When I walked into my first WEV’s Self-Employment Training Course in the winter of 2010, I found a seat in the over-crowded room at a table with 3 other women. After a few minutes of introductions and “getting-to-know yous”whispered between our instructor’s comments, I found myself most drawn to a fellow-mom named Kate Dunbar. We quickly bonded over being two women in our 30’s with husbands, kids and plans for new businesses. It felt like I had known her for years. I specifically remember gazing intently around our classroom one night. I was trying to envision who would become the successes out of our group. Kate is the one who stood out. She has a great story about a little dream that has grown quite fast. Please read on to find out what made Kate stand out to me that first night and what has continued to make her stand out as a woman business owner today.
Kate, you have an interesting story on how your business idea came about. Will you please share?
I was working for a family that wanted to create their own infused vodka company. I was the recipe maker, marketer and point person. I entered into a business writing program and discovered that the ABC would not allow this type of business in California. I was at a one day conference and one of the guest speakers was the owner of a tea company. Her story truly inspired me to search out what I wanted to do and as I was driving home, I started to create my chocolate and dessert company. My husband was deployed to Iraq in 2003-2005 and many desserts were made and shipped to him- so there was the recipe start. Within 10 weeks of starting that business plan course, I had created more recipes, found taste testers and almost had my business plan finished. From the day that I figured out what I wanted to create to my first public presentation at a food & Wine Festival… it was 11 1/2 weeks.
Petit Reve means little dream. And here you are living a very, big dream. When you came up with the name of your business, did you foresee it growing so large? What was the turning point?
I never saw myself growing this big this fast. I figured I was going to be the private dessert caterer and small delivery based dessert company. The turning point was when I was asked to speak in Long Beach Ca at The Women’s Conference this past October. Standing on the stage in front so many women and all the celebrities that were speakers, too opened my company to a completely different level of clients. My phone was ringing off the hook and I had to find a retail location with a kitchen quickly.
Can you give any of the other “mompreneurs” out there any tips for juggling business and family?
First, off know what you are willing to sacrifice… friends, family, private time, the gym, girl’s nights out, shopping, sleep. You name it- you are going to sacrifice that and then quite a few more things. You really need to be secure in your relationship with your partner. I would not be here doing what I am doing without my husband’s support. I never asked him if it was ok to create this company and leave the care of our young twins and teenager up to him. I told him “I’m empty, I’m not happy. I love being a mom and a wife, but I am missing something of my own. I’m doing this and I need you to support me”. He did and so did my mother, my family and friends. I am a stronger mother, a happier woman and truly a better partner for my husband now.
This past year you’ve been able to meet some pretty, influential people. Can you share a story about the one who has inspired you the most?
I can’t pick one, it’s too difficult so, I will pick two. First is my mom. I want to share a little back story.. I became a mother when I was 17. I had to grow up very quickly and leave a lot of dreams behind because I knew in my gut that having my son and being a single parent was the right path. My Mom was my rock. I could not have done it without her help, love and support. Over the last 18 years, all I have wanted to do was create a business to show her how much her lessons, guidance, support and compassion influenced and molded me. When I was standing on the stage at The Women’s Conference and I looked into the audience and saw her face. I knew I finally had given her everything she gave to me, funny thing was she bent over to Donna Karen (who was sitting next to her) and said, “That’s my daughter! She’s my hero, I’m so proud of her!”. My business is another extension of me, it’s my passion it’s my dreams and above all its every lesson my Mother gave to me. The next person would be my mentor, Zhena Muzyka the founder and CEO of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea. We both said jokingly to each other that we were brought together because of our humble, single, mom days and we will be inspirations to each other because we know to give to others above all else. She is by far one of the most graceful women I have ever met. I can not explain how that gift of grace has helped me. My employees can tell you, I am one of the most giving employers they have ever had. I say thank you every day to them and I show them how much I appreciate them. Zhena was the one that said “make your employees as important as you want your business to be, and everything good that is to happen to you and your business will-trust me”. She was right! My suggestion to anyone reading this is to take a sharpie pen, go to your mirror and write this on it so, you see it every day ” I am worth it, I am successful, I am capable of amazing things!”
In conclusion, can you divulge any secrets as to what’s next for your “small dream”?
The next step for me is giving back. Since opening a brick and mortar, I knew I wanted to find an organization that I could not only give financially but also volunteer my time with. I know my journey in food industry and being a business owner has just started but secretly, I have been creating my next mind map for the second phase of Petite Reve. All I can say at this point, is if it truly goes in the direction I want it to then my mark on the food scene will be completely, unique to anything in the area. I have never stopped dreaming and creating it’s who I am and honestly that is what makes my business stand out.