Sep. 17—Since its start six years ago, Rich Taste Catering is now working with most of Dayton's largest companies, helping other vendors grow, and teaching University of Dayton students at an Arcade coffee shop.
"We are all about relationship building," said Clarece Richardson, who launched the business in 2015 with her husband Gerald.
The catering company specializes in fresh food made from scratch and recently moved into The Hub at the Dayton Arcade.
Clarece said that Gerald wasn't a professional cook before the business got started, but he used to cook for her and for friends. She recalled a time when she was pregnant and he brought in sandwiches and salads for her coworkers who loved them.
Eventually, they decided they wanted to be home with their daughter more and quit their job and went on to start their business. Some of the groundwork was already laid, because a year prior Clarece had gifted Gerald some business cards, an LLC, a business phone number and a website for when he was ready.
They started a meal prep service in 2015. It snowballed into more families signed up. Then they started to get calls for corporate events.
"And it just grew from there," she said.
The catering company has worked with many of the big local names as longtime corporate clients. One of their first big corporate contracts was working with Kettering Medical Network, catering for their new hires. They've added Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, University of Dayton and Dayton Metro Library among clients.
She said those corporate relationships are what let the company take off, and said it helps that she and her husband both draw experience from corporate backgrounds.
"With long-term customers, you treat them like they are just as important as they were from day one," she said.
They now have a team of 10 at the catering company, with kitchen and office staff and delivery drivers as well as interns.
They've picked up wholesale clients along the way as well, and sandwiches and salads can be found in the new co-op Gem City Market.
Their latest venture is operating Startup Grounds, where UD students work to gain experience in skills like marketing and accounting.
The coffee shop is also an avenue for other vendors to take off, because it features goods from local underrepresented, minority-owned and woman-owned vendors, such as cookies from The Cookieologist and coffee from NameSake Coffee.
When the coffee shop was announced, The Cookieologist owner Isiah Davis said that this was an opportunity to let people know about their neighborhood business.
"Even though we're on Brown Street and in some grocery stores, people don't know we exist or they can't make it to our shop during open hours. Startup Grounds will help us build our cookie empire one batch at a time," Davis said.
She advised that new business owners talk with other local business owners. While some might be hesitant to talk with perceived competition, she said you can learn about local resources without giving away the secret recipe.
Richardson said she'd also advise other startup owners to not be intimidated by big opportunities, which are a chance to grow. But also don't turn down what might seem like a small opportunity, because one sample lunch box turned into years of a key relationship with Kettering Health.
"Don't deny yourself an opportunity because you think you're too big or too small," she said.