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Life & Work with Tiffanie Toles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tiffanie Toles. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Catering To A T LLC was born in October of 2021. Before becoming a limited liability company, our company conducted business in the form of small catering jobs for friends and family, vendor events, and occasional plate sells. Our head chef, Tiffanie Toles, was in college pursuing her Master’s Degree in Engineering Management at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. During her time in school, she began selling breakfast, lunch, and dinner plates around her school schedule in order to make an income to support her educational journey.

On the weekends, Tiffanie would train in several professional kitchens under Chef John Tuchschmidt, where she was able to gain professional kitchen experience and make valid connections in the catering world. With her diverse experience in developing her own business combined with the training under Chef John, Tiffanie launched Catering To A T in 2018. Shortly after the launch, the pandemic happened and changed the way Catering To A T could take on catering clients while also operating plate sales for her original customer base. During the pandemic, Tiffanie was able to employ close family and friends who were not able to work, train them in the business, pass down knowledge, and create a deeper bond with her support system.

Through the pandemic, Catering To A T stayed afloat, and with the influx of business and a few years of experience, the company applied for its LLC. Since then, Tiffanie continues to expand the company to create ease of ordering for her loyal customer base. The company also added event planning services and travel services to allow clients all over the state of Missouri to able to experience the tasty cuisine and luxurious decor of Catering To A T. Tiffanie created, a website that hosts all her skills for booking including the several services offered by Catering To A T. On the website, Tiffanie also offers Student Success Services, a small portion of her giving back to future students by providing tutoring services, college prep, and overall educational needs to help clients succeed in their goals.

Throughout the time, developing Catering To A T, Tiffanie never stopped working on her education. After receiving her Master’s Degree in 2018, Tiffanie continued her education to pursue a Ph.D. in Engineering Management and System Engineering. On track to graduate in May of 2023, while developing a catering and event planning service company, Tiffanie used the best of both her worlds to show that perseverance and consistency build a platform for dreams to come true. Through her story, we hope people find hope and the strength to persevere!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
This journey has not been smooth at all. There was always a struggle to balance time. Being that Tiffanie was a student while developing a company, there were times were school work did not get turned in on time due to exhaustion from working on weekends to develop the clientele for the business. There were times when the business was slow and without the income, the developments for the business were slow. There were times were personal income had to supply the business income.

During the pandemic, the company had an increase in expenses. Buying and keeping proper PPE in stock while also trying to achieve a steady customer base was hard. I had to use some of my experience in building systems in the engineering world and apply it to a business perspective. There were times I had to pass on clients because the income was not there upfront in order to service the client.

Another struggle was trying to establish a proper employee management system during the pandemic. People were pretty much sick and couldn’t work and that caused business to move slower which in turn slowed down our process for development.

Even now, we are struggling to remain competitive as a catering business with the influx in inflation.

In the end, the struggles will always come. We welcome the challenges because they help us become stronger as a company.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am a data analyst. I love numbers and they love me too!

I started my professional career as a Natural Gas Engineer when I was employed by Ameren Illinois from 2016-2018. I received my bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Engineering in May of 2016. During that time, there was a shortage of oil and gas jobs due to the economy but I was blessed. I worked on several gas compliance projects running the injection schedule for their natural gas storage fields.

In 2018, I got an invitation to go back to school to work on some important research in the renewable energy sector. I worked under Dr. Dincer Konur and we developed a proposal for new models in which supply chains can take advantage of cost savings while also implementing techniques to reduce carbon emissions. The research was published and marked the beginning of my career as a technical writer. The title of my thesis is, “An Investigation of the Economic Order Quantity Model with Quantity Discounts Under An Environmental Objective”. My thesis can be found online on several professional search engines like google scholar and scholars mine. During this time, I also developed the catering business. Understand, that research is expensive! Attending conferences and developing a professional career did cost some big bucks. At this time, I did not know my “hustle” would turn into a full-blown and fully operational company.

After my thesis was published, I had a choice to go back into the industry or continue to pursue a Ph.D. I took a semester off to weigh my options and work more on my business. I applied for a few engineering internships but I did not get a callback. I prayed and was worried that I may have expanded my education to the point to where I may not be industry competitive. After deliberating for a few months, my advisor reached back out and told me that she would love to have my data skills on a project that she had started but not finished. This was the beginning of the makings of my achieving my Ph.D.

Overall, you can say I specialize in numbers and systems. Where others see problems, I see solutions. I am most proud of my growth as an individual during the time my career and my obstacles did not align. My youngest self was in the mind frame of thinking that my engineering career will fund my catering business but now, my business is fully operational on its own funds and support. I am proud of my ability to persevere and always find solutions in the midst of trouble.

What sets me apart is the fact that I have been in school now for almost 10 years. I started college in 2011 and I am still here finishing my last year to graduate with my Ph.D. The consistency, perseverance, sacrifices, and tears are all worth me being able to be a witness to the blessings God has given me! I am a conquerer of my destiny and there is nothing that will stop me from achieving my purpose and dreams.

To my friends, I am the strength and motivation that encourages them to keep going! What sets me apart is that you can’t put me in a box. I am a caterer, an engineer, a writer, a data analyst, an encouragement coach, and an around supportive person.

Risk-taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
I am a huge risk taker. In the engineering world, we have this motto, “You don’t know what your system is capable of until you test it”.

Honestly, I live my life the same way. You learn through failure and there is a risk associated with the acceptance of failure, either stay in failure or learn from the mistakes. Failure is a probable chance but not a final testament. Without the failure, you won’t know how to frame the pathway to a solution. With that being said, I am a huge risk taker.

I took a lot of risks. Being a catering company and a family-oriented company, there were times I accepted clients and provided services without a contract or policies. The risk associated with that is if there are problems, I did not have anything to protect my company or set boundaries. Due to already failing in that lesson, whether it be family or friends, everyone gets the same treatment with booking.

Launching our website also helped to control booking and invoicing clients.

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1 Comment

  1. Dionne P Kelley

    September 6, 2022 at 7:22 pm

    Wow! What an inspiration and testimony THIS truly is. Tiffany is a 2022 living example that you CAN do all things through Him! Not only is she doing all things; she is doing them so well! She exemplifies perseverance! This is what “Strong” looks like. Well done my sister, well done!

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