Empowering People
& Revitalizing the Community

A Moment with our EDTP Graduate- Izelle Tomlinson

Posted on 1/23/2024 by EDTP Coordinator in LAEDA News

Izelle Tomlinson is the owner and operator of Exquisite Catering LLC, which offers both local delivery and pick-up of their seasonal cheesecakes and specialty breakfast platters. We had a chance to sit down with him to ask about his experience with entrepreneurship and LAEDA's training program.

(1) LAEDA: Entrepreneurship is a very challenging path to take with many different possible directions. What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

The very first time I heard of LAEDA was in the year of 2022 and I instantly applied. For the first time in my life, I decided to do something for me. As a Single father of four daughters, I have decided to break the generational curse of having to struggle to live. My goal is to create a path where new generations will be born on a set pathway and be able to live without struggle. Thus, I decided to become an entrepreneur in order to pave the way and establish a blueprint for my daughters whom will then lead the way and set the tone for future generations.

(2) LAEDA: Why did you choose your industry?

I have been in the kitchen since I was 7 years old. I started making small things like microwaveable tuna sandwiches and PB&J. Throughout the years, I was taught more and more about cooking and I added to my kitchen skill set. From here, I started cooking full meals at the age of 10. As I became a teenager, my cooking got a lot of acknowledgment. As an adult, I am running my own business with my services being frequently referred.  

My passion and love for cooking and my experiences in cooking for many family events multiple times a year really added to my motivation and made me realize that I enjoy cooking and have a real talent with it. I saw this as a way to not only create a legacy for my daughters and my own family but also to have other families and communities share my meals at their tables.

(3) LAEDA: Tell me about your experience while attending EDTP. What have the major takeaways been from the program? Have you had any “Ah-ha!” moments? How did the program help you?

I enjoyed myself while attending EDTP. I learned so much. I always knew I was not ready to jump into the entrepreneurial world, as is, which is why I decided to take trainings to receive the right tools and operations that could help move me and my business forward.

I always moved humbly because there was so much knowledge that I lacked. Going to EDTP definitely boosted my ego and gave me the confidence that I needed. One of the most important lessons learned for me was Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). Before I learned about cost of goods sold, I was giving my services away for free. I am grateful to have learned everything from target markets and insurance to accounting and more. For instance, when the topic of target markets was presented, I had no idea how important targeting was. This was a shocking moment for me because I now realized something that seemed so small could be so significant. 

The program at LAEDA helped me clear my vision of the business world and gave me the push that I needed to tighten things up. I love the fact that once you are in, you will always have access to help whether it is knowledge or resources. LAEDA was the best decision I ever made.

(4) LAEDA: Tell me about your journey on the road to business start-up. What have been some of the challenges, successes, failures, etc.?

In the year of 2020, I was laid off from work and it was a difficult time due the pandemic. Since all of my daughters were now in school full time, I decided to do something for myself and apply for culinary class at the Cathedral Kitchen. When I applied, I was almost denied but, through the grace of God, there was a change of heart and they decided to give me a chance. Chef Nai and Ms Ja’Net believed in me so I promised that they would not regret it... This meant I would show them just how grateful I was by showing up and showing out every day. From here, my successes began. There are hard times and good times in business and in those hard times we work extra hard and remind ourselves to not give up and ask ourselves why we are in this in the first place.

I graduated and received an award from the Voorhees Breakfast Rotary Club presented by NBC 10’s own Erin Coleman. I decided to do what I do best and that is to cook. I have an LLC, a catering service since the year of 2022. My business is Exquisite Catering LLC. I have been operating as a drop off catering business. I have also been offering breakfast platters and cheesecakes A La Carte year round.

Although my income dropped and business slowed down by not having a steady commercial kitchen and being without delivery vehicle for a while, I did not give up. My motivation will always be my daughters since they will always look to me for the example. I used that motivation to strive hard and continue working no matter what. I have picked business back up to continue generating revenue. I have realized that word of mouth is the best marketing tactic. Just talking to people and letting your work speak for itself. Every event I do, I find myself gaining more and more customers.

(5) LAEDA: Could you tell me a little about where your business is today?

Today Exquisite Catering is up and running and offering drop off catering, platters, cheesecakes, and private chef events for dinners and special occasions.

(6) LAEDA: Do you have any advice for future (or existing) entrepreneurs?

Continue to believe in yourself and never give up. Always commit to your goal even if it means to take those baby steps little by little.

Why? Because a little progress is better than no progress and as long as there is progress you can accumulate.

Always remember you are enough and never think anything less. Get out of your comfort zone and never put a ceiling on your expectations because you will need that room to continue growing.

More about Exquisite Catering LLC:

• Exquisite Catering is “An exquisite taste from a touch of love,” which is based out of Camden, NJ.

• Offers Drop off Catering, platters and cheesecake a la carte, meals for families or special occasions, and private chef services.

• Offers not only great quality, but also great quantity for the most important meal of the day with their unique and versatile menu, creating a food oasis for Camden residents and workers.

Where Izelle Tomlinson can be reached:

Phone: (856)729-7058
Email: Exquisitecatering856@gmail.com
Instagram: exquisite___catering
TikTok: chef_izzyspike

About the Entrepreneurial Development Training Program (EDTP):

The Entrepreneurial Development Training Program (EDTP) is a free, nine-week business skills training course offered in Camden, NJ in the Spring and Fall each year. Qualified entrepreneurs receive 72+ hours of training from industry professionals, business planning, and continued technical assistance. Apply online at www.LAEDA.com.