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Entrepreneur Profile , Lisa Richards

Lisa Richards may have planned every party in high school and college but she didn’t realize until much later that her hobby might turn into a career , and a very successful one at that.

Fueled by the $3,000 borrowed from her husband’s 401(k) , which Richards said has been repaid to the penny , she opened Picnic People, an outdoor special event company, in her home in 1984.

The mother of three generated revenues of $12 million in 2006 through Picnic People, Festivities Catering and TK & A; Custom Catering.

This year, Richards plans to kick off Simcha San Diego Kosher Catering as well as Catering for Cause, a catering service that will offer services at cost to nonprofit organizations based in San Diego County.


VITALS

Name: Lisa Taylor Richards.

Titles: President, owner.

Companies: Picnic People, Festivities Catering, Festivities Express, TK & A; Custom Catering, Simcha San Diego Kosher Catering and Picnic People Services, the franchise division.

Company address: 9558 Camino Ruiz, San Diego.

Company phone: (858) 586-1717.

Year founded: 1979; reopened in 1984.

Prior business experience: Tour guide, event planning.

Average hours worked weekly: 40 to 60 (seasonally).

Source of startup capital: $300 from a friend in 1979; $3,000 from my husband’s 401(k) in 1984.

2006 revenue: $12.1 million.

2005 revenue: $9.6 million.

Number of employees: 100 full time and 550 part time, seasonally employed.

Web site: www.picnicpeoplesandiego.com; www.festivitiescatering.com; www.festivitiesexpress.com; tka_catering.com.


BACKGROUND

Birthplace: Phoenix.

Education: Attended University of San Diego.

Age: 49.

Current residence: University City.

Family: Husband and business partner, Rick; three sons, 25-year-old Brandon, 23-year-old Blake and 18-year-old Taylor; mother-in-law, Betty.

Hobby: Visiting rural Montana for relaxation and nature several times a year.


JUDGMENT CALLS

Reason for getting into business: To pay my Nordstrom’s bill. Picnic People allowed me to be in business at home, coordinating special events, while raising two small boys.

How I plan to grow the business: We are working on our plan to grow our business through niche food catering companies to meet the needs of diverse segments of the catering market.

Biggest plus of business ownership: Family pride, flexibility and meeting the needs of the community in which we work.

Biggest drawback: Not enough time to train for the succession of the business. Someday I will retire!

Biggest business strength: Satisfied clients, because we are in touch and able to relate with consumers to meet their diverse needs.

Biggest business weaknesses: Turnover of part-time seasonal staff; difficulty in finding employees who are at a “party level” and share our passion and commitment.

Biggest risk: Franchising Picnic People nationwide.

Smartest business decision: Expanding strategically through diversification of companies.

Biggest business mistake: Expanding into Los Angeles in the early 1990s.

Toughest career decision: Letting go of parts of the business and hiring great managers.

Biggest ongoing challenge: Ensuring consistency of quality and service that meets my standards and reputation.

The most important part of my business: Hugs and appreciation from satisfied clients.

My business works best when: We are the busiest and communication is flowing.

Best ways to stay competitive: Constantly innovating to remain the leader in the San Diego catering market. Stay ahead of trends and remain properly priced.

How I measure success: Two ways: repeat clients and referrals from our clients and economic return for all the stakeholders in the company.


GOALS

Goals yet to be achieved: In fall 2007, we will launch Catering for Cause, a catering company that will provide services at cost to nonprofit organizations raising money through fund-raisers and events.

My five-year business plan: Working it now; succession planning for a strong and stable company in the future.

I would sell my business only if: The offer was so good that it would benefit every employee in the company and maintain the standards of the individual brands.

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