We had the good fortune of connecting with Amber McDaniel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amber, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I honestly didn’t start out to start my own business. I have always been a fairly shy person and my passions require that I put myself on display – writing and cooking. I started cooking when I was 8. It started with small things and a lot of not so great meals, but food was always something that intrigued me. When I was in college and working in a call center there were potlucks constantly, and me and a friend never ate and eventually began volunteering to collect money and cook all of the food ourselves. Finally, one day we looked at each other and realized, we are caterers. The other part of my business is writing. Around 5th grade I read my first Maya Angelou book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Her words captivated me and were the first time a saw words as more than a way to extend my vocabulary and learn; words became art. I realized the thoughts I didn’t so easily vocally share could be shared another way. By embracing my passions, I realized there was a monetary benefit, but it also allowed me to bring joy to the most important days in someone’s life, like weddings, baby showers, and anniversaries, and also connect and inspire growth through my poetry books and food journals. I combined these passions and became Chef Poetry Am.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am in a field that many people do not know much about, Engage Life at a senior living company. I have my Bachelors in Gerontology and learned about the field when I took a Life Enrichment course while in college. Once I graduated, I knew I wanted to work in the community and have direct interactions with seniors. Unfortunately, that did not happen immediately and I began working as a care manager. That last for 7 years and thankfully the company did mass layoffs. That layoff forced me to apply to a community. I got the job, but I had to start at the bottom with a bottom salary. I took the pay cut and moved in with my parents at 30. I knew my goal was becoming regional support, so I took every opportunity for additional education. Within the last 5 years, I was promoted in that same company 3 times and then recently took a leap to another company, in another state, for a bigger and better promotion. I am now working as a Divisional Engage Life Director and have the ability train other Engage Life professionals in what this field truly means. Seniors are often a forgotten demographic. Many times both physical and cognitive declines are ignored or brushed off as normal aging, but I realized that through stimulating seniors minds and providing social and physical opportunities, aging does not have to be negative. Working in this field has also reinforced the importance of representation. The few residents of color I have encountered immediately opened up and were willing to try new things because they felt comfortable seeing someone that looked like them. That comfort and willingness improved their quality of life and eased their families minds. Now being in a position to train other people, I have been contacted by people who have sat in on my trainings and were intrigued and inspired because they were able to see their own possibility of growth by seeing me in my position. That is important to me. Being able to inspire more people who look like me to look into opportunities and positions that we do not usually occupy.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well funny enough, I recently moved so I would love for someone to answer this question for me about my new city. In my limited exploration my go to restaurant would be Seafood Lady in Downtown Louisville. Being a Florida girl, it was imperative I find a taste of home, and this place hit the spot. When the weather is nice, Garage Bar is a great outdoor vibe to take in the sun and enjoy a drink. To unwind, dance, and listen to live music, Black Jockeys Lounge.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I dedicate my shoutout to Rhonda McDaniel. She is an accountant turned aesthetician turned product creator; she is also my mom. She is one of the reason I have the strength and drive to push myself towards success.
Scenes of VeraMae