About the Interviewee: Bibby Gignilliat, CEO, Parties That Cook
Bibby transformed a career in marketing at Williams-Sonoma, Inc. into satisfying career in professional cooking. She launched her formal training at Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco. In 1999, Bibby founded Parties That Cook. Parties That Cook inspires connection and community through the universal language of food at their hands-on cooking parties, team buildings and cooking classes in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Chicago.
She has appeared on the Today Show, the Food Network and CNBC. Her company has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Better Homes & Gardens, Bon Appetit, Southwest Airlines Magazine and Business 2.0. She authored Sumptuous Small Plates recipe deck. Bibby was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by the Small Business Network in San Francisco and she received the Rising Star Entrepreneur Award from the National Association of Women Business Owners. She also won the Women Entrepreneur of the Year from the Women’s Initiative.
Tell me about your firm (number of employees, location, type of companies you work with, etc.).
We are located in 4 markets: San Francisco, Chicago, Portland and Seattle. We have a total of 48 employees. We are fully mobile and can stage our events in homes, offices, wineries, farms, kitchen showrooms, hotels and event spaces.
What type and size of companies do you have as clients?
Companies like Apple, Google, EBay, Levi’s, Facebook, Genentech and Amazon use our events to enhance company culture for team building, off-sites, client entertaining, summer recruiting and sales kick-offs. Individuals hire us to celebrate special occasions.
What comes to mind when you think of “breaking the mold” in business?
I founded the company in 1999 and pioneered the mobile cooking party concept before anyone knew what mobile was. I also had to educate the market on what a culinary team building was. Today we generate 2.6M in annual revenue and have served over 85,000 guests. We continue to set trends with our product offering such as our Farm To Table event where the group can meet the farmer and cook a meal with ingredients from the farm then sit to dine in the fields. We also have a popular product called Cooking with Kindness where corporation can cook a meal for a homeless shelter (under our guidance) then serve the meal to the residents. These experiences inspire connection and community.
Several of our lead chefs (including our CEO) are corporate converts – discovered their true passion and went to culinary school and we have sought them out as many of them have turned out to be some of our best employees (whether mid-career or early career shifts) – our team has literally broken out of “the mold”.
What are the best practices for being innovative and on the cutting edge?
Our biggest customers are on the cutting edge (Google, Facebook, Genentech, Dropbox) and they often introduce us to product concepts and technologies that are scaled to work for our small company (and budget)
We keep on top of trends in the food industry and model products trends
From a culinary perspective, we draw inspiration from the collective pool of our chefs and staff who are passionate about food, culinary trends, and use travel for inspiration on new ingredients and cooking techniques which we bring into our seasonal menus and cooking demonstrations
Apart from our product offering, we are setting trends on the corporate culture arena. We have a fully open book financial policy and our office team worked together last year to set the goals and budget for this year. The best way to eradicate debt and become profitable is to educate your team with open book financials and get full team participation in the budgeting process. Being fully transparent allows your team to participate in the company success. My company experienced this sort of success last year. After losing our line of credit, we initiated open book financials and ended the year with 170K profit