Working Mom To Business Owner

Success Story: New Jersey

NJ SBDC Success - Marcy Ragan

The state of my business before I worked with the SBDC was just an idea. I was at a point in my life that I had to start working for myself out of necessity. The restaurant I had been working in wanted to change my hours (and I would never see my kids for dinner) and cut my pay. I needed to come up with a viable, marketable concept that would harness my talents, sustain growth, make a profit and make sure I was having dinner with my most important clients – my family.

My name is Marcy Ragan and I am the chef and owner of Relish Chef Services. Relish is a personal chef service, caterer and private cooking instructor. Relish cooks delicious, custom, hand-made meals for busy clients. In our modern lives people need help with their hectic lifestyles. Most often feeding ourselves with fresh, delicious and nutritious food can fall by the wayside. We all know that eating well with whole, nutritious food will benefit us immediately by powering our hard working bodies and minds but also in the long run as we age. We can live healthy, long lives if we eat whole, nutritious and delicious food. Being invested in tasty nutritious food now can only benefit our health as we age.

My clients have the benefit of having the meal planning, grocery shopping, prep work, cooking and clean-up handled by an expert. All meals are cooked and ready to go. Everyone is unique, Relish makes sure that you are fed well to your exact specifications. In my business I really get to know my clients and I am able to take care of their needs. My clients and I are able to develop a real sense of trust where I am able to anticipate their needs and work into their lives seamlessly. 

Relish Chef Services is also a special occasion caterer. I really enjoy being able to take care of my clients’ vision and create special menus for specific events. I do not work from set menus, I prefer to create unique and tasty menus that are specific to the guests, season, occasion and overall desire for the feel of the event. I also love to teach people how to cook. People will often think that they cannot cook, however, I believe that everyone knows how to cook something, everyone has at least one skill. I like to draw that out of my clients and give them confidence to move forward and learn more in the kitchen.

I am a mother of two amazing boys, wife of an artistic sculptor husband, music lover, avid exerciser, food enthusiast and food nerd. I read cookbooks and everything food I can get my hands and eyes on, all of the time. I love learning about food – it is a vast subject that is always expanding through new techniques, cuisines and people. I also love talking about business, I always have. It is in my true nature to be an entrepreneur. My Mother was a small business owner, cleaning houses and eventually caretaking for her clients’ as they matured in age. My Aunt and Uncle have owned many small businesses, I often ask them for advice; they’ve weathered many decades of being small business owners. My Father learned a great corporate structure at IBM Sales School in the 70s and 80s which I think in the long run taught me about sales. I often joke that my Stepmother is on my “executive board” because I also run a lot of concepts through her and she and I believe really enjoy working out different variables and impacts on decisions I have and will make. There’s always something to talk about!

Some of the challenges for me have been knowing when to trust myself in decisions and when to say yes and when to say no to certain work. In the beginning I said yes to everything because I was testing the market to see where my clients’ found my utility to be. Understanding your target market and their needs happens in time. I also find it challenging to hire people to do things for me. I am at a point where I have just started to trust other professionals to handle their areas of expertise for me. I am usually fearful that if I outsource a need, that I won’t be able to sustain that growth. I try to hold out as long as I can before hiring someone and when I do, I hope that I’ve made the right choice.

I meet and work with so many great people; I love meeting people. Another benefit that I have come to realize that it’s ok for me to have confidence in myself. This self-confidence has propelled me to do things I may not have ever done before; like shooting a cooking video for a cable access channel, putting myself out there on social media and contacting food publications about my recipes.

I will always continue to work with the SBDC. After my initial classes and work with them, I was able to structure a real business and get paid well for the expertise and high level of skill that I bring to my clients. In two years of business my clients have increased exponentially, I have been featured in 3 publications (with maybe a couple of more on the horizon) and my revenues have increased. I have bootstrapped my way into business and I will be starting my third year in the fall. I have so many interesting projects on the horizon and now I know how to make them work through the MOSBDC.

SBDC helped me realize that my goals are achievable. MOSBDC takes your big idea and breaks it down into manageable actionable steps. These actions build the foundations of business. Another concept that MOSBDC helped me with is what NOT to look for, what not to do in starting a business. When you are a small business owner, time management is very important and avoiding bad business practices is crucial. Working with the MOSBDC gives me the confidence to intelligently navigate and structure my own business, understand where I should take the lead, when I should trust another professional to assist in their area of expertise.

I have learned that when you are genuine and enthusiastic about what you do and what you know, people will receive you well. It’s this positive energy that gives me confidence. With this confidence, I am able to have my antennae up to look for new business opportunity and have the structure underneath me to make good decisions, carry them forward and make a profit doing what I love.

For more about Relish Chef Services, visit, and for more about the New Jersey SBDC, visit