AT MY fourth birthday party I received a very special gift -
a gleaming set of working pots and pans, measuring spoons and cups and even a
I knew right there and then, in a blinding flash of light –
a kitchen epiphany – exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a
magician, an artist, an entertainer - only, with food.
From that point on I immersed myself in the world of food and
started taking action to make my dream come true.
Almost 20 years ago my dream became a reality when I opened
a small one-man catering company in my friend's kitchen, and called it By Word
It was not easy in the beginning trying to juggle everything
On one occasion I remember personally doing four catering
deliveries in my little red Citi Golf to a function of 350 people, cheffing the
job, doing another four deliveries to get the dirty dishes back home and then
washing the dishes through the night.
I then put on a power suit to go to a meeting in Pretoria in
the morning, only to get back into my chef's kit and start prepping for the
We have come a long way over the years. Owing to
all-consuming passion, hard work, commitment, youthful energy and relentless
hunger for success, By Word of Mouth has expanded rapidly, and now employs over
We have opened various operating divisions including
function catering, design, decor and event rental, staffing, beverage, sports
catering, floral dDesign and a contract catering division. All these divisions
are housed under one roof in Linbro Park, Johannesburg.
While I'm kept busy mainly focusing on food and function
design, I am very lucky that my colleague, partner, and husband Adrian, with
his enormous business acumen and management know-how, runs the business side of
This includes logistics, administration, the supply chain,
processes, planning and project management.
People are the life force of any company. Feeling confident
and secure in the knowledge that we have a dynamic, talented team who enthuse
energy, passion and pride, and consistently deliver exceptional value to our
clients, gives me and Adrian the energy and creativity to constantly think
about and pursue new business avenues.
I am inspired every day by other chefs, foodies and
bloggers. I try to employ better chefs than myself and they teach and inspire
me. I am friendly with lots of owners of catering companies around the world,
and we all help and mentor each other.
I also gain inspiration and stay abreast of industry trends
by reading a lot and travelling overseas as often as possible.
I love what I do for a living, because I make my living from
doing what I love. But it's not an easy job.
In fact, it's not a job at all - it's an all-consuming
passion, and the more you do it, and the better you do it, the more you will
find yourself faced with people wanting to consume your product or service.
Running your own company can consume your every waking
moment if you let it, so it is important to ensure you maintain some degree of
I have four sons between the ages of six and 12 and a
wonderful husband, so it is very important to me to spend quality time with my
family. For my own sanity and well-being, I also make time to exercise, read,
garden and paint.
My practical advice is find something you love doing, and do
it with all your heart. If you can make your living from it and build your life
around it, then you will be blessed with the gift of your own happiness, and
the happiness you bring to others.
Share your gift. Don’t keep it to yourself, let it belong to
the world. Let it help, in one way or another, to make the world a better
* Karen Short is founder and chairperson of By Word of
Mouth. She is the latest guest columnist taking part in Fin24's
Women's Month campaign celebrating women in business.
Fin24 welcomes your
participation in the campaign. Send your views to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could get