Amazing edibles brings family back into food
By Samantha Schak
Tucked away off of Western Avenue on the west side of Chicago is Amazing Edibles, a small catering company that has been in Chicago for 15 years. On the outside it looks like any other building on the block, brick and mortar that is most likely housing a series of offices. On the inside, however, is a splash of warm colors and Tuscan décor surrounding a bustling circus of chiefs, cooking classes, and smiling faces of the office workers upstairs. The ring-leader of this circus is Andrea Herrera. On the outside, she looks a common boss and mother with business insight and the leadership skills to run a company. But the story of how she came to start this business is like the inside of her building, colorful and exciting. Do not be fooled by the surface; Amazing Edibles is not your typical catering company and Herrera is not your typical owner.
Andrea Herrera was born into a sales family in Chicago. Dealing with people came natural to her so it was no surprise when she went into the restaurant business at the age of 12. Her life took a different turn when she went away to college and decided to become an English major at Cornell College in Iowa. When she came back to Chicago, her experience landed her a job as a general manager for the Levy Organization, running the restaurants and bars at the Goodman Theatre. Her life up until this point reflects similar resumes of many catering company owners. However, Herrera was determined to not go down this same road, literally, as she quit her job and saddled on a motorcycle for a summer-long cross-country adventure. By the time fall came along, Herrera knew she could not go back to life she had led before, but she also knew that she did not have to start from scratch. “Entrepreneur[ship] is in my blood,” says Herrera, “I started a balloon company in college.” She took her restaurant experience, her Latino culture, and her passion for entrepreneurship to start Amazing Edibles from the ground up.
Herrera’s life has led her to become a unique boss and taught her to run her company like a family. She took a lesson from her Latino background in order to make run her company the way she wanted to. Her father was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and she has been to various parts of Mexico over 15 visits in her life. “It doesn’t matter if you are in a nice resort or in a hacienda, the feelings are warm, inviting, and genuine,” says Herrera. She also has a son and those maternal instincts have taught her how to deal with people. She brings these feelings to her clients and the testimonials can prove it. In fact they have had some clients that have been with them throughout the full 15-year history of the company. This is how her company grew with positive word of mouth and networking. Today, Amazing Edibles takes in more than $1 million dollars annually. The elite status of the company has led Herrera to the Entrepreneurs Organization, which only accepts companies with at least a million dollars in revenue. According to Herrera, of the entrepreneur owned companies, only 5 percent earn enough revenue to qualify to be in the E.O. Of that small percentage, only 3 to 5 percent of those companies are owned by women.
Herrera was stunned to find this statistic when first started in the E.O., especially since 60 percent of small businesses are owned by women. “Many women adopt lifestyle business and are risk averse,” explains Herrera. Herrera and others in the E.O. are looking to change those statistics. They have a program called Accelerator which helps businesses that earn between $250,000 to $750,000 get to the $1 million mark. Of the 20 to 30 people in the program, half of them are women. “There will always be the glass ceiling,” says Herrera as she sighs and rolls her eyes but she is doing her part to help other women break through it.
So I asked her what should people, especially women, do who are considering opening up their own businesses? “Do it,” says Herrera, “it is the best thing I have ever done.” She does warn that individuals take strategic planning seriously but some of owning your own business has to be a leap of faith. “It’s like parenthood, if most people knew the complications and risks beforehand, less and less would do.” Amazing Edibles is definitely her baby and one statement rings true when you enter it, ‘Great Food. Great People.’