Read a Q&A with Elizabeth Parris, owner of ZiL Catering, LLC. To learn more visit http://www.zilcatering.com.
What inspired you to begin your business?
I developed my cooking skills as a child in New York. While growing up, my father worked as a butcher and managed a few Key Food stores (equivalent to Food Lion). He would allow us to shop in his store, which gave us the opportunity to explore different cuisines. Making those meals with our mother brings back the best memories of my life. As a young girl I learned how to break down a whole chicken, braise meats, julienne greens and maintain a budget. Cooking had become second nature especially with a house filled with siblings and frequent fliers.
After getting married and moving to Virginia, we would often have dinner parties. Guests would secretly leave jars filled with money around the house thanking me for a great meal. At this point my husband enlightened me with these words, “I think you’ve got something here … you should start a business”. Thus, ZiL Catering was born.
Who was your first client?
I was so nervous when someone actually paid for my services as a caterer. With multiple free events under my belt, having someone pay for my services was very exciting. I can actually remember what was on the menu: Crab Cakes with Whipped Cauliflower and Oven Roasted Brussels for a family who was having an event in their home.
What piece of advice would you tell your self when you started out? Any success tips you want to share?
There is something about us women. We are strong and smart. We are planners, doers and able to multi-task better than any other species on earth. We are kind motivators of all. I am a wife, mother, grandmother, multiple business owner (ZiL Catering, LLC & Tropical Smoothie Cafe’ – Midtown Atlanta) and a Nurse. Being able to balance it all is something inherent in me.
I was raised by strong women. My mom, aunts and grandmother are all strong pillars of the family. I had no other choice but to echo this mentality. Having a work life balance is not an easy task, but as you adapt into adulthood you seem to adjust. I start by setting realistic goals and choosing my battles of the moment. I have also learned to delegate & supervise, allowing for those around me to grow and learn. Having an amazing team that understands your goals also helps. A few moments in the early morning hours, while everyone is asleep is my time to find the real balance of my life. During these early mornings (5 am), I am able to pray, meditate and plan my day. I usually sit on my deck .with a nice cup of tea. I sometimes watch the fog roll in or the sunrise. The air is fresh and crisp. It’s a new day… a fresh start… a clean slate. Having this time alone to gain some balance is a habit that I don’t ever want to lose. Over the years my thoughts of balance have changed. I thought I could conquer the world alone. As I develop, I know my balance comes from my team. I would not be able to do anything without them. The piece of advice I would tell myself would be, even if you are moving just a little and it doesn’t feel like you are growing, you are, so keep moving forward. Don’t stop. Stay focused.
What are you most proud of?
When doing business, one of the best lessons I’ve learned over the years is to be personal. Getting to know people on a personal level allows for our guest to really connect with us. This connection increases the chances of repeat customers and increased referrals. We want them to be clients that will return for services for years to come.
Our goal is to truly understand their needs for each event. I am very proud to maintain that urge to be personal. In the end, we learn each other and grow together. Our past challenges included finding a proper commercial kitchen to prepare items for events. We’ve acquired our own brick and mortar a few years ago in Winder, Ga.
Anything else interesting that you want to share?
At ZiL Catering, we specialize in personalized menus. No two menus are alike. Being able to personalize each menu allows our clients to have full control of what is served, the service style rendered and to address budget concerns. This also allows us to focus on their dietary needs. We prepare our items from scratch, using fresh items from local farms and vendors. Our most popular events are weddings, corporate lunches/dinners, movie sets, private dinner parties and other events.
We can be found on The Wedding Wire, The Knot and, of course, here on the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce website.