‘long time’ job.
She dreamed of running her own business, spending time with the kids she planned to have, while also make a living. The problem was, she didn’t know what she wanted that flexible, profitable, ‘long time’ job to be.
In stepped fate.
While on maternity leave with her first child, Jennifer was out with a friend who commented that she wished she had a personal chef—someone to cook her meals so she didn’t have to. Jennifer’s first thought was, I could do that, and a seed was planted.
Although Jennifer had never cooked professionally, at an early age she cooked meals for her family to have ready when her mom came home from work. Jennifer liked to cook, liked being able to help out her mom, and didn’t see why her mother was so thankful, as if cooking a meal was a big deal.
Years later, she understands what it feels like to come home from a full day at work, wanting to cook yourself and/or your family a healthy meal, but just not having the energy. Having a meal ready, or one you can simply pop in the oven, is certainly a big deal.
Three years after the personal chef seed was planted, while on maternity leave with her second child, the idea was still pulling at her. She took a personal chef course in Toronto, and when her mat leave was up, dived in.
That was almost five years ago.
Since then, Jennifer says Thyme to Dine, her personal chef company, has been going strength to strength. Her focus is meeting individual customer needs to ensure she’s helping people in the best way she can, by making their lives easier.
She’s of the mind that when you’re paying for something, it better be worth paying for, which is why she takes the time to learn what her clients like and make it as flavourful as possible. All her meals are custom made.
“If [clients] don’t want salt,” says Jennifer, “they don’t have to have salt. If they don’t like mushrooms, they don’t have mushrooms. If they don’t like onion and garlic, not a problem.”
Is it a challenge? “Absolutely,” continues Jennifer, “but that’s okay because I know that’s what they need and they can’t find it anywhere else.”
Whether her clients are busy families, senior citizens, professional couples, or individuals, she knows she’s giving them something they can’t or don’t have time to give themselves, healthy home-cooked meals.
Her success, however, hasn’t come without its challenges.
As a one-woman show, it’s often hard to separate life from the business. It all feels interconnected.
For example, the business had been going really well, then in the past year she lost a company contract that was a large part of her income. It was a mutual decision, says Jennifer, they were growing bigger than she wanted to grow in order to meet their needs. Mutual or not, it was an eye-opener.
She needed to up her marketing to find new clients within a changing economy.
Which led her to her next big dream, opening her own public kitchen. She had a place picked out, but then started thinking. One of the main reasons she wanted to run her own business was to have more time with her kids “and do things a lot of women can’t do because they’re tied to a job that’s nine to five.”
“They’re five and eight,” says Jennifer, “and I want to be able to do things with them while they’re this age.” Field trips, skating lessons, afternoons outside. With her business the way it is today, she can arrange her schedule to make those things possible. “If I had a kitchen,” says Jennifer, “I wouldn’t be able to do that.”
Cue some serious soul-searching.
Although Jennifer believes in business you have to take leaps to succeed, she ultimately decided this wasn’t a leap she was ready to take. It was a hard choice and required reworking the way she’d been living her life.
Instead of viewing lulls in business as a sign she needed to work harder and spend countless hours trying to ‘get busy’ again, she now strives to see lulls as a time to enjoy her family.
Although she thought she’d already been doing that, she realized she wasn’t. “I was putting the business first. And when I made the decision [not to open the kitchen] there was this huge relief. Almost like an a-ha moment. I had peace inside me.”
Today, not being busy means she can go snowshoeing with her kids after school, or play with her son without having her laptop open and in arms reach.
This, of course, is sometimes easier said than done. It’s hard not to worry about money, says Jennifer, but “constantly thinking about money can be a blocker.” Her motto is: “Think positive, trust it will all work out, but consistently look for new opportunities.”
In businesses like hers, says Jennifer, you never know what the month is going to bring, but you need to be confident and positive. “If it’s a good business,” which she trusts hers is, “you’re going to get the clients you need, and it will all work out. If you can’t do that, you might as well give up.”
She’s not giving up anytime soon.
“Hang on through the hard times to get to those good times,” says Jennifer. And don’t let social media steal your joy.
“Social media is all about the good things that are happening,” she says. People don’t talk about the bad things. We don’t know what’s happening on the other side, and sometimes we can get so caught up in other people, their successes and what they’re doing with their business, that we forget to concentrate on ourselves, our families, and trust that our triumphs will happen when they happen.
“You’ve got to live your own reality,” says Jennifer, not get caught up in the Facebook reality.
Following the wisdom of her father. Sometimes, she says “when the days are hard, I think maybe I should go back to a nine to five job,” but then she remembers she’s doing what she loves AND has time for her family. “ So I have to figure out how to make [it] work.” And that’s just what she does.
Live in St. John’s, NL or the surrounding area and could use some healthy, custom made meals so you can relax after the 9-5? Know someone who’s stressed out or super busy this month? Prepared meals make an amazing gift. Check out Jennifer’s services at Thyme to Dine or follow her on Facebook.
Can you relate to the all too real struggle of answering that “What’s for dinner?” question? See some parallels to your own life – it’s so hard to remain present in this digital world, isn’t it?
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