Jessica and Count Foreman met when they worked in the same restaurant. After weathering the 2007 recession, they decided to open their own small business: a street cart selling sautéed food, similar to those Chef Count had seen in his hometown of NYC. They set up near Bethune Cookman University in Daytona Beach and soon attracted an enthusiastic lunch crowd.
Now the Foremans and their two almost-grown sons help them run Saute Kingz, which has become an award-winning catering business in Holly Hill.
“We brought gourmet cooking to our neighborhood,” Jessica Foreman says. “We want to say, you can come down to this area and get great cuisine.”
What makes a small business like Saute Kingz take off? In many cases, it’s originality. The aromas from the Foremans’ cart lured college students and other local residents to drive past fast-food places for a bite of something different. Saute Kingz’ champagne lamb chops and Argentine nachos—two dishes that helped them win first place at 2016’s King of the Grill competition in Ormond Beach—are unique to the area.
Small businesses also offer something the big chain businesses cannot: an emphasis on quality and personal service. “My husband checks every onion, because we’re not buying in bulk,” Jessica Foreman said. “We’re hands-on. Also, I think people like that they can talk to us face-to-face.”
Small Business, Big Presence
Small businesses have a big presence locally. Saute Kingz is one of almost 14,000 small businesses that bring revenue to Florida Congressional District 6, which includes Volusia County. The U.S. Small Business Administration figures for 2019 show that businesses with fewer than 500 employees provide jobs for more than 96,000 local people and pay them $3.3 billion annually.
Nancy Keefer, president and CEO of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, said small businesses are a major component of Volusia County’s economy. “More than 80 percent of our businesses would be classified as small businesses, with less than twenty employees.”
“Small businesses are critical to the fabric of the community,” she said—because they become involved in more than business transactions. “It is not unusual to see small businesses sponsoring youth teams, providing gift certificates to charities, or working on community projects. They are major contributors to the brand, culture, and success of a community.”
Lou Paris, director of the Prince Entrepreneurship Program at Stetson University, says that small businesses can provide the “on ramp” into business for local entrepreneurs, and those businesses improve the community.
“It doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering, innovative idea,” Paris says. “If you decide to open up a laundry, and it’s successful, it’s because the community needed it. People who figure out how to solve a specific problem benefit the community.”
Often, he said, those individuals start out with small businesses. “When we think of Volusia County businesses, we think of the Speedway or Raydon—but if you focus on those big players, you lose perspective on the weight and value of the smaller employers, even outfits with two or three employees.”
As a small business grows, Paris said, it helps to strengthen the community. “They’re making more money, spending more, paying taxes, and that makes everything in the community better. They’re buying a bigger house or a better car or going out to eat more. There’s a very tangible impact.”
Small Businesses Face a Big Challenge
The current crisis aside, many small businesses face an uphill struggle finding the capital to invest in equipment and to stay afloat while the business gains traction.
“It can be very hard for start-ups to qualify for a loan,” Jessica Foreman said. “We’ve heard ‘no’ for the last twelve years, and we are still here,” she said. “There’s always another door. You really have to have patience.”
Their business became popular quickly, and they had other jobs to keep them going while they saved money for a catering kitchen, she said. Their determination made it possible.
But small businesses also help keep each other going. The Foremans buy their produce at Perrine’s (a local vegetable market) and get their sushi supplies from an Asian market on International Speedway Blvd. “We try to shop locally, because we don’t order in a large enough quantity to have food service deliveries.”
Lifelong Florida resident Jeanette Adams said her small business ran into the same situation. When her family first opened the Port Orange-based Alpha to Omega Painting & Repairs twenty years ago, they purchased paint at the chain-type home improvement stores. “But when it comes to giving us a discount, they can’t do it, because we’re not big builders. Now we deal with Florida Paints, a local supplier, for all our paints and supplies. They’re like family because we’ve all been in the same business so long,” Adams said.
Small Businesses Have Big Impact
Small business owners care about their communities in a way that the big box stores cannot. Jessica Foreman said Saute Kingz has offered free cooking classes to local children, to help them understand the value of making their own food. “We’re passionate about what we do, and we’re trying to teach the new generation to have a passion for it, too.”
Saute Kingz belongs to the Daytona Beach-based African American Entrepreneur Association, Leslie Giscombe, founder and CEO of the association, said a successful small business—like Saute Kingz—can also have another kind of impact.
“It’s important for the neighborhood and the African-American community–for our young people to see successful African-American businesses,” Giscombe said. “That has a lot to do with moving our youth forward. The impact of more successful black entrepreneurs is not just on the economy; these entrepreneurs are modeling success.”
Jeanette Adams of Alpha to Omega Painting, said she also finds it gratifying to know her small business is doing its part to help make Volusia County a better place to live for future generations.
“If we can make one house pretty at a time, and then the next house on the block, and so on,” Adams said, “that’s something our kids can be proud of.”