Skip to main content
U.S. Edition


Return to Transcripts main page


Caterer To The Stars Helps Struggling Charity Caterer

Aired August 20, 2005 - 11:00   ET


ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Next on THE TURNAROUND, she's a caterer with a heart too big for her business.

EMMA TATE, OWNER, CULINARY DELIGHT: I need to choose projects based on making a profit, not because the person can't afford the service.

VELSHI: She's built an empire feeding A-list sell celebs.

MARY MICUCCI, FOUNDER, ALONG CAME MARY PRODUCTIONS: Well, we just did the Grammys for 600,000 people.

VELSHI: Can the caterer to the stars convince this kind hearted cook that charity begins at home?

MICUCCI: She really needs to stop losing money.


The perfect party, a crisp and efficient business meeting, a successful and celebratory get together, each occasion depends on keeping the guests happy, and that usually means keeping them fed. It's a job that increasingly falls to a caterer. In fact, the catering business is an exploding segment of the food industry, with revenues reaching $4 billion annually but not everyone in the business is getting a full portion.

(on camera): I'm Ali Velshi in Los Angeles. Now, this is a city that knows how to throw a party, whether it's a high-profile Hollywood event or something more intimate for friends and family. Well, we're going to introduce a small business woman whose been struggling with her catering business to one of L.A.'s most high-profile caterers and we'll see if after three days they can't work up a turnaround.

E. TATE: My name is Emma Tate and I'm the owner of Culinary Delight Catering.

VELSHI (voice-over): Emma Tate operates a small catering business in L.A.'s Baldwin Hills neighborhood. Her dream of making a living cooking food began 21 years ago, sort of as a hobby.

E. TATE: We started as a restaurant for my sisters, my mom and I to be together and just have fun.

VELSHI: They had fun and lots of loyal customers until tragedy struck in the form of breast cancer.

E. TATE: My sisters became ill, one by one, and were unable to work, and eventually, passed away. Then I was diagnosed with cancer.

VELSHI: Despite the chain of tragedy close to her, Emma beat the disease. She's been cancer free for five years now. A survivor, she finds great meaning in giving something back.

E. TATE: My mom is 94, and I asked her one day, why was I still here, why was I the only one God left out of all of them? And she said maybe he left me here to help other people.

VELSHI: That's what Emma's determined to do. She now devotes much of her time to charity, not outside of her work hours, but during them, because Emma often caters to clients who can't pay full price.

E. TATE: Well, I work seven days a week and I average over 60 hours a week. It's sort of turned into a ministry. I feed a lot of women that are cancer survivors that are single parents. I provide meals for a lot of foster parents. So I can't seem to distinguish between feeding them and getting so personally involved with them, you know.

VELSHI: The line between charity and business has become blurred and Emma realizes that her giving impulses are a liability. She's tried to change that, recently changing the name of her business to attract a new clientele, one that hasn't come to count on Emma's generosity.

(on camera): I know your end goal is you'd like to do better at it and you'd like to build a better business. Do you have a sense of the specifics that you can identify that you need to change?

E. TATE: I think I need to approach it more from a business standpoint of view. I think I need to choose projects based on making a profit not because a person can't afford the service, but they need it.

VELSHI (voice-over): Despite jobs preparing regular meals for a school and an Internet company, she has few full-paying clients. During a busy month, the business brings in about $8,000 before expenses. Slower months dwindle down to about $2,500. That's not even enough to cover her basic operating expenses. Emma's dream? Enough corporate customers to generate a six-figure income.

E. TATE: Corporate is more simple. They have a year-round budget, so you're kind of guaranteed work.

VELSHI: To drum up that kind of business, Emma needs help.

E. TATE: I'm always open to learning. Even at this age, I think I can still grow.

VELSHI: Mary Micucci agrees. As founder of L.A.'s legendary Along Came Mary Productions, she is well equipped to take on the challenge of mentoring Emma. MICUCCI: We just did the Grammys for 600,000 people and we've done parties for 14,000 people and 18,000 people.

VELSHI: Thirty years ago, Mary started catering out of the back of a Volkswagen Bug. She grew it into a booming business famous for throwing the hottest parties in Hollywood.

MICUCCI: Oscar events, celebrity weddings.

VELSHI: Along Came Mary generates an annual revenue of $10 million, regularly catering events for Paramount, Universal and Sony Studios, as well as various Fortune 500 companies. Mary is about to bring her proven business savvy to bear with Emma Tate.

Day one of the turnaround, Emma knows her mentor is on the way.


E. TATE: Hi!

MICUCCI: How are you?

E. TATE: Fine. How are you?

MICUCCI: I bear gifts.

E. TATE: Oh, thank you. How kind.

VELSHI: Emma doesn't realize who she's just met until Mary literally hands her a clue.

MICUCCI: It's Along Came Mary cookies and zucchini bread and little desserts.

VELSHI (on camera): And this is the famous Mary of Along Came Mary.

E. TATE: Oh, no! I've heard of you for ages.

MICUCCI: Have you? Honey, I've been around for ages.

E. TATE: I wasn't saying that to say you were old. I just -- I've read different things about her and the type of events that she does but I never dreamed that I would ever meet her.

VELSHI: Why don't you show Mary around, and you guys can...


VELSHI: ... start talking about the business?

MICCUCI: OK, terrific. Thank you.

VELSHI (voice-over): But as Mary takes the tour, she's not only looking at what Emma might do with her space, she's also searching to see whether or not there's a business woman hiding behind that sweet personality. What really concerns Mary is Emma's charity work. E. TATE: I got so caught up into that last year because I was in all of these different cancer networks, and they give $50, you know...


E. TATE: ... to feed maybe 25 people and then what would you like? And oh, we'd like dinner. We like chicken, and we want vegetables. We want, you know, starch. We want desserts. We want this. OK, you've spent way over $50.

MICUCCI: It's constantly going into your own pocket. You're giving it away. And you're never going to catch up unless you learn the word "N-O".

VELSHI: Tough advice and it's only the start. Coming up, a big assignment for Emma.

MICUCCI: We've come up with a three-step business plan.

VELSHI: And Mary reveals her strategy to increase profits fast, next on THE TURNAROUND.




VELSHI (voice-over): Welcome back to THE TURNAROUND. Just moments ago, Emma Tate met her mentor, Mary Micucci, caterer to the stars. After looking at Emma's work area, Mary identified the tools that Emma needs to grow her business.

MICUCCI: The first step is to build a network, very important. And to do that, we would put together an advisory board.

E. TATE: That's new to me and it's interesting.

VELSHI: As Mary explains, any business, big or small, can benefit from having an advisory board. She tells Emma to think about the board as not only a source of advice, but as a business development tool.

MICUCCI: An advisory board is a group of professionals that would talk about networking strategies for you, profit goals for you, where you would like to see yourself in the next three months, six months, a year, and how they can reinforce those goals.

VELSHI: The board will consist of Mary, along with her company's president and two experts from the outside, the editor of "Special Events" magazine, a popular catering resource, and the president of the L.A. chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. But the board is incomplete. If she embraces the idea, Emma's first assignment will be to come up with someone she trusts to be part of the board. MICUCCI: The next step to our three-step business plan is to create a sales plan. It's to hire a commissioned salesperson or salespersons. Right now, you are chef, cook and bottle washer. You do it all and you need to free yourself up a little bit to do what it is that you do best. One last thing.

E. TATE: Yes?

MICUCCI: We need to organize your food production because when you go into a space and you're doing a party for 500 people or 1,000 people, you need to have some real organization skills in place.

VELSHI: To help Emma get organized, Mary brings in her vice president of catering, Bill Starbuck; the man Mary calls her company's secret weapon.


VELSHI (on camera): What are the kind of things that you see that you're going to be thinking about? And what's your role in the next day or so?

STARBUCK: Make up some space, planning ideas for her kitchen to make it work effectively, give her some ideas on different food preparation, which should be done here and there, you know, to make it easier. Maybe work on some quantities and percentages with you, so you're profitable, and make some ideas on presentation or displaying your food, packaging -- you know, are you packaging the right items? Are you spending too much time maybe packaging a cupcake that doesn't travel well? Are you doing it at the last minute or something like that? Do you something -- whether cookies or brownies or other desert items that are just as good but you can do those two days ahead of time. You're not doing everything to the last minute.

VELSHI (voice-over): It's clear that Bill Starbuck will be a fountain of ideas during this turnaround and Emma is eager to hear more.

E. TATE: I am going to learn from Bill a lot of tricks that I didn't know of about prepping in advance, saving time, which will save labor costs.

VELSHI: In Bill's mind, organization equals efficiency, which translates into higher profit potential. The next step is getting better clients.

(on camera): Let's flesh out this idea about this commissioned salesperson. What would they be called upon to do?

MICUCCI: They would be called upon to make cold calls. You have a corporate clientele. Maybe that's where we direct this person because we don't want the 20-person jobs anymore. We want the jobs that will be more lucrative.

STARBUCK: Because you want somebody that does at least have a passion for food to be around food.

VELSHI (voice-over): Greater efficiency, better clients and a board to keep an eye on Emma's month-to-month income will enable her to be charitable and profitable.

(on camera): It seems to me that your caring and big heart has, unfortunately, become your reputation. And I don't mean that in a bad way, but it's hampered your business.

MICUCCI: You're right on. And you might go through a little bit of withdrawal about this, but we're certainly not, in any way, telling you to stop your charitable work. Where you have to be aware is that if you're spending too much money and taking away too much profit from your overall business. And only you can make those decisions.

E. TATE: I think with Mary, she will teach me how to say no.

VELSHI: Well, as day 1oneof this three-day turnaround comes to a close, we find that our small business owner and our mentor share a passion for food and for people, except our mentor makes a lot of money in the catering business and our small business owner is in danger of giving everything she makes away because she's so charitable.

Well, our mentor has given our small business owner a couple of tasks tomorrow as part of this effort to make her business more profitable. She needs to come up with a couple of names to serve on an advisory board to help her make better decisions and maybe get better clients. And speaking about better clients, she's also got to think about hiring someone on a commission basis to go out there and sell her product.

(voice-over): Coming up, going cold turkey on charity work proves tough for Emma.

E. TATE: I'm doing it on the down-low.

MICUCCI: She really needs to stop losing money.





VELSHI (voice-over): Ten thirty a.m. Day two of the turnaround. Emma Tate, the owner of Culinary Delight, arrives at Viewpark Charter School in L.A.'s Crenshaw District.

E. TATE: A lot of them are going to ask for extra cheese. They're going to ask for extra meat.

VELSHI (on camera): Emma's job today is catering two full shifts of lunch at a local school. This is the kind of job she does a lot of. It's not the kind that makes her a lot of money, but it's the kind that really makes her happy.

E. TATE: Two beef, two turkey. Anybody want beans? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

E. TATE: You guys never eat your vegetables.

VELSHI (voice-over): Emma loves these kids and keeps a watchful eye over many of them. Her commitment to them goes well beyond serving food.

E. TATE: This one little girl there and I know she was going through the court system and she didn't know where she was going to sleep, you know, from night to night. And she -- excuse me for getting emotional. But she said to me, "Miss Emma, I made the honor roll." And I was so busy. I was unable to give her a hug or acknowledge her at that time. So, I went on the Internet that night and I ordered her this thing that all the other kids that do have money have.

VELSHI: Emma even gives some of the students their lunch virtually for free, despite the obvious downside to her company.

E. TATE: I'm doing it on the down-low because there are students there that they -- you know, they want to be on the program. They can't afford to.

MICUCCI: But she really needs to stop losing money.

VELSHI: Emma's mentor, Along Came Mary founder Mary Micucci, says Emma is going to need to control her charitable impulses.

MICUCCI: She's just so lovely and sweet, just the goals that she has, you know, about helping people and about wanting to -- earnestly wanting to make more money, but I think she's stuck in terms of how to do that.

VELSHI: Emma's giving is just one of two major problems. Even without the giveaways, she isn't running a particularly efficient operation. So, to get help on both fronts, she's off to visit the caterer to the stars.

MICUCCI: This is our main kitchen. And we're getting ready for a big event this weekend for 2,500 people and we're making thousands of little mini burgers.

E. TATE: So organized.

MICUCCI: You know I think we're a well-oiled machine, thank God, but it took a long time to get there.

VELSHI: Vice President of Catering Bill Starbuck joins Mary and Emma to pick up where he left off yesterday.

MICUCCI: He's just an extraordinary chef and he's extremely organized. VELSHI: Bill starts by asking Emma how much she charges per person for a typical sit-down dinner.

E. TATE: Maybe $35, $40. VELSHI: But that $35 or $40 includes everything, from food to wait staff, to rentals. And that's not typical in the catering industry.

MICUCCI: We have to help you change that. Thirty-five to $40 a menu is tight for a sit-down dinner. I don't even know how you're breaking even on that stuff.

E. TATE: It's just that the customers that I have basically are existing customers that I've had and I don't think they would go for a markup.

MICUCCI: Well, that's a part of what you're, you know, hiring a commissionable salesperson hopefully will do for you, is to bring in a new clientele to be able to charge the prices that you really should be charging to turn a profit in your company.

VELSHI: But saving money is often about simple things. While they're talking about pricing, Emma notices something interesting.

E. TATE: When you did your onions, you didn't peel the skin off.

STARBUCK: Because we use it for stock. It gives them more flavor, richness in stock.


STARBUCH: And also, you don't need to buy as much because you're utilizing a 100 percent of the product because the skins are all flavors.

E. TATE: And you also use the tops of the celery?

STARBUCK: The celery, of course. One percent usage of product and less labor. But this is our turkey. It's dark meat with 15 to 18 percent fat.

E. TATE: So this would be less expensive than breast?

STARBUCK: Right. And it's also going to be juicer.

E. TATE: But juicier not as dry? I've been wasting money because I buy the breasts and add olive oil.

VELSHI: While Along Came Mary is a much larger operation, Bill says Emma can use similar strategies to increase efficiency -- some Emma could use starting tomorrow when she puts together 100 boxed lunches for one of her paying jobs.

STARBUCK: The famous rolling table, like we have one over there, that you can put next to your stove and you use it when you're, you know, cooking and prepping instead of turning and walking. And like, you've got your boxed lunches coming up; you can create an assembly line. You're not going back and forth and keep on moving around. You have a nice, long flow. E. TATE: Just the time that I spent with them today, I learned so much about saving time, also about substituting foods that will satisfy the customer but would also cost less. He was wonderful.

VELSHI: But it's only the start. Coming up, the celebrity caterers reveal more cost cutting secrets. Plus, Mary's partner doesn't mince words with his Emma.

JANE DOWNS, PRESIDENT, ALONG CAME MARY PRODUCTIONS: If people cannot pay, they should go away.




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNNHN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. THE TURNAROUND with Ali Velshi continues in 60 seconds, but first, a check of headlines "Now in the News".

Top Defense Department officials are working this weekend, testifying right now at a hearing in Washington on closure and downsizing of American military bases. The fate of hundreds of facilities is at stake. The panel will vote next week on each part of a plan proposed by the Pentagon.

Friends and relatives of a pregnant woman who went missing last month in Philadelphia are grieving the discovery of her body this morning. And police say they've charged LaToyia Figueroa's former boyfriend with murder in connection with her death. Stephen Poaches reportedly was wearing a bulletproof vest and was carrying a pistol when he was arrested. Stay with CNN for more on this developing story.

The first major airline strike since 1998 is under way, but Northwest Airlines says it plans to fly its usual schedule with replacement workers filling in for more than 5,000 union mechanics. They walked off the job yesterday over failed contract talks. Mechanics who survived job cuts under the proposed deal would have faced a cut of about 25 percent in salary.

Weather keeps delaying Space Shuttle Discovery on its journey home to Florida. It's now grounded in Louisiana. It happened overnight. It's waiting for a piggy back ride on a 747 tomorrow. The shuttle returned from space by landing in California due to low clouds and lightning.

More news coming up in about 30 minutes. THE TURNAROUND with Ali Velshi continues right now. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VELSHI (on camera): It's day two of this three-day turnaround; our small business owner is Emma Tate. She runs a catering business from her home. Our mentor is Mary Micucci and she runs one of Los Angeles' biggest catering operations. It's called Along Came Mary. This is Mary's kitchen. Emma was here earlier learning how to do things better with her food, how to make her operations more efficient and how to save some money. Now, it's time for her to get out of the kitchen and into the office.

STARBUCK: You name it, it's in the computer.

VELSHI: Along Came Mary's Vice President of Catering Bill Starbuck, sits down with Emma to show her some of his money-saving secrets -- the first, a piece of menu pricing software that adjusts any menu to any budget.

STARBUCK: See, I put all sorts of information in -- beef, what it is and how much it weighs. And that gives me a price. Now, if you have all your food in there already, and you change your guest count, it multiples it all out for you.

VELSHI (on camera): So the idea is if you've got a real running sense of where your costs are running lower or higher, and you make the necessary adjustments?

STARBUCK: Correct.

VELSHI (voice-over): If the menu goes over budget, all Emma would have to do is exchange one vegetable for another, switch the cut of meet, or choose a different dessert. The possibilities are endless. The software guarantees that each guest still gets a healthy portion of good food, and at the same time, it protects Emma's bottom line. Another way for Emma to save money is to provide smaller portions of food when she's serving a double entree meal.

STARBUCK: Boneless skinless, they're high price. You know what's a good thing to do, instead of getting six ounces, one per every person, because it's a double entree, people -- I've seen a little bit of this, why don't we get seven ounces and cut them in half.

E. TATE: Cut them in half, how?

STARBUCK: After they're cooked, on an angle. If we do it at an angle, it still gives the appearance that it's bigger.

VELSHI: Most importantly, Emma needs to know how to limit her costs to keep them from eating up too much of the price that she charges for each meal.

E. TATE: What percent do you need to be at to make a decent profit?

STARBUCK: Fifty percent.

VELSHI: A caterer's profit should be 50 percent of the per plate cost that they charge the customer, but extra services, like wait staff and rentals shouldn't be part of the per plate calculation. Those costs should be passed directly to the client. But that's not how Emma has been thinking about an upcoming event.

E. TATE: It's 250 people but their budget for it is just $9,000. They want a sit-down dinner but they want everything out of that $9,000.

VELSHI: They can have everything out of that $9,000. Bill shows Emma how to give the client everything and still lock in a decent profit.

STARBUCK: How much money are you budgeted for labor, dollar wise? Out of that...

E. TATE: Twenty-five hundred dollars.

STARBUCK: Twenty-five hundred dollars. So, you have $9,000 you're bringing in, correct? You're budgeting out $2,500 for labor. So that leaves you $6,500.

E. TATE: To work with.

STARBUCK: And how much are you going to budget for rentals for that?

E. TATE: Rentals right now are running about $1,275.

VELSHI: After removing the cost of the wait staff and rentals, Emma is left with $5,225, which she divides by the number of guests. That gives her, her per-plate charge.

STARBUCK: You have $21 per person.

VELSHI: Twenty dollars and 90 cents to be exact. Half of that should be Emma's cost. The other half is her profit. If she prices the event this way, Emma could make more than $2,600 on this $9,000 job. Now that Emma knows how to correctly price her meals, Along Came Mary President Jane Downs, is going to advise her on building a clientele who can buy those meals.

DOWNS: What makes you take business?

E. TATE: A lot of them are referrals and a lot of them are friends, and a lot are events that I've done for such a long period of time and I do them annually.

DOWNS: Do you ever say no?

E. TATE: Rarely.

DOWNS: I'm here to teach you how to say no. Maybe you could be more productive for yourself and actually be more profitable if maybe there were some guidelines on how you qualify people.

VELSHI: By qualifying clients, Jane means determining whether they have reasonable expectations and can afford the service before Emma accepts the job.

E. TATE: She says some things are not worth doing, you know, and she explained why. She said, "Why would you take a job that you're going to only make $100 from, that's going to take you over 80 hours to prepare for?" If you divide all of those hours into the $100, you're not even making minimum wage.

VELSHI: While Jane applauds Emma's generosity, she knows there are some steps Emma can take to help protect her business.

(on camera): Emma has a certain expectation with her existing clients. She has not said no and has said yes so many times and done so many of these things that she has found herself in a bit of a bind.

(voice-over): Jane tells Emma she needs to start charging her clients for all the extras, like staffing, dinnerware, paper products, the cost of delivery, things that Emma doesn't currently itemize. And what about those other requests that clients don't want to pay for?

E. TATE: The event itself doesn't start until 5:00, but she wants the table set at 9:00.

DOWNS: I can't even relate to it because it's such an unrealistic request.

E. TATE: It doesn't make sense.

DOWNS: You have to charge for that because what staff wants to come...


DOWNS: No, because what staff wants to come and work for an hour, leave and come back?

VELSHI (on camera): The danger is, as Emma inflates her prices a little bit, some customers will go away.

DOWNS: If people cannot pay, they should go away.

E. TATE: She explained that along the way, I'm going to lose customers, but the customers that I lose are not worth having so not to regret it, you know.

DOWNS: No is going to be a new part of your vocabulary.

VELSHI (voice-over): Emma's meetings with Bill and Jane have helped her tackle one part of her turnaround plan, organizing her food production and learning how to price correctly.

Coming up, tomorrow, Mary sees Emma in action.

E. TATE: I am nervous. This ought to be probably not a very restful night.

VELSHI: An unexpected glitch as Emma prepares to cater an event.

E. TATE: The more I call, the more stressed I became.

VELSHI: The final day of the turnaround next.



VELSHI (on camera): I'm Ali Velshi in Los Angels. It's day three of this turnaround and we are at the Crenshaw Christian Center. It's home to the 10,000 seat Faith Dome and today, it's home to exactly the kind of community service event that our small business owner caters to.

Now, yesterday, Emma Tate got tips from her mentor, tips on controlling her food cost, tips on locking in her profit when she prices an event so she makes enough money on it and, most importantly, tips on how to say no to those jobs that just don't pay. Well, today, she's doing this event under the watchful eye of her mentor and she's a bit worried about whether she'll be able to take those tips and turn them into action.

(voice-over): Eight thirty a.m. on Emma Tate's big day. She's already been up for hours, preparing boxed lunches for a big crowd. Her mentor, celebrity cater, Mary Micucci, will be there to watch her.

E. TATE: I don't think it's going to be easy for me.

VELSHI: Culinary Delight, Emma's company, is catering a special event, hosted by "Real Men Cook." It's a charity that today is promoting the early detection of prostate cancer. The first 100 men to show up for a free screening get a complimentary boxed lunch.


E. TATE: Yes, please.

VELSHI: Emma is also providing an additional meal for the doctors and volunteers. With close to 200 people to feed, she's determined to follow some of the advice she got on day two.

E. TATE: The cookies were counted and bagged in advance. The mayonnaise and the mustard were prepared in advance.

VELSHI: So this morning all she has to do is assemble sandwiches and she planned to use some of Bill's efficiency advice here as well.

E. TATE: We wanted to do it on an assembly line. So, we scheduled four people to do it.

VELSHI: But there's a problem. One of her most dependable employees is a no show.

E. TATE: We've been worried sick. We didn't know what had happened to you.

VELSHI: Typical for Emma, she's more concerned with the woman's well-being than with the staffing challenge created by her absence.

E. TATE: Thank you, honey. Bye. I was hoping nothing had happened to her. And the more I called, the more stressed I became. So, it was kind of difficult.

VELSHI: Despite the setback, Emma's tiny crew still manages to finish all the food. They even add a special touch, powder blue ribbons to symbolize the fight against prostate cancer. Emma's husband, Ron, helps pack up the meals. He knows his wife still has a hard time putting business before charity. As they get ready, it happens again.

E. TATE: We had food left over and I suggested that we give it to the men that are going to be screened today because a lot of times they have approached me and said that they were hungry. And his comment was, oh, here we go again.

RON TATE, EMMA'S HUSBAND: A lot of her friends tell her "Emma, you can't do business with your heart." You know I tell her all the time.

VELSHI: With the car packed, it's time for Emma to hurry to the event site.

E. TATE: As I was pulling off to go to Crenshaw Christian Center, I knew I was behind schedule. I was supposed to be there at 10:00.

VELSHI: Luckily, the screening runs behind schedule as well. The Culinary Delight team has just enough time to get set up and get in place as the men start lining up for lunch.

As Emma oversees the operation, she's considering the lessons of this turnaround. The biggest one is that the more money she keeps, the more she can give away. Up until now, Emma has been a confused version of Robin Hood, stealing from herself to give to the poor.

(on camera): Is there something emerging here in terms of figuring out that you could probably follow your heart and make some money out of this or maybe be even more helpful because the business can generate more money?

E. TATE: Yes. After speaking to Mary yesterday, she said once you get the business on track with new clients and make more money, then you will be able to help but even more so.

R. TATE: Well, you know, I have been telling her this for 30 years. Yes. So yes, it was good to hear it from somebody else and maybe she'll listen. She thinks I'm just being mean. They have to pay for those services. They're not free. It's business. It's not personal.

VELSHI (voice-over): Two o'clock, the mentor arrives.


VELSHI: With Mary are three members of the new Culinary Delight advisory board, the group that can really focus Emma's networking efforts, Along Came Mary president, Jane Downs and two others. MICUCCI: I'd like to introduce you to two wonderful ladies. This is Teri.

VELSHI: Teri Bialoski heads up the L.A. chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

MICUCCI: And this is Lisa.

VELSHI: Lisa Hurley is the editor of "Special Events" magazine.

MICUCCI: So how did it go? Did you come away with any helpful hints from your meeting with Bill yesterday?

E.TATE: Oh, so many.


E. TATE: He was so generous.

STARBUCK: It's a boxed lunch. Have you thought of doing anything special like -- is there a color associated with this?

E. TATE: The color for prostate cancer is light blue and I just made the little bow and it looked beautiful. And I mean, he's just bubbling over with ideas.

MICUCCI: He gets it from me.


VELSHI: Emma introduces her husband, Ron, along with her choice for the advisory board.

E. TATE: This is my girlfriend, Laura.

MICUCCI: Hi, Laura, nice to meet you. I'm Mary.


MICUCCI: Nice to meet you.

VELSHI: Laura is a social worker by profession and she's someone Emma knows well and trusts, a woman who will support Emma and not be shy about giving her the story straight.

E. TATE: She doesn't feel that any question is a dumb question. If she has something to say, she's going to say it.

VELSHI: Coming up, the group heads to a conference room for Emma's first advisory board meeting.

E. TATE: All sorts of scary things going through my head, you know.





VELSHI (voice-over): Two twenty p.m. Emma and Ron Tate, mentor Mary Micucci, and a team of advisers are on the grounds of the Crenshaw Christian Center where Emma just catered a community health event. They head to a conference room at the center, which will be the final stop in this three-day turnaround. Everyone takes a seat for a meeting that represents the successful completion of Emma's first assignment, creating an advisory board.

(on camera): When I first heard you suggest this idea, I thought, well, that's unusual for a small business to have this sort of power gathering here, but it's a fascinating idea. What do you do with it?

MICUCCI: Advisory boards, they conjure up in your head, oh my goodness, the only place you can have an advisory board is in a big, corporate arena. That's not so.

We thought that this would be a good thing, to put together a group of people that come from different fields that can bring something to the table to talk about various issues: networking, profitability, your business plan, where you would like to see yourself in six months or a year, how you can break through to start actually making some money, saying no to certain things, so you just say no.

VELSHI (voice-over): At Mary's request, Emma has brought in her own adviser for the board. She's Laura King, a county social worker and a trusted friend.

KING: Her food is quality food.

MICUCCI: First, we would like to meet monthly. And then, as you grasp some of these ideas and start to make the changes, maybe we change to a quarterly system.

E. TATE: I have sat in on other advisory board meetings, but they weren't mine. So, this is like, you know, more exciting, because, I mean, thinking this is for me.

MICUCCI: You have a small niche of clients and we need to break through that so you can start to align yourself with a different clientele. We need to get you a little bit away from the old ways and into the new.

VELSHI: The key to that, Mary says, is networking. Board member Terri Bialoski knows how critical it is to make connections. One of her organizations' central purposes is to build networks between women-owned businesses.

TERI BIALOSKI, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF WOMEN BUSINESS OWNERS: In terms of the networking, people will tell you they've seen me drag somebody across the room at one of our events by the sleeve, introducing them to somebody else. You two need to meet. You have similar businesses. Gee, I understand you're hosting an event. Well, here's a terrific caterer.

VELSHI: The meeting now turns to step two in Emma's turnaround, hiring a commissioned salesperson.

MICUCCI: That way, she's not putting out any more money until business starts to come in.

VELSHI: Emma says her friend, Laura, is qualified for the role.

KING: Maybe set a monetary goal, like, you know, I want to make X amount of dollars.

VELSHI: A salesperson will sell Emma, along with her food -- clearly something Emma is not comfortable doing herself.

E. TATE: I have had people come up to me and ask me -- and they say, are you Emma Tate? And I'll say yes. And they say, are you a good cook? And I said, I don't know.

LISA HURLEY, EDITOR, "SPECIAL EVENTS" MAGAZINE: Emma, we're going to work on self-esteem.


E. TATE: It's very important for me to have a salesperson to toot my horn and to say that I am good at what I do because I can't do it.

VELSHI: The final step in the plan, improving Culinary Delight's food organization to cut costs. Since Emma covered that with Bill Starbuck the day before, it's time to tackle what everyone agrees is her biggest weakness, her non-stop giving.

MICUCCI: It's your right to make a profit.

HURLEY: Probably, the most generous thing you could do would be to have a business so profitable that you could give somebody a job, a good job.

VELSHI: Here, Lisa opens a window on a world where making profits and doing good works can go hand in hand. Emma gets it and she's about to prove it.

E. TATE: I have decided to let the school go. VELSHI: Emma is talking about the school where she caters lunch regularly and those kids she loves so much. But it's unprofitable, so she's letting it go. And with that tough decision, Emma signals that this turnaround has really taken hold.

(on camera): What's that message that you're taking away?

E. TATE: You're probably going to say that I don't know how to say no.

VELSHI: And do you now? E. TATE: I am going to learn, yes.

VELSHI (voice-over): The mentor feels her work is done.

MICUCCI: I cannot tell you how wonderful it's been meeting you. You're kind. You're generous. You're loving. You just need to put into effect new systems and think a little bit differently and you'll be flying high. You'll be doing great. But I thank you, we all do, I think you've been a -- I think you've touched all of us.

VELSHI (on camera): By the time we wrap all this up and get out of here, we should probably have a date for the next time you guys are having your meeting.


VELSHI: The advisory board dinner.


E.TATE: Oh, no.

VELSHI: The minute word gets out about that.

E.TATE: Make Mary cook it.


VELSHI (voice-over): Her business may grow, but everyone here is sure that success won't change the size of Emma Tate's heart.

E. TATE: Even if I were to become rich, I would still be the same person. You know, I don't think it would change me. It would be nice in the sense that I could give on a larger scale, like Mary said, which is a great feeling.

VELSHI: Well, at the end of this three-day turnaround, it's clear that one of the goals has been accomplished, and that is to convince Emma Tate to say no to some business. Emma was taking on too many jobs that just didn't pay enough money.

She's got to turn some of those away. She's also learned how to price her food better. And she's learned that this is a business that's depended on word of mouth, on networking, so she's going to use this network that she's developed to get more business.

As we leave L.A., we leave with the faith that Emma Tate is getting ready to serve up a turnaround. I'm Ali Velshi. See you next time.



CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNNAvantGo Ad Info About Us Preferences
© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines