It’s probably safe to say that the Small Business Administration’s 2020 Small Business Person of the Year for Kentucky, Mavis Linnemann-Clark, has always had a passion for cooking. As a young girl growing up in Northern Kentucky, she worked in bakeries, candy stores and coffee shops, all the while improving her baking skills at home with chocolate mousses and layer cakes.
Though she elected to study magazine journalism in college, after graduation she rediscovered her love for cooking. In 2010, she enrolled in Kendall College in Chicago, where she was classically trained in French cooking techniques.
After earning a catering and personal chef certificate from Kendall, Linnemann-Clark moved back to Northern Kentucky and in 2012 established her catering company, The Delish Dish, in Covington.
Only one year into her venture, she was a finalist in a woman-focused startup accelerator, Bad Girl Ventures. That same year, she also joined the Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen and launched an artisan line of jams and jellies, Made by Mavis.
With success comes the need for managing that success, so Linnemann-Clark sought input from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Northern Kentucky University and the local SCORE chapter, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“When I first started my business, I had no idea that such free resources existed!” said Linnemann-Clark. “I developed close relationships with Rebecca Volpe, who used to run the NKY SBDC, and with my SCORE mentor, Carlin Stamm. I still meet with Carlin once a month to discuss my business and ask for help on issues I’m dealing with. They have helped guide me through so many difficult and challenging situations, including purchasing property, handling staffing and HR issues, launching new brands, negotiating leases and contracts, pricing products, and so many more things. I would not be where I am today without them.”
With their help and guidance, Linnemann-Clark saw her cash flow increase three-fold over a four-year period.
In 2016, Linnemann-Clark seized the opportunity to take over a 5,000-s.f. kitchen in Covington and the next year launched Kickstart Kitchen, which provides temporary leased commercial kitchen space to food entrepreneurs to launch or grow their small business. Kickstart Kitchen also offers complimentary assistance with business planning.
Like so many others in the hospitality industry, Linnemann-Clark said COVID-19 “has been devastating to the catering and events industry, just like the restaurant industry.” All of her corporate business evaporated overnight and weddings were either postponed or canceled.
In response, she created a carryout menu and moved to a curbside carryout and delivery model. This fall, she launched The Delish Dish To Go, which offers pre-made dinners, take-and-bake appetizers, soups, breakfast items and desserts, all available for online ordering and pickup.
“No matter how many years you’ve been in business, there will come a time when you are forced to adapt and change and to create something new where there wasn’t before,” Linnemann-Clark said. “You can cry for a day or two, but after that, put your feet to the floor and make things happen.”
Spoken like a true entrepreneur.