Entrepreneur Profile: Bibby Gignilliat  Founder & Executive Chef, Parties That Cook

Entrepreneur Profile: Bibby Gignilliat Founder & Executive Chef, Parties That Cook

Founder & Executive Chef, Parties That Cook

What it does: Corporate teambuilding cooking events and cooking class parties.
HQ: San Francisco.
2008 revenue: $1.4 million.
employees: Six full-time, 70 contractors.
Founded: 2006.
Source of startup capital: Personal savings, $4,000.
Background: Gignilliat left a corporate career in marketing at Williams-Sonoma to start her formal professional cooking training at Tante Marie's Cooking School. She later taught cooking classes at HomeChef and Tante Marie's.
Age: 48.
Residence: San Francisco.
Web site: PartiesThatCook.com

Big picture

Reason for starting business: I wanted to feed my soul. Nothing brings people together better than cooking and this gives me great joy.
Most difficult part of decision: Giving up a stable career with a great opportunity for growth at Williams-Sonoma, but I knew I'd regret it if I didn't follow my calling.
Biggest plus of ownership: Getting to call all the shots and creating a work environment exactly as I want it. I can come up with ideas and implement them the next day.
Biggest drawback: Having all the responsibility.
Biggest misconception: That it's a huge money-maker.
Biggest business strength: The product itself. Food is the universal language and nothing brings people together better.
Biggest business weakness: In 2007 it was keeping up with the growth because we grew 187 percent that year. This year it's predicting how the economy will impact the business.
Biggest risk: Having a business that is so largely tied to the economy.
Biggest mistake: Forming the company as an LLC versus an S corp. I got hit with a huge tax bill last year.
Smartest move: In our second year we started to offer Kitchen Challenge. It's an Iron Chef-style team building cooking competition and it's our most popular corporate product for team building.
Biggest worry: Not knowing how long the economic downturn will last. It is testing our ingenuity and creativity as a small business though, and we're learning to think outside of the box. So it's a worry, but also an opportunity.
Top source of inspiration: It's really rewarding to see people at the end of events, because our events inspire such confidence and camaraderie.

Daily routine

Most challenging task: I'm not detailoriented, I'm more of a visionary. So anything that involves a lot of details.
Favorite task: I love working with media, PR and marketing. Also recipe development.
Least favorite task: Setting up operational checklists and that type of thing. But I don't really do that anymore.
Biggest frustration: Finding balance. I'm getting better at delegating and setting boundaries.
Source of support in a business crisis: My four-star staff. I'm also in a CEO group.


Key goal yet to achieve: An appearance on Oprah.
First move with capital windfall: Build a kitchen and event space for parties and classes.
Five-year plan: National expansion with new products.
Inducement to sell: The right price.
First choice for new career or venture: Being a social entrepreneur. Offering my services to those in Third World countries (micro-loans) or mentoring young entrepreneurs here in the U.S.


Most-admired entrepreneur: My mentor, Tom Hale (founder of Backroads).
Most interested in meeting: Barack Obama and Steve Jobs.
Stress reducers: Cooking, entertaining, music, walking, yoga, hot bath, travel, movies.
Favorite book: Personally, "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. Businesswise, "E-Myth" by Michael Gerber.
Favorite film: "Once."
Favorite restaurant: Dosa on Fillmore.
Favorite destination: Culver, Ind.
What is on your iPod: Everything from audio books to gospel, soul, lots of world music. I love disco.
Automobile: Mini Cooper S convertible.

— Lisa Metzger Article appeared on February 20, 2009.

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