We had the good fortune of connecting with SHELLEY SMITH and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi SHELLEY, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Well I always knew I wanted to do something with the food industry since my time at Meadowbrook High School in Richmond, VA. It was at Meadowbrook when I got my first glimpse of how to run a restaurant per se. We had convinced our culinary arts teachers Ms. Goode and Ms. Burke to let us open a café on the culinary wing of the school where we cooked and served the teachers during lunch. I mean we had it laid out from creating spreadsheets for pre-orders, having cashiers, etc. It was amazing but it was also a lot of work and made me realize owning a restaurant isn’t something I wasn’t looking to initially do. Even while I played college basketball at Fayetteville State University, I would cook for my teammates and the men’s team all the time. However, it wasn’t until 2016 when I finally got serious about taking steps to submit the necessary paperwork to officially create my catering business. At this point my son was three years old and I knew I didn’t want him to ever want for anything so that motivated me to use my passion to earn extra income. Catering for me is more than money. It’s the easiest way for me to impact a large amount of people at one time; even if that ends up being the only good part of their day.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Summa Dis -N- Summa Dat is a catering company based out of Richmond, VA. We’ve done events such as the 2017 Special Olympics hosted by the Metropolitan Business League, the 2018 Transformation Exposition, and much more. Unlike other catering companies, we specialize in an array of food. Hence, the name Summa Dis -N- Summa Dat because you can get just about any type of dish from Soul food, Jamaican, Seafood, etc. We have been in business for 5 years and it is a constant learning process because I juggle multiple businesses in addition to my catering company and full-time job. In 2016, I started offering pans of certain dishes during Thanksgiving such as ham, macaroni and cheese, etc. to get my name and brand out there. Everything these days rely on a heavy Social Media presence but I also believe in the power of word of mouth which is how I have landed major opportunities. Covid-19 honestly gave me an opportunity to just sit and figure out what and how I was going to manage all the businesses. That’s when I created Inception Ent. which is my umbrella company that houses Summa Dis -N- Summa Dat Catering and Travel Out of Your Comfort Zone which is my travel agency. Inception Ent. also partners with other black-owned companies such as Full Circle USA, LLC so we can be a one stop show for majority of any event needs. Being a business owner isn’t easy but one thing about it is it’s YOURS. It’s no different than raising a child. You feed, nurture, protect, and anything else required to help sustain and ensure longevity for it. These are the same things required when it comes to your brand and your business because you are the creator of it and you hone it into what you want it to be. It is critical to grasp the fact that YOUR business won’t be for everyone and that is perfectly fine but keep going. Find your niche and provide services to people you don’t have to water yourself down for. If you let the passion drive you and the money will be sure to follow!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If anyone ever comes to visit then they know I do not club in Richmond let alone club period anymore unless it’s a special event or celebration. I like lowkey spots where I can have a good time without a whole crowd and can be in the bed by 9pm.
Richmond is big for happy hours Mon-Sun! Believe it or not my go-to starter spot is usually Applebee’s because I mean who doesn’t love half off ALL ALCOHOL from 3pm-6pm M-F. Another favorite spot is Latitude Seafood because they have great food at anytime but during happy hour they have $6 plates of calamari, their version of Bang Bang Shrimp, and plenty more.
I also love a good brunch so I will usually go to Sunday Service Soul Food. Don’t let the name fool you because they have an amazing all you can eat brunch with music by DJ Young Irv. LuLu’s is another brunch favorite because of their mimosa pitchers.
If it’s the summer and I’m in the mood for something different then I will usually go by Kabana Rooftop for their Sunset Series day party.
I’m usually the friend in everyone else’s city since I’m always travelling.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would not be where am with God first and foremost. I’m far from perfect but he still blesses me in the midst of it all. To my parents, you both have always been my biggest supporters and I’m thankful for the wisdom, strength, and most importantly the recipes you have given me over time! To anyone who has ever booked, shared, liked, mentioned my business in conversation, etc., I want to say thank you!