Inspired by the kitchen skills (and work ethic) of her two grandmothers, Tiwanna Williams left behind a nursing career to pursue her passion for cooking and hasn’t looked back. After receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback catering for friends, Tiwanna founded PearlFlower Catering in 2010.
PearlFlower focuses on creating personalized menus using locally sourced ingredients. Recently, the business was also selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers—alongside two other local minority-owned food businesses—to bring three signature dishes to Quicken Loans Arena’s “Test Kitchen’ for fans to enjoy.
Tiwanna is also a part of JumpStart’s Core City: Cleveland Impact Program, an intensive business assistance program designed to support the development and growth of businesses located within Cleveland’s core neighborhoods.
We recently sat down with Tiwanna to discuss how her grandmothers influenced her venture, what makes her business unique and how the Impact Program has changed the way she thinks about business.
What inspired you to create PearlFlower Catering, where did the idea come from?
It kind of happened organically. I’ve always loved to cook, and I feel that food is one of those magical things that brings people together. The name PearlFlower came from my two grandmothers—Pearline Scott and Dolores Flowers. Pearline was kind of like the matriarch of the neighborhood and church and she cooked for everyone, and Dolores owned her own upholstery business.
When I started out, it was just something that I enjoyed doing, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. So, I talked to both my grandmothers and said, “Hey, I really want to start my own business, I want to be a caterer.” And as a registered nurse by trade, it was kind of a scary thing to do, but things have just kind of happened and people have really taken to what I’m offering.
What separates PearlFlower from your competition?
We answer to all of the pain points that our clients have. Corporate clients want someone who provides reliability and they obviously want great tasting food, but then our brides and social and special events clients may want something a little different. They may want a unique experience.
We provide both—we have food that tastes great and we have fun action stations (meal stations that requires an action such as cooking, mixing, adding toppings, etc.). I think that our clients tend to really enjoy the experience that we provide.
What have been some of your biggest takeaways from the Core City: Cleveland Impact Program?
Being a part of the Core City: Cleveland Impact Program has changed the way I think about business. Again, I’ve never taken a business course, and I consider myself to be a creative. Everything as far as business goes I’ve had to teach myself and I’ve had to utilize outside resources, so this experience here has been invaluable.
The comradery from the other entrepreneurs in the cohort, as well as advice from my advisors and the staff here at JumpStart has helped me in my journey to scale and grow.
Any surprises from the program?
I’ve been surprised by how hands-on the JumpStart staff is. As I tell my story and talk about the challenges I have as a small business owner, people are actually listening. I have resources at my fingertips when I’m facing a challenge or just looking for ways to improve my business and be successful. And knowing that I’m not just a number or just someone in the program to fill a spot makes me feel like I’m now part of a family of entrepreneurship here.
I have a support system at home, but now I have a business support system. I have a lot of fears as a newer entrepreneur and being a part of this program has helped to alleviate some of those fears.
What are your future plans for your business?
In one year, I’d like to begin the hiring process, and hire some staff by tapping into some local resources. When I hire staff, we can begin to take on more projects, increasing our revenue and growth. I really see PearlFlower being a premier caterer in the Cleveland area, and who knows what can happen from there!