What inspired you to start U-Kno Catering?

I started out on the restaurant and meat & three side of food-service while doing catering out of my home with my family. I knew I could do this on my own and decided to open my own meat & three business which had a catering arm.
Once I learned my true passion was catering, I officially launched U-Kno Catering in 2005. My initial thought was to target corporate clients vs. social clients. This focus is what brought a lot of the growth into the business.  Meharry and Vanderbilt were some of my first clients. I also joined different organizations along with getting certified by TMSDC (Tennessee Minority Supplier Development Council).
Now, only 15% of my business is social, from weddings, church events, baby showers and non-profit organizations.  I am not a wedding caterer but I do, do weddings.

Nashville is being called the “It” city…why are you loving Nashville, right now? I feel the growth has helped many small businesses in Nashville, not just in the food industry. I think it has complemented everyone.
You celebrated a pretty awesome milestone last year, your 10-year business anniversary. What would you say was the biggest aha moment you experienced during this time?
Well, I guess my aha moment would be, when we were awarded our first contract with NES and went from catering to cafeteria management. It wasn’t my initial focus but definitely a part of my career history. The opportunities were out there for minority businesses to go into this aspect of the food industry and I was able to position our business to gain this contract. We were awarded the contract in 2009 for 5 years and renewed our contract for another 3 years. Having this contract on our resume allowed us to obtain other cafeterias in the state of TN. We went from one to four cafeteries in less than 5 years.
3 things you loved about NBIC that others may not know?

  1. They taught me how to be a successful entrepreneur. I knew catering and my kitchen but not the whole aspect of the business side. I needed that mentorship to understand what I was doing and NBIC helped with that.
  2. I don’t know everything. If you go in thinking you have it already figured out, you will not succeed. But you need seasoned people in the corporate environment and people to listen to you and help find solutions. That is what NBIC provided for me.
  3. Financing. I was going up for a contract and had never been bonded before. This was a huge component to winning this contract and NBIC helped me with getting the finances to get bonded. This was a major piece of getting our first contract with NES.

Is there one business resource or tip you would give to the readers just starting out in their business?
NBIC is a great resource! Tennessee State University (TSU) is also a good resource, as I interned at NBIC while attending the University.
Everyone is a foodie these days but the food industry is probably one of the hardest for many to become profitable and have longevity? What is one barrier that you faced and how did you make it work for your good?
Strong competition. I was able to sustain my business over the years by providing the same quality meat & three, southern with a twist style product. I didn’t change, I may have upgraded but I kept our consistency the same. Like food trucks, they have one product they stick with and do it very well. I am not trying to compete with other food businesses out there. I am doing what U-Kno Catering does best.

For those looking to get into the food industry, which startup entry would you suggest? Personal Chef, Catering, Food Truck, Restaurant? 
I would suggest they start out job shadowing within the restaurant business. You are allowed to see all aspects of the food-service business. Catering has a lot of moving parts, but the restaurant business allows you to learn the front of house, back of the house and how to treat customers.
Lastly, what can Music City expect from U-Kno Catering in 2016?
We want to restructure our business for continued growth. I want to focus more on the cafeteria side of the business. Our clients currently, include TN Tower, Dept of Labor, IRS Building Cool Springs, and of course NES. Our goal is to gain more contracts so we can work smarter not harder.

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Abigail DaSilva
Abigail DaSilva is the marketing coordinator at NBIC, channeling her passion and creativity to support the organization’s mission of leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs. A proud graduate of Tennessee State University, Abigail holds a degree in design, which fuels her artistic sensibilities and impeccable eye for aesthetics. Before joining NBIC, Abigail embarked on her own entrepreneurial journey alongside her brother, where she spearheaded the sales and marketing efforts of their own venture. This experience honed her skills in strategic promotion, customer engagement, and marketing media. Abigail has played a crucial role in the company, transforming their media marketing strategies, specifically towards a more video-driven approach. Recognizing the power of visual storytelling, she has created compelling content and innovative campaigns that have amplified NBIC’s reach and engagement, strengthening their online presence and impact. Outside of her professional endeavors, Abigail is an avid art buff, frequently visiting museums and exploring immersive experiences that combine technology and creativity. She also has a deep love for travel, shopping, and anything that allows her to utilize her creative mind. With her unwavering commitment and broad range of experience, Abigail is a valuable asset to NBIC. She remains eager to push boundaries, elevate engagement, and empower entrepreneurs through her exceptional marketing expertise.
Anne-Marie Tanner
Anne-Marie Tanner is the Programs Coordinator at NBIC. With a Master’s degree in strategic marketing from Midway University and a Bachelor’s degree in design from University of Kentucky, she brings a unique blend of business experience and creativity to her work. Prior to joining NBIC in March of 2023, Anne-Marie worked as a small business and startup consultant, where she gained valuable experience in guiding entrepreneurs through the challenges and opportunities of launching and growing their businesses. Her expertise in strategic planning and her ability to quickly grasp new concepts makes her a strong asset to the NBIC team. As the Programs Coordinator at NBIC, Anne-Marie manages multiple components, including Foundations, E-Myth, Framework, and Groundwork. Anne-Marie values collaboration and strives to align her work with the vision and expectations of her colleagues. Beyond her professional career, Anne-Marie has a wide range of hobbies and passions. She is an accomplished Olympic weight-lifter. Additionally, with her husband, she started a medical clinic in Martin, TN, a brewery and events center in Paris, TN, and an airbnb property. Their goal is not only to build successful businesses, but also to provide economic stability and job opportunities to as many people as possible. With her extensive background in business, her entrepreneurial spirit, and her commitment to personal growth, Anne-Marie Tanner is an extremely valuable asset to NBIC. Her diverse skill set and positive mindset make her a catalyst for success, both for herself and the new businesses she assists.
Saturnie Antoine
Saturnie Antoine has been a part of NBIC since November 2021, serving as the R.I.S.E. UP Program Manager. She holds a Bachelor’s degree and has obtained a professional certification in coaching skills. With a diverse background in corporate work spanning over 15 years, Saturnie has worked in various sectors. As the R.I.S.E. UP Program Manager, Saturnie oversees the entire program. Her responsibilities include structuring the curriculum, sourcing speakers, and organizing the launch campaign. Additionally, Saturnie provides personalized professional coaching to the program participants, offering guidance and support to help them scale their businesses to $1 million plus level. Since the commencement of the program in March 2023, under Saturnie’s leadership, R.I.S.E. UP has witnessed numerous accomplishments and successes. Additionally, the program’s focus on emotional intelligence has helped participants navigate internal challenges and overcome obstacles inhibiting their growth. Outside of work, Saturnie values personal time spent with her family and loved ones. Her true passion lies in her role as a professional coach, where she finds fulfillment in assisting women on their journey towards personal and professional growth. Saturnie’s commitment to her clients and her extensive experience, coupled with her excellent coaching skills, allows her to provide comprehensive support to program participants, enabling them to achieve their goals and reach new heights. Under Saturnie’s leadership, the R.I.S.E. UP Program continues to flourish and make a lasting impact on the lives of female entrepreneurs.
Leroy Cunningham
Leroy Cunningham currently occupies the role of Community and Capacity Building Manager at NBIC. He holds a major degree in Business Administration from Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, along with minor degrees in Accounting and Economics. Leroy’s prior engagement with business development consulting brings great strength to the NBIC team. He has worked at three of the largest market capitalization companies in the world – Emerson Electric, General Electric, and Berkshire Hathaway. In his current role as the Community and Capacity Building Manager at NBIC, Leroy wears many hats. One of his primary objectives at NBIC is to increase the number of small minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses qualified to undertake contracts from prime contractors and government entities. By fostering relationships with community partners and engaging with prime contractors and government entities, Leroy works tirelessly to bridge the gap and provide opportunities for these businesses to flourish. Additionally, Leroy dedicates his time to consulting with business owners, providing them with valuable insights and guidance. By helping businesses at their current stage and empowering them to reach their goals, Leroy greatly contributes to the growth and success of NBIC’s clients. Outside of work, Leroy indulges in his love for reading, sports, and travel. With his vast knowledge, dedication, and passion for community empowerment, Leroy is committed to making a meaningful impact at NBIC. His wealth of certifications and global business experience lends a unique perspective and expertise to NBIC’s initiatives, which will undoubtedly drive the organization forward.
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