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From Start-Up to Serving the Stars: Hungry Bee Catery

11.14.2016

Professional chefs Kimberly McCune Gibson and her husband, Jimmy started with a new business loan and a dream. Eighteen months later during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, they were preparing meals for the top names in the GOP, including the presidential candidate himself Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence, Dr. Ben Carson, Newt Gingrich and other luminaries. How did they get from Point A to Point B?

How a New Business Loan Can Lead to Professional Success

It wasn’t easy. One of the biggest initial hurdles was finding financing. The search eventually led to KeyBank, which stepped up when other lenders hesitated. Now, Hungry Bee Gourmet Food Catery in Bainbridge, Ohio, is thriving.

The company employs six full-time, salaried staff members, has added a number of corporate and private clients in addition to its walk-in customers, and this summer served as caterer for top party members officials at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, including the Trump family.

“In all honesty, this last year has been huge for Hungry Bee,” McCune Gibson says. “At times it’s been a little overwhelming and absolutely amazing.”

McCune Gibson traces her culinary roots to a childhood in rural Geauga County, Ohio, where her father kept beehives and she spent lots of time at her mother’s side in the family’s kitchen preparing meals from fresh produce and ingredients grown on many of the Amish farms nearby.

She and Jimmy met while working together as chefs at Moxie, an upscale restaurant in Beachwood, Ohio, sharing a love of food and a mutual interest in starting their own business.

Hungry Bee’s Small Business Beginnings

Hungry Bee began as a full-service catering company in 2011, with McCune Gibson initially running it herself. It became so busy so fast that Jimmy soon joined her full-time after leaving a job with Sterle’s Country House restaurant in Cleveland.

The goal, though, was to eventually find the right location to serve as a home base for the business and better position Hungry Bee to match McCune Gibson’s vision of providing healthy, reasonably-priced dinners and sides to busy clients.

They found a dilapidated building in downtown Bainbridge, completely renovated the space with new flooring, brightly-painted walls and furniture culled from thrift stores. The location has given them a visible presence to serve customers interested in a better option for on-the-go meals.

“Jimmy and I have a 3-year-old daughter and we’re both very busy, so we understand what it’s like when you’re looking for a healthy alternative to fast food,” McCune Gibson says.

Hungry Bee offers a rotating selection of 12 entrees each day such as chicken and buttermilk biscuits, braised short ribs and pork tenderloin, with prices starting at $7.95 per serving. Many of the recipes incorporate honey, owing to the countless hours McCune Gibson spent beekeeping at her father’s side growing up.

The retail shop also includes fresh, locally sourced items such as granola, candles and soaps, while the catering business has steadily grown its bookings for weddings, banquets and corporate events through word-of-mouth.

In addition, Hungry Bee offers recreational cooking classes and brings in guest speakers to share their tips and experiences.

Hungry Bee Serves Its Next Course

Plans already are in the works for Hungry Bee to open a second location minutes away in Chagrin Falls. The new business will be called Cultivate, with a focus on providing what McCune Gibson calls “fast casual” fare in a green setting. Special attention will go toward designing dishes for customers with specific dietary needs created by diverticulitis, celiac disease and other digestive conditions.

Cultivate is scheduled to open this fall, and it will be followed by a planned expansion of Hungry Bee’s offerings to larger companies seeking to provide employees with better meal options at work as part of their overarching corporate wellness plans.

“We have some big corporations in Cleveland, and all of them are interested in helping their employees incorporate wellness into their lifestyles,” McCune Gibson says.

The business received plenty of exposure this summer, when Hungry Bee emerged from an extensive screening process to win the catering bid for the RNC, providing what McCune Gibson called “the opportunity of a lifetime” to meet and serve Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump, Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence, Dr. Ben Carson, Newt Gingrich and other GOP leaders and their families.

The gig landed Hungry Bee media coverage in the Cleveland area as well as nationally, including a spot on CNN. McCune Gibson said it wouldn’t have been possible without help from KeyBank's small business banking services, which provided a line of credit to secure the bid when Hungry Bee’s former bank balked.

“Key stepped up to the plate when we needed someone to believe in us and the vision we had for Hungry Bee,” McCune Gibson says. “(KeyCorpChairman and CEO) Beth Mooney has been a great friend and mentor for us, and the relationship we have with Key has been a big part of our success.”

Learn more about Hungry Bee Gourmet Food Catery, reasonably priced dinners, cooking classes, and locally-produced products on their website, http://www.hungrybeecatery.com.

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