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The Real Taste of Community Stewardship

The Real Taste of Community Stewardship

SBA programs help Indiana businessman give back to his Martindale Brightwood neighborhood

“Have you ever been walking down the street, smelled the best fried chicken you’ve ever smelled in your life and wondered, ‘where’s that coming from?’  Well, you don’t have to wonder any more.  It’s coming from Real Taste Catering, right here in Indianapolis, Indiana!”

This pitch almost won Mark Webster $10,000 at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit in 2015.  Webster owns Real Taste Catering, which began when he and his wife were approached by her cousin to cater her wedding in 1997. 

“When I was in college, I majored in criminal justice, but was always known as the chef for frat parties,” says Webster.  “After I graduated and got married, I was a Parole Officer in Indianapolis but my wife and I still threw epic house parties with great food.  When my wife’s cousin asked if we’d cater her wedding, we didn’t know anything about catering, but we did it anyway and it was just great.”

Word of mouth helped the team grow their food service passion over the next 20 years into a million dollar business with school lunch program contracts, event catering, their own office space, and 25 employees.  Webster says that the business grew really fast and that deep down he always knew he needed direction.  He thought about going back to school for his MBA, but felt that he wouldn’t be able to dedicate enough time to both his expanding company and studying.  So, he went to a SBA workshop at the Martindale Brightwood Community Development Corporation where he learned about SBA resources and the SBA Emerging Leaders Program.

“For a learning businessman, Emerging Leaders gives me knowledge that I can take back and immediately apply to my business.”

Emerging Leaders is a free training program implemented by the SBA which offers small business owners powerful benefits and learning experiences including innovative growth strategies, financing know-how, access to new markets and networking with peers.  This is the third year that the SBA Indiana District office has offered Emerging Leaders, and District Director Stacey Poynter says this intense seven month “mini-MBA” style training is a great way for entrepreneurs to take the next step forward.

“The goal of Emerging Leaders is to provide established small business owners with the knowledge and resources they need to build a sustainable business,” Poynter says.  “Classes teach students how to think strategically, about where they want to move forward, and how they want to expand their business outside of their comfort zone.”

Webster says that he values the networking and relationships he is gaining from being in class with other business owners from throughout the state.  He also appreciates all the expert advice he receives from another SBA resource partner, SCORE.  Tim Martin, a SCORE volunteer mentor, teaches Emerging Leaders and agrees with Webster that building relationships with other entrepreneurs in the class is one of the biggest assets the program provides for participants.

“I think the number one benefit for students is getting to work with other business owners - hear new ideas, share common issues, network and in many cases pick up new work or a new partner,” Martin says.

Real Taste Catering is currently the fourth largest catering business in Indiana.  In the future, Webster says he hopes to expand into a multi-service company with streams of revenue coming from five lines of service including a restaurant, mobile food trucks, an exclusive line of to-go pick-up dinners offered through online ordering, culinary training, and event catering.  Webster says he also hopes to increase his staff to at least 40 – 50 employees, all while staying in the Martindale Brightwood community he loves.

“I’m staying in my neighborhood,” he says.  “There are not too many African American catering companies in this area.  We’re excited to grow.  SBA has many opportunities for us to do that.”

“If you have it, you have to use it," Webster continues.  "You can’t just stand still.  Certifications and training are great, but its how you use what you have and the relationships you make that builds prosperity,” Webster says.  “We have to be stewards of our community.  Real Taste is a steward.”

For more information about SBA programs and resources and to sign-up for our monthly newsletter, check out our website at sba.gov/in .  Find SBA lenders looking to work with your company sba.gov/LenderMatch .  You can also follow us on Twitter @SBA_Indiana .

Company Name: 
Real Taste Catering
Location: 
Indianapolis
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