Chef Oliver Saye grew up cooking and turned that into his career. In 2019 he found a direction for his culinary services after being chosen as a member of that year's Baldwin Leadership Program by the Lancaster County Community Foundation. Chef Oliver created a Baldwin project called "Going Back Home" that examined the roots of the history of his people traced through the food they prepared. This project would be instrumental in a future business plan.
A Chef Who Wears Many Hats
Chef Oliver wears many hats in his work as a chef, educator, historian, and leader in the BIPOC community. The role that fits most naturally for Oliver is that of the historian.
"I have always been a lover of history. I remember being about 9 or 10 years old when my parents got a set of encyclopedias, and I became a sponge. I literally read them all, and that is where my love of history came from, my love of geography came from."
- Chef Oliver Saye
Now, years later, Chef Oliver's love of food comes into the mix to mingle with a love of history and geography. This combination became the basis for his business, homage: Cuisines of the West African Diaspora.
Taking His Business in the Road
In 2021 Chef Oliver decided to take his culinary services mobile. This move would be a significant business decision for homage: Cuisines of the West African Diaspora. Chef reached out to SCORE Lancaster Lebanon for the guidance of a SCORE mentor to assist with the details.
In the City of Lancaster, there is a long list of requirements that need to be met to operate a food truck within City limits. High on that list, "For a mobile food truck applying for a permit for the first time, a business plan for the mobile food truck operation must be submitted." It is a sensible requirement for Oliver's vision, and he needed a SCORE mentor to help him finish building it for the application process.
Working as a Team
SCORE assigned a co-mentoring team for Chef Oliver of Henry Michel as a lead mentor and Beverley Doody to co-mentor. They were pleased to have the opportunity to assist Chef Oliver in completing his business plan and submitting it successfully to the Mobile Food Trucks Committee of the City of Lancaster.
The SCORE mentors met with Chef Oliver to discuss the business plan details that went beyond securing a food truck license.
"To date, the focus has been on getting his food trailer outfitted and wrapped in keeping with his theme and direction, a truck to pull it, and a generator for areas without utilities. We've also focused on lessons learned, numbers, markets, and time management.
“The most significant progress has been made in getting the physical equipment needed for his business. Next up is to plan the transition to full-time."
- Henry Michel, SCORE volunteer mentor
Chef Oliver's next goal is to transition homage: Cuisines of the West African Diaspora to a full-time revenue stream. He is working with his SCORE mentors on achieving that goal. Chef Oliver is already accepting invitations for catering and has branched out to "homage apparel" for additional revenue streams
"Chef Oliver is a very thoughtful and creative individual. He is planning to offer catering services and, in addition to his food presentations, he will present culinary demonstrations (origins of dishes, elements of Black History, and food origins)."
- Henry Michel, SCORE volunteer mentor
Reach Out for Your SCORE Mentor
Chef Oliver suggests that every small business owner would benefit from the help that a free SCORE mentor can offer.
"Sometimes, as a small business owner, there are a lot of things you don't know. I am a chef, so I know how to cook. That's my strong point. I am not the best with finance, and I am sure I am not alone in that. So, I reached out for the help of a SCORE mentor who was a finance expert, and it was a tremendous help."
- Chef Oliver Saye, founder of homage: Cuisines of the West African Diaspora