We had the good fortune of connecting with Will Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Will, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
My thought process behind starting Mia & Me Catering was to ensure my daughter would live a better life than I did. Over the years, working in different restaurants I felt like the talent that was ahead of me in terms of position and skill were not better than me. I knew starting my own business would propel me to heights I never imagined. Meaning, once I put my success in my own hands I wouldn’t be stopped as to how far I could go. Now, I wasn’t arrogant enough to think starting my business wouldn’t come with challenges. I relished in the fact that it would be a struggle and that it would take time. I felt really passionate about the start and what was to come that I literally cried in my Chef and my General Manager’s office. Those tears were because I needed to take business courses on one of our busiest days and I needed those days off for 5 weeks. Fast forward to today, I just opened up a slider restaurant near my home in Delaware and am launching a course along with other educational content for business owners. I feel so blessed with the journey I have experienced and I’m excited to shift into mentorship and education. Investing in yourself and your education is a huge step in the journey to business success.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Mia & Me Catering is a catering company that was started in 2012. At that time I had 16 years of experience in the culinary industry. Throughout those previous 16 years Mia & Me Catering was actually being created. I say that because I would cater small parties at my home for my friends and I realized I had a very keen eye for how food looked presentation wise, I really adored providing service and making my friends feel welcomed and comfortable. When I reached the point where I knew it was time to start Mia & Me Catering; those qualities I possessed during the years of the business just being a thought materialized instantly into my business. It was as if it was meant to be! I understood there was a stigma in my community that African American businesses lacked in customer service. I knew early on if I could merge great service with great food and presentation that would instantly set me apart from the competition. Especially being a young and small catering company. The beginning was not easy. It took a ton of hard work and sacrifice for me to get in the door and get noticed. I would give free samples, take events that were unpaid, basically not make any money to get noticed. However, I knew deep down inside I was built for the journey. I overcame those obstacles with sheer determination and understanding that instead of making 300k today I wanted to make 5 million over the next 3 years. I had a long haul mindset. I was running a marathon and wanted Mia & Me Catering to be around for a long time. Looking back, the biggest lesson I learned while growing my company was “learn to listen and listen to learn.” That was a statement my father would always say to me and it rang so true during the early years of my business. There were people I met who were really mentoring me and I didn’t listen well to them. That’s a no no, today in my life I really take the time to quiet things and listen to the people around me who mean well. Having that attitude has opened many doors for me. Recently, I opened a restaurant in Downtown Wilmington, Delaware named De Slider Co. I am also launching an online course along with other educational content for business owners. I feel so blessed with the journey I have experienced and I’m excited to shift into mentorship and education. Investing in yourself and your education is a huge step in the journey to business success. I want the world to know that anything worth it will not happen overnight. Build your business with integrity, honesty and for the long haul. Believe me, you’ll appreciate and be extremely grateful with the results.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, to know me is to know I love to eat and travel. If my friends were visiting Delaware for a week our first stop would be lunch at De Slider Co. to munch on a few sliders. Next, we would go to Crow Bar in Trolley Square for a well crafted cocktail. We would then head to Bardea for dinner and another cocktail. There we would enjoy the best of the best Wilmington, DE has to offer as far as restaurants go. After dinner we would wind down at Cira Food & Drink to make introductions, have a cigar and sit with friends talking about any and everything. Now, that’s only the first day. Over the next 6 days we would visit my hometown of Philadelphia. Visit with friends and family. Shop at Lapstone & Hammer in Center City for fly sneakers and some chill type of gear. We would definitely have to stop and get a massage from Mellow Massage. We would not lack in fun, positive energy, good people and relaxation. On the final day before my friend leaves town I would host a bbq or an event at my home. I would hire a chef, bartender and a server to make my guests feel at home. The food and drinks would be endless.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First off, I want to shout out my father Billy Johnson and my mother Anita Brown. They instilled in me the passion, respect, class and tenacity I have today. Thank you to my daughter. I’m not sure where I would be or how focused I would be if she wasn’t born. I would like to thank Della Clark who I credit with some of my business savvy, Delilah Winder for being stern and understanding that I had “the finish.” My high school math teacher Mrs. Cerullo and my High School Coordinator Mrs. Hicks who were always up my tail (no fault of their own). I didn’t understand it then, but surely understand it now. Lastly, I’d like to thank my middle school teacher Ms. Christmas who always would say “excuses build monuments to nothing, those who dwell in them are seldom done in anything” that quote still sticks with me today and it’s been 30 years or more since I first heard it.
Sabir Peele Byron Purnell