Head Start On Cooking Up Success

LaQueisha Brown is now the mother of Head Start student at the Brightpoint site at Werling Drive, but this is not her first experience with the program. LaQueisha was also a Head Start student – about 24 years ago. And Lynda Fields, current teacher assistant, says she remembers her from when she attended Head Start at St. Peters Church.

Since then, she has been in the Head Start classroom in another role – as a teacher assistant at the East Wayne Street site. Head Start Center Supervisor Danielle Lyons remembers how good she was with children. Danielle said she was distraught when LaQueisha came to her one day in 2012 and told her she was leaving. But when Danielle found out why, she couldn’t help but be happy for her.

At the time LaQueisha had just had her third child, Emmanuel, who is now in Head Start. She said she found herself saying things like, ‘why do you keep going down this same path? Maybe success is not for you.’ She signed up for the Early Head Start program with her son which helped her to appreciate the skills that she had as a parent – some of the same things that made her a good teacher in her job at Head Start. She began to see that she did have something to give her son.

“Being able to be his first teacher and begin to be something more to my other children, too, because I had kind of stepped away from them because I was depressed having another child, being a single mom.” Now she says that if it hadn’t been for having her son, she wouldn’t be where she is today.

A light bulb had gone off for her. She wasn’t sure exactly how she was going to do it, but when she went in to give her two weeks’ notice that day it was because she had decided to go to culinary school. She had always wanted to cook and grew up in the kitchen around her mom and her grandmother.

She commuted to the Art Institute of Indianapolis, traveling four days a week, to get her education. She graduated with honors while working full-time and caring for her three children. She chose to go to school in Indianapolis because of the reputation the school had for producing culinary students who go on to successful careers. She was impressed by the networking opportunities available to her through the program.

“It was a struggle at times, but I persevered through and I made it,” she said proudly. She credits her children for giving her the strength to keep going because she wanted to be an inspiration for them to follow their dreams. And now her children are paying her back in another way by helping her with her catering business, Pure and Diving Catering LLC, which is becoming a family affair. She collaborates with her mom who is a pastry chef and she is training her daughter to help with table decorations.

In addition to her catering business, LaQueisha works for Parkview Hospital in Columbia City and Warsaw, as a supervisor for nutrition services. She shares management responsibilities overseeing the kitchen, doing menu planning and catering, and is also trained as a barista.

She says she doesn’t have a favorite thing to cook, but she loves working with different seasonings. She enjoys mixing Greek, Mexican, Asian and Soul Food styles of cooking and seeing what flavors she can come up with.

Right now she doesn’t have plans to have a restaurant, but she says she would like to have her own kitchen. She is currently trying to gear her business towards corporate and executive functions like board dinners. She is in the process of getting licensed so she can prepare and serve food for facilities that only accept licensed caterers.

LaQueisha has gotten help with her business through the Brightpoint Development Fund and she has some high praise for Brightpoint’s Evan Neubacher. “I love Evan!” she exclaimed. He has helped her understand the basics of running a business from how to get started, to opening up a checking and savings account. “He sat down with me and told me, ‘this is who you are competing against…so you need to figure out how are you different?’” This is what made her decide that she needed to be licensed – to set herself apart.

Any time she had a question she said she could ask Evan and if he didn’t know the answer, he knew who to refer her to. “Every connection, every network that he has connected me to has taken me two steps forward. He is A-M-A-Z-ing!”