My name is Ginger, I am a passionate follower of Jesus, a wife, mother of two amazing teenagers, and I have 3 fur babies, Henry, Max and Gracie the house bunny. And these are also my priorities, in that order. Jesus first, because without Him AOTM would not be here today. People frequently ask, How in the world did you come up with the concept of a cooking school and how are you so successful?! When I reveal that, I do not advertise….AT ALL, their expressions reveal their surprise and disbelief. I often dd that when I have advertised in the past, it was a big fail.
But I’m getting ahead of myself…
In 2009 I was living on a small farm in Mont Belvieu, TX. Married, homeschooling my kids and “living the dream,” if you will. I wanted to, and did, project the image of the perfect Martha Stewart wife and mother. Working on the farm, cooking from scratch, tending the garden and chickens, even milking my cow, Mabel, and in general exuding the quiet (and lethal) pride of a life of which many can only dreamt. However, as the Scriptures say “First pride, then the crash – the bigger the ego, the harder the fall” (Proverbs 16:18). So it was with me. Over 2 years’ time, and many, many poor decisions on my part, I lost my husband, my kids and my home. (Pause and let that register for a few seconds).
Sparing you the ugly details of the next several years, I found myself redeemed, restored and renewed by 2011. My family was still lost to me, but The Lord, in His mercy provided me with a loving husband, stable home and a renewed relationship with my precious children. I found myself, at that time searching for my purpose and passion in life. Something that would please The Lord, a way for me to do something that was a good fit for me and the talents He had provided. As I was searching, I began to pray. I had quite the criteria. It went something like this, “ Lord, I want to serve You, I would like a job that is close to home, that we can do as a family, that uses the talents You gave me and something that pleases You.” And then I waited, and waited and waited.
I had said FOR YEARS I would love to have a restaurant or a bakery, always incurring an emphatic NO from my family (they would never see me, who would feed them, etc.). So…on a whim, one night, I suggested we go take a cooking class in downtown Houston for a fun date night. We had a great time and a great meal. However, what I found most intriguing was that the couple we were seated next to were from our city, our part of town, our own neighborhood! And I began to think how far we had driven that night to attend the class, and the thought occurred to me we had nothing like that on our side of town. By the time we reached the car, the Kitchen-Aid mixer in my head (love this!) was already churning. I turned to my husband, Dean, and said, “You know, I could do that.” And…waited. Being the encourager he is, he agreed, and so my journey began. I spent the next 3 months scouring the internet for other cooking schools. And to my surprise I found a great number of them scattered all over the United States and around the world. I looked for things like how long had they been in business, what types of classes and events did they offer? What were they charging? How many had closed down? It was interesting, as I had never owned a business before and really had no idea where to start. I leaned on the Lord for direction and He led the way as I listened. It was a great journey on the road to what faith really looks like in my life.
I spent the majority of my time focusing on the reviews of the other businesses. I was really interested to see what people enjoyed about the classes. I wanted to know their likes and dislikes and what the cooking schools could do better. That was the beginning of my business plan. So, having never owned a business like that before, or any other for that matter, I had a good idea already of what people wanted. I also took into consideration that we were not in downtown, but in the ‘burbs’, if you will. So our demographic really came into play in terms of the types of cuisine that would be popular, and the best hosting dates and times for successful classes.
After amassing my spreadsheet, and consulting the Lord and my husband, I had the go ahead to begin to search for a property. That in itself was an education in the expense of starting your own business! Most of the restaurant properties we looked at were in need of major renovation, and the non-restaurant spaces would require a huge investment to build a kitchen area that complied with the health and city codes. It seemed as though each one had its own problems or exorbitant price point. Then one day we happened upon an unimproved space in a great area of Nassau Bay. We called our realtor and looked at it, he told us the buildout would be upwards of $100,000. I thought at that time well, ok, we will keep looking. And we did, for several weeks. Then surprisingly one day about a month later we received a call from the realtor and he told us that the landlord would like to meet with us, that he liked my business plan. My thinking was well, that’s great, but there is still the whole money issue, but I prayed on it, and we went off to our meeting. The day we met with him, he told us that he would pay for 80% of the buildout if we were ready to sign a lease.
As far as I was concerned that was a concrete answer to all my prayers. So we signed, built, opened and got really busy. It has definitely been a journey in faith. As such, I always tell people I do not advertise. I pray, The Lord sends the people He wants to be here right through the front door and we are blessed. Not one person steps foot in AOTM that has not been prayed over personally by me.
As Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.”