We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer Ward and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jennifer, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
When I first started in the culinary industry, I learned very quickly that to get ahead sacrifices were expected to be made. Things like missing out on family holidays, birthdays, summer vacations and more. I thought that was normal. As time went on, I realized I was really missing those important things in life. That I needed those things more than I thought. My work life balance was not there. I spent about 75-85% of my time at work. The time I had at home was usually spent taking care of my space or prepping for the next weeks work schedule. There was no balance. At more than one point I actually felt ashamed and selfish for asking for time off because I needed the break. It’s grueling work. It’s not just physical but it’s also mental. It as agonizing asking for my earned vacation time. I often felt like I was being an inconvenience even though it was well earned and deserved. After my last two jobs brought me closer to a breaking point, I opened Harvest to Home Personal Chef Services, LLC. I was so close to a breaking point of just changing professions completely. My own business has been a game changer. The beginning was a lot of long hours, the thing I hated most about my previous jobs. But, as the inner workings of the business fell into place and especially now that I am outsourcing projects, that balance that I have been searching for for so long has returned. I know it’ll never be 50/50. Sometimes work will require more from me, and sometimes life will. But I have found a freedom to be able to accommodate both needs when they arise. It’s not a constant drain from work with no reprieve anymore. I feel better as a person and as a business owner. I can be checked in to what my clients needs are as well as my own and the feeling is amazing. I have never been happier. My work is better for it. My home life and family life is better. It’s the proverbial dream come true.
What should our readers know about your business?
I am most proud of myself for actually taking that step and becoming a business owner. It was a big change in not only my life but my husband’s life. There was a lot of uncertainty about how things would work out. I have a hard time with the unknown, but this whole process has taught me to just let go and let things flow where they will. I started Harvest with the vision of just cooking meals for people in their homes. I had a few requests to do small dinners and was happy to take them on. They were more like my days working in the private clubs. Fancy dinners, plate presentations, really creative work. As time went on, I started to add in the catering part of the company. Before long it blew up into what it is today. 75% of my business is now catering focused. I love the variety each side of the business offers. None of this was easy, especially getting caught in a pandemic and learning how to navigate through that while keeping the business alive. There were more than a few restless nights or frustration tears in the shower. But I wouldn’t trade any of it. I asked for help from other vendor friends and business owners and started to outsource work so that I could really focus on the things I do well at and then let other’s do the things I’m not so great at. It’s made a huge difference in how I feel about everything. Biggest lesson, don’t be afraid to ask for help! You are never to big or to small to ask for help. Someone has most likely had a similar situation and can offer amazing advice on how to get through it. Get into networking groups, there are perfect resource for information and have lots of very knowledgeable people. Harvest to Home was started with the plan of making life easier, allowing my clients the same thing that I so desperately wanted. To be there for all of life’s greatest moments. Instead of stuck in a kitchen worrying about the details of how to feed everyone, my clients are able to enjoy a meal like none other. There is love in every bite. From the ground up, someone in our beautiful state has pour their love, sweat and tears into making the ingredients that make the final plates my clients eat. I placed a focus on family/community and togetherness in all aspects of my business. Harvest to Home is Farm to Table dining at it’s best. When clients hire me, they hire the community of Colorado growers, producers and makers. That’s a big thing to me. I give back at the end of it all. Each year Harvest to Home has picked a different program to support. a small potion of our profits gets sent out each quarter. This year, we are supporting a local designer who is helping local womxn owned businesses get back on their feet with branding reworks, to keep their own businesses alive. She helped me, It’s my turn to help others.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
That best friend would have to be my sister. We’ve talked a lot about where to go and what to do, First, definitely a stay at the Ramble Hotel in Denver. Pub crawl at all the local breweries, then heading to The Beer Spa (seriously the most amazing place ever, and it’s husband approved!). Being so close to Coor’s stadium, a baseball game would have to be in order. We’d make a stop at the Butterfly Emporium (she loves butterflies). Catch a concert at Red Rocks one evening for sure. The Royal Gorge would be on the itinerary and Mesa Verde National Park to see the cliff dwellings. The Paint Mines (we have hoodoo rock formations in Alberta too but not like these). Maybe attempt the stair climb in Manitou Springs LOL Have to have a little friendly competition somewhere. We’d probably eat at home (both my husband and I are chefs) with a stop at Flavor of India in Longmont. probably hit Lucile’s for breakfast one morning. The Roost in Longmont is another favorite.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There’s a lot of people on this list. First though, it has to be my husband Joel. He has been my number 1 supporter from the get go. Things were really tough financially for a while until I got my name out there as a business that people could trust. He was/is my rock. Both sides of our family have been super supportive and cheering on the successes and lifting me up with the failures. I learned a lot from all my past employers and wouldn’t be here without them. A few really stick out though. My first boss for a cook position, Marcel Kuenzler ( I still talk with him to this day) and my last boss, Pauline Pfannenstiel. She helped me see I could be more and that I had the potential to bigger and better things, though I’m pretty sure she was hoping I would fill her shoes and not start my own business…lol! Then there’s the other friendors (friend vendor’s) that I have met along the way. It’s a big old community of people that I am so incredibly blessed to know. The list is incredibly long, each one a business owner in their own right and have been instrumental with helping get over the hurdles that small business owners face. That whole community over competition vibe and I love that I can be a part of something that big.
Other: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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