Chicago Chef Wants To Spice Up Your Culinary Career And Experience With These 5 Business Tips

Chicago Chef Wants To Spice Up Your Culinary Career And Experience With These 5 Business Tips

She’s obsessed with food and all things tasty!

Chef Jessica Ashley has found a happy medium between her passion for the culinary arts and her love for gift-giving. Through her company, Boxed Expressions, Ashley has brought her professional food experiences to the gifting space, and she recently shared with BLACK ENTERPRISE how she is curating special, elevated experiences for clients across the U.S. while providing hands-on training experiences for culinary entrepreneurs and employees.

Boxed Expressions

Boxed Expressions is a women-owned, Chicago-based gift suite providing corporate and business accounts with elevated gifting and culinary training solutions.

Ashley said her vision to merge gifting and culinary experiences started after an “Aha” moment. “While searching for a birthday gift for a friend, I had an “Aha!” moment. I wanted to develop an easy and less hassle option for gift giving,” Chef Jessica wrote on her Instagram in April as she reintroduced herself. “My goal was to save time, remove stress, and curate beautiful, high-quality culinary gift boxes for people who enjoy an elevated experience.”

Boxed Expressions offers custom-designed gifts tailored to any business or brand’s needs, perfect for celebrating company milestones, rewarding top-performing associates, welcoming new hires, building new relationships with new clients or vendors, holidays, and even celebrating employee birthdays.

Example gifting concepts include gourmet candy, champagne, a cheeseboard kit, candles, tumblers, tea, coffee, custom notebooks, and more.

Haus of Experiences

Chef Jessica also has a sister company, ‘Haus of Experiences,’ where hands-on culinary experiences are curated to help professionals connect and share their experiences in the culinary space.

“I was inspired to create Haus of Experiences because of the amazing culinary products from Boxed Expressions that we use to curate beautiful gift boxes,” Chef Jessica shared. “I also love being around people and sharing my love for food with them. It was time for my staff and I to get back into the kitchen; this is where it all started anyway.

These experiences can be hosted at the West Loop-Fulton Market or from the comfort of any company’s headquarters, office space, board room, or home.

Chef Jessica’s advice for entrepreneurs

“Advice that I would give others who want to pursue this field as an entrepreneur is to ask for help,” Chef Jessica shared. “You can’t grow and scale a business by doing everything yourself. Burn-out is real in this industry because people want food… and if your food and the experience is really good, they want it all the time!”

She was a full-time entrepreneur when she started her custom cake business after graduating from culinary school. “There were many challenges that I overcame, such as learning how to manage my finances while also trying to be profitable. I now use the ‘Profit First’ method, and it’s a game-changer, leading and managing other staff members, learning to scale, etc…,” she explained.

From personal experience, Chef Jessica believes it is important for business owners to hire employees to handle day-to-day tasks while they can focus on the future of the business.

She said business owners looking to create something new in the culinary space should expand their knowledge about the industry. Research the industry trends, study the behaviors of customers in that market, and determine your startup costs. Starting a business from scratch with no investment can be costly, so you want to be sure that you’ve done your due diligence upfront and your business idea will stand the test of time,” she said.

The Future of Boxed Expressions and Haus of Experiences

“Our future plans with Haus of Experiences are to expand to additional locations throughout Chicago to offer in-person culinary experiences and curated culinary gift boxes. With Boxed Expressions, our busy season is October-December, so this year’s goal is to invest more resources into marketing so that we can fulfill and ship more than 5,000 gifts; this number is more than what we’ve ever done in three months,” Chef Jessica shared.

The entrepreneur has already partnered with big-name companies such as McDonald’s, Williams-Sonoma, and State Farm, which she said are partnerships that have garnered major recognition for her companies. Working with these companies has challenged her to curate innovative designs. “For a small business like ourselves, we gain credibility with potential customers when we work with larger organizations. In the future, we have hopes to work with more ‘culinary’ celebrities such as Carla Hall, Marcus Samuelsson, and Tabitha Brown,” she said.

culinary arts, chef jessica
Chef Jessica’s grandfather at his Chicago grocery store. (Image Provided)

About Chef Jessica

Chef Jessica’s introduction to culinary arts began in high school at The Chicago High School of Agricultural Sciences, where she studied Food Science. She continued her studies in Agriculture Business at Florida A&M University and attended culinary school upon graduation.

“My obsession with entrepreneurship is truly in my bloodline and dates back to my great-grandfather; he owned a grocery/convenience store in Chicago,” said Chef Jessica, a fourth-generation entrepreneur. “In fact, my siblings and I were raised in a household where both of our parents were full-time entrepreneurs; we saw it all…the good and the bad.”