When we visit our favorite restaurant, most of us think of our favorite menu item and how delicious it will taste the minute it arrives at the table, only to leave with our stomachs full and our spirits, fuller.
But if you’re Leigh Williams, you’re thinking of every step that has to happen before that meal hits the table. You’re thinking of how to ensure that restaurant continues its daily operations smoothly.
Put simply, you’re thinking of how to keep that restaurant in business.
With over fifteen years of experience in food service, Leigh knows a thing or two about the food industry. She began her journey as a server at Ruby Tuesday’s roughly twenty years ago and appreciated how it put her out of her comfort zone.
After some self-discovery, she made the conscious decision to plunge headfirst into the restaurant industry, taking a new job with Einstein Bros. Bagels. And while she enjoyed turning a struggling location into a successful one, the early morning hours were not feasible with a family. So, Leigh uprooted from Atlanta to Fort Wayne, where her sister also resided. Before long, she joined the team at Fazoli’s in Fort Wayne, aligning herself with a district manager who valued working women and the balancing act of raising a family and working.
“I knew I loved what I did,” she admitted. “But working 12-hour days and sacrificing time with my family was challenging.”
Eventually, after finding a new role at a coffee shop in downtown Fort Wayne that worked better with her schedule, Leigh began to find her footing. With a wealth of knowledge and experience in the industry, she discovered a career in restaurant consulting seemed like the perfect fit for someone with her background – and that’s when she enrolled at Ivy Tech Fort Wayne’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts Program. While attending her classes, she received an email from the college inquiring about her interest in running a business.
“Restaurant consulting at the time was only an idea,” she shared. “I had no idea how to make it come to life.”
Enter: The Garatoni School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, where Everything In Place was born.
Everything In Place, Leigh’s restaurant consulting business, officially launches this June. The business became an official Limited Liability Company (LLC) back in December and earlier this year, she pitched her business to two judges who had previously visited the class and would consider funding aspects of the business. As a result, Leigh secured $750 dollars that she has since put towards marketing efforts for the LLC.
“There is a need for restaurant consulting in Northeast Indiana,” she told us. “My focus is independent restaurants and mom and pop shops. These businesses have the biggest opportunity for growth but also the biggest opportunity for failure.”
When Leigh graduates this summer, she looks forward to putting 100% of her time to her business and diving into the food scene in Fort Wayne, especially coming from a big city like Atlanta. Not being from the area has encouraged her to think differently about her business’s approach to serving restaurants in the region.
“When I interview my clients, I really have to get into that small-town mentality,” she shared. “Being exposed to a new community and networking with folks was something I never thought I’d do.”
Leigh has served as a remarkable example of what is possible when you pursue a passion. While she credits the nontraditional approach to coursework and the relationships she’s built with her clients and classmates to much of her success, she left us with a powerful message for anyone interested in starting a business of their own.
“Running a business really is all about you. You have to know the industry, but you also have to know yourself.”