HONOLULU (KHON2) — Janai Simpson started her catering business during the middle of the pandemic, taking a chance on herself that really paid off.
Her story on how she started her business is unique because it’s something that sort of happened out of necessity to help her community navigate the difficulties of the pandemic.
At the start of the pandemic, she was a manager at Dave and Busters, and although she really loved her job, the pandemic created an opportunity for her to focus on her passion and hobbies and turn it into a new form of work.
“For me, honestly, I wasn’t looking to start a catering business. I was really enjoying being able to be at home like everyone else,” said Simpson.
She said at the beginning of the pandemic Meals on Wheels, an organization that ensures kupuna and others have hot, nutritious meals delivered to their door, paused their catering deliveries in Wahiawa.
Simpson said a lot of disabled veterans relied on Meals on Wheels and she knew she had to do something for them especially during the pandemic.
“Wahiawa was the first city that I moved to when I came to the island and my community had a lot of disabled veterans that would look out for me there,” said Simpson.
She said when their meals stopped, she stepped up and started making the disabled veterans who lived in Wahiawa plates so they could continue to have a home cooked meal and not feel so isolated.
“From there I received an outpour of support from our community and people would literally come to my house and buy plates.”
What started as an act of kindness turned into a part time catering business. Simpson said she continued cooking and catering from home for the next year and a half.
Last Spring, she reached out to Hawaii Small Business Development and was introduced to an advisor who helped her get a location to operate out of and pass the Food Establishment Permit.
She said this month they are officially debuting to the public her new business Infused Soul Catering, a chef-inspired pop-up kitchen that offers tastings onsite and offsite.
However, Simpson said her experience helping the disabled veterans in her community inspired her to do more.
“I still feed veterans every Sunday and we’ve now partnered with a non-profit organization called Water 4 Life, where we meet Saturday mornings to distribute food and water to the less fortunate.”
Simpson credits her recent pandemic success to the wonderful community giving her so much aloha and encouragement to follow her dreams.
“I’m so grateful for this island and the community that has adopted me; what I do now wouldn’t be possible without God, my family and the support of my community.”
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For more information about her Black-owned catering business click right here.