Small businesses are at the heart of everything we do here at BusinessBlocks. In this series, we celebrate and highlight the brave visionaries, who work day in and day out to turn their dreams into reality.

Read Rickisha Hawkins’ story about bringing her love for food to Soul 4 Souls, a catering business serving the metro areas of Atlanta and Charlotte.

Tell us a little bit about you and your business.

When I was 15 years old, my mom had opened up a church, and next to it was a kitchen. We decided to run a little restaurant there named the Kingdom Café, and I began “professionally” cooking for almost 6 years.

I later graduated from culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu and decided to open up my own catering business, Soul 4 Souls. Today, we’re a team of 5 awesome chefs and cooks, one of whom is my business partner and wife.

We run two locations in Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia, serving a wide range of cuisines from American, Greek, Indian, Italian, African as well as some Asian food to our customers.

Who is your biggest inspiration when it comes to creating new menu items?

My customers are my biggest influence and inspiration. I’ve dedicated a large portion of their life to the culinary arts. I research different cuisines, write recipes, visit as many local fish and farmer’s markets to find the best ingredients and work my hardest to set the next culinary trend.

Because so many of my customers are from different places around the world, I put in the extra work to create an array of recipes that make them feel a little bit of home.

What are some challenges your business faces?

I’m not the best at consistently communicating with my customers. I know I need to be front and center with my customers, especially on social media, but to be honest, sometimes I’m busy watching Chopped!

The other challenge is making the most of my marketing. I was previously allocating some money to marketing projects, but I didn’t have an effective budget or plan in place to support my efforts.

What’s changed since you joined the BusinessBlocks community?

First and foremost, I have a better understanding of my target customer. My customers are busy professionals who want to save themselves time and money without sacrificing quality.

They’re doctors, lawyers, athletes who are making 100K+ yearly, and they’re only spending $100 a week for my service. They want to have the highest quality possible in the least amount of time, and that’s what we do for them. They trust my quality and standards.

I’m also much more confident with my marketing. I’m better at identifying certain needs and gaps in my business – for one, I’ve set business and marketing goals.

Before this, I didn’t realize I was setting too huge of goals for myself. Now, I have daily, weekly, monthly and even quarterly goals to help me get to where I need to be in order to run a successful business.

Furthermore, I’m building and deepening my relationships with customers to bring in more business with a customer referral program. I’m now doing corporate catering two to three times a week whereas it was only once a month!

What is your advice for other business owners?

Go outside of your comfort zone – you’re never going to learn anything if you always stick to what you’re used to.

It’s also important to set a time on your calendar and do something related the course. For me, I do 3 lessons every Sunday; otherwise, it’s not going to happen.

The best part of this experience was with my coach, Leslie. She really took the time to research my business beforehand and had a bunch of questions and suggestions for me on our first coach call.

Her marketing experience combined with her food service history made our conversation productive and fruitful. She’s what I’ve been looking for all this time to give me a kick in the pants and at the same time, validate my experience.