By Guest Author Erika Valdez
Happy Thanksgiving to all readers! We continue our celebration of the season with the second interview in the food entrepreneurs series. Today’s entrepreneur is Angela Shelf Medearis, who is not only an award-wining author of four best-selling cookbooks (as well as over 80 children’s books), but also the host and producer of the television cooking show, The Kitchen Diva!, and one of the few African American women to own her own multimedia production company (Diva Productions Inc.). In my recent interview with Shelf Medearis, I learned more about how where entrepreneurial spirit led her to become successful in a field that she had not previously considered.
Growing up in a military family, Shelf Medearis quickly learned to adapt to new environments and to make the best of every situation, bad or good. She attended Texas State University with a plan to study journalism—her talent for writing was obvious to many of her professors. Yet she decided to leave school and eventually became a writer of children’s books. Then in 1992 she wrote her first cookbook. This came all as a new adventure for Shelf Medearis. “At that time, I was barely a passable cook, and I had a bad attitude [toward] preparing a meal. I looked at cooking as a chore that had to be done, not as an act of love and certainty not as a possible business venture,” she said. Eventually, while putting together the book “The African-American Kitchen” her love for cooking and culinary history developed.
From then on, this Austin-based entrepreneur has positioned herself in the food industry—and plans to stay. Shelf Medearis’s proposition is to educate people about the history of African American cooking and to promote healthy eating while dispelling the stereotypes about African American cooking and culinary history.
She transformed ‘Angela Shelf Medearis’ into ‘The Kitchen Diva.’ She describes The Kitchen Diva as “wear[ing] a bright red satin apron with hot pad in the bustier, and a feather boa. She’s funny, sassy, and informative and prepares recipes that are healthy, unique and creative, and often vegan or vegetarian”. This concept has had a huge impact in her media image and television show. Shelf Medearis has been invited to many TV and radio shows around the nation, which has given greater exposure to her business concept. She’s sold her cookbooks on QVC and appeared on the Food Network, among other nationally acclaimed media outlets.
Aside from the media marketing exposure she’s been getting, Shelf Medearis continues to target new markets. “Launching The Kitchen Diva! on public television around the United States, and on Hulu.com has provided us with a whole new (younger) audience via the internet to promote The Kitchen Diva! show, my work as a chef, a culinary historian, and a cookbook author,” Shelf Medearis says.
She believes that the key to the business’s success is that “we’ve stayed true to the original vision and concept of our companies’ mission statement to create spiritually, mentally and physically uplifting programs for families and to change the image of non-whites in the media, we’ve been very successful. It’s also a boon to our company that we retained ownership of all of our multimedia because it’s provided us with the ability to tailor our content to our client’s specifications and needs.”
I finished with my recession question: What is your message to the more than 30 million unemployed people out there? Do you think they can start something of their own? Medearis, like other entrepreneurs I spoke to, felt that were opportunities to be seized, saying, “The thing about this uncertain economy and being unemployed, is that sense you’re already out in the deep end of the pool, it’s almost a license to be daring. I found that losing my job freed up that childlike sense of curiosity and quest for adventure we seem to lose when we become adults. Since you’re already experiencing some of your worst fears (not having a job and financial insecurity), you can start something new without the fear of failure that adults have that freezes them in place doing the same old thing year after year. My advice to anyone who wants to start a business of any kind in this economy is to be fearless and use this time to take a chance on your dreams.”
So what is next for this kitchen diva? Aside from continuing to follow her current business model, Shelf Medaris is planning production deal for a reality show concept with a national network. This Thanksgiving, everyone can enjoy wonderful recipes from The Kitchen Diva’s website for “healthy heart and soulful food . . . with a side of Sass!”
This segment is a part in the series : Food Entrepreneurs