Category Archives: Business

Cooking Up A Career

Byron Franz, also known as Chef B, has been cooking since he was 13 years old, and since he can remember, he has always loved doing so.

10 years later, his passion for food is still there, and with the help of his mentor, celebrity chef DeMarco Cavil, Franz is starting to see a lot of opportunity in the cooking industry.

Chef DeMarco Cavil, who has cooked for the likes of Magic Johnson, Dwayne Wade and Bill Clinton, has trusted Franz to be his guest chef on multiple occasions.

“He will message me whenever he needs me, and I’ll go up there (Twin Cities) to help him out.  Sometimes I don’t know what I’m going into when I go up there,” Franz said.  “As summer progresses, he’s talked about us feeding the Minnesota Twins and the Minnesota United Men’s Soccer team.”

Chef DeMarco will secure a gig and message Franz to meet him at the address.

“He will bring all the food there, and I will help him finish it off and do any of the last steps,” Franz said.  “When we do these gigs, we try to have 75 percent of the food done, so that when we show up to these people’s homes, we are only spending 45 minutes to an hour there at the max.”

With a rate of $125 per plate, Franz dishes up an appetizer, entrée and a dessert.  But for first time customers, Franz lets them eat for free.

“It’s more of a way to get myself out there, and if I can do that, I think it goes a long way to show them that I actually care about my work.”

Franz has delivered his creations and hosted meals at his house in an effort to get clients hooked on his product.  This way when he opens up shop, he can get returning customers right away.

He is able to make money now from donations and tips, while also getting paid when he helps Chef DeMarco.

In an effort to get his name known, Franz has been messaging many celebrities and athletes to try and set up dates to cook for them.  To his surprise, a few responded, such as Naz Reid of the Timberwolves, and Mr. Hotspot, a Hip-Hop artist.

“When I messaged them, I didn’t expect them to actually look at their DMs because a lot of them will have their DMs still go through their general and have hundreds of messages from their fans,” Franz said.  “When they do respond back, it’s kind of a weird feeling, like these famous people are noticing your work, and they want you to come down and cook for them.”

Franz is hoping to have menu put together in the coming weeks so he can start taking orders from clients.

He usually cooks in themes for the week.  If customers like what they see, they can order from his Facebook page, or text him directly.

This week’s theme was chicken and waffles.

Earlier this week, he made waffle cones filled with mac n’ cheese and chicken.

The meal he cooked in this picture is waffle tacos with a mac n’ cheese base, filled with deep fried chicken and drizzled with a sweet honey barbecue sauce.  He then toped it off with bacon bits and chives for the garnish.

Chef B’s Chicken Waffle Tacos.

Franz journey as a chef started when he was 13 years old, cooking for his parents, grandparents and friends.  Right away, he knew this is what he loved to do.

From there he started volunteering at his church and cooking for his youth group, before getting his first job as a kitchen aid at the Good Samaritan Nursing home when he was 15.

He worked at the Good Samaritan all through high school before having to leave for college where he would chase his music dreams in Kansas.  Eventually releasing an electronic album titled ‘The Journey’ on iTunes, ultimately putting his cooking career to the side.

Things did not feel right for Franz, and after a few years away, he return home. And in 2018, he got his old job back at the Good Samaritan.

This time, as the head cook.

“The nursing home was the perfect spot for me,” Franz said.  “I got to cook for a large crowd, and it taught me food cost and food waste.  I learned a lot of what I know from there.”

Franz eventually moved on from the nursing home and took two jobs as a cook at a bar and grill called Duffy’s and a bar and grill called The Den.

After only a few months of working, Franz received a promotion at The Den and decided to work there full time.

The Den is where Franz found his love for cooking again.

He decided to take a step away from music, and apply for culinary school at South Central in Mankato, MN.

Here is where he met Chef DeMarco and took his cooking to the next level.

Franz became known locally for some of the meals he prepared like the one below.

Another Chef B creation.

But, it was his noodle cup creation, inspired by Trendy Chef, that really gained him a following.

“After I made my first noodle cup, I’ve taken the idea of being this out of the box chef, and just come up with weird creations.  It’s given me lots of attention on my social media, I have people in my DMs saying, ‘I wish you were in Atlanta, I wish you were in Texas, or New York.’ Or they will message me saying ‘what’s it going to take to get you out here.’  So, the hard work is definitely paying off, and it’s showing.”

One of Chef B’s noodle cups.

“It’s hard sometimes though, I just won’t know what to make,” Franz said. “I go to these celebrity chef profiles and gather ideas from them, and just combine them all in one dish.”

Franz does take pride in the look of his meals, but he prefers the taste to be what he is known for.

“Our professors told us, ‘you can have a plate that looks like a million-dollar plate, but it might not even taste good,’” Franz said.  “’But you can have some food that looks like a disaster and be one of the better things you’ve tasted.’”

Experimenting with different combinations, not everything turns out well for Franz.  So, he throws it away, and try’s and try’s again.

“I’ve always told myself, ‘you’re the chef, you’re allowed to do whatever you want in the kitchen,’” Franz said.  “I want to be different, and that forces me to step outside of the box.  That’s the kind of chef I aspire to be, a chef that isn’t afraid to mix flavors that don’t normally go with each other.”

Franz’s wants to be based out of Minnesota, but the ultimate goal is to travel with athletes and families as their personal chef.  He also mentioned a dream of becoming the Minnesota Timberwolves chef if traveling doesn’t work.

He is waiting for the corona virus to pass to get his first gig alone, but says as long as he is confident, he is sure he will kill it.  And from there, word of mouth will do its thing to keep the customers coming.

“This first opportunity under my brand is the biggest thing that’s going to happen in my life and is going to be the thing that changes my life,” Franz said.

With his logo selected, business cards made, and t shirts being sent out.  Franz, or more famously known as Chef B, is fully branded and ready to get his business running.

Chef B’s business cards.

Here is a link to his Facebook page where you can book meals, see his past creations and read reviews from his customers.

https://www.facebook.com/chefbdog96

 

Super Bowl provides busiest time of year for Wincraft

For many in Winona, the Super Bowl may not mean as much as it did a few weeks ago when the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings still had a chance at winning the championship. For one Winona company, the Super Bowl proves to be the busiest time of the year.

Headquartered on 960 E Mark St. (pictured), Wincraft, a sports merchandising company that has license rights for the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, and the NCAA; the Super Bowl is one of their biggest events of the year.

According to Wincraft’s director of sales and operations, Derek Horvath, the company has been making 60 different products for each team in the big game such as decals, pennants, and a variety the sports memorabilia. The company also produces the signature Gatorade towels that are handed to the players at the conclusion of the big game.

Horvath confirmed the Super Bowl is the biggest money-making event for the company throughout the year.

“Playoffs are a great and a hot market for any sport,” Horvath said. “So, the Super Bowl is one of our best-performing events, and usually production picks up significantly from the second week of January through the balance of February.”

Horvath also noted this year’s game is especially marketable given the competitors in the game, the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, two teams that have not been in the Super Bowl in more than five years.

“Market-specific, demand changes a lot,” Horvath said. “Last year with the Rams and the Patriots was good, not great. This year with the 49ers and the Chiefs, it is going to set records. The fan support is all new. Fans that really want to capture the first time for them in their lifetime or, something that has not happened for a long time.”

Horvath also noted the teams’ lack of success compared to a dynasty like the New England Patriots, who have appeared in four of the last five Super Bowls, means that their fans are more likely to purchase products that a typical Patriots fan.

“If you think about it, the Patriots were dominant for a long time in the league, so often the market actually said ‘you know, AFC Champs, we don’t need as much AFC Champ product, we are just going to focus on the Super Bowl Champ,’” Horvath said. “While with these two markets, the Chiefs and the 49ers, AFC/NFC Champ product is in high demand. So, they want to prepare for this Super Bowl and then compound that with the Super Bowl.”

A team like the 49ers also creates the need for a new product that would not be made if any other team had been in their position, such as special edition seven-time NFC Championship apparel.

Despite this being the biggest event for the company, Horvath has said they have not had to rely on overtime for employees. Instead, shifting their focus ahead of time before the event.

AUDIO: Does Wincraft make Super Bowl Champion merchandise for teams before the big game? Wincraft’s director of sales and operations, Derek Horvath address the longtime rumor.

Horvath dispelled the rumor that Wincraft makes a certain amount of Super Bowl Champion apparel ahead of time, saying the company waits until a champion is determined to “hit the presses.”

While the NFL’s biggest game proves to be the biggest event for Wincraft, the company is still constantly busy throughout the entire year.

“It is a really dynamic business because we hold so many licenses. Every month something is going on,” Horvath said. “You have the Super Bowl in February, you have March Madness, you have NBA/NHL playoffs when May and June hit, then in July and August you hit training camp and back to school.”

Horvath also noted how it is important for Wincraft to keep a local presence in Winona throughout the year, despite their sales being nationwide, citing their relationship with Winona State University.

“WSU is one of the great partners of Wincraft, we love to volunteer and talk to students, prepare them for the real world, tell them how a pro-sports license company works, and what to expect post-graduation,” Horvath said. “We have speaking events at WSU and St. Mary’s. We volunteer on boards around town and we try to help as much as we can with young professionals and help them understand what Winona has to offer.”

Some of the products Wincraft makes on display at the Winona Walmart. Products like these will be made for the Kansas City Chiefs to commemorate their Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers.

Car-delivery service attempts to drive others out of business

For residents of Winona, Minnesota, a college city on the
Mississippi, the possibilities on how to get from Point A to Point B are plentiful.

The city offers a four-route shuttle bus system, a taxicab company and a recreation center equipped with canoes, rollerblades and bicycles.

If all else fails, a scenic stroll can get someone almost anywhere worth going in about 20 minutes.

One thing Winona didn’t have until 2018 was Lyft, a direct driver-to-rider, cashless car service controlled solely by cell phones.

As part of the Rochester Area radius, the service extends from Red Wing to Albert Lea.

The first step in the Lyft process is to create a rider or driver profile.

Once the profile is created, users input a debit or credit card which allows money to be withdrawn as a rider and deposited as a driver.

From there, riders can type in their point for pick-up and drop off.

What happens next?

The nearest driver will be on their way to the designated pick-up point.

Lyft driver sticker in front of vehicle window
All drivers who have made it through the company screening process of their driving record, license and insurance will be able to mark their vehicle as Lyft-certified with a sticker in the front and back.

While the idea of getting in a stranger’s vehicle may make some
uneasy, Lyft implemented the ability for riders and drivers alike to watch a digitized progression of the ride.

Lex Lea, a Winona State University junior (in the featured photo above), jumped at the chance to join Lyft this past summer and make money doing an enjoyable task for her: driving.

She’s been a driver with Lyft for six months.

Lyft ran a background check, driver’s record check and confirmation of her license and insurance.

Every element of the application is approved individually. Drivers cannot begin until all parts have passed Lyft’s driver screening.

Lea said Lyft periodically offers instructional videos to help prepare drivers to handle situations with riders.

While she likes Lyft for its flexible hours, Lea said she uses it for fast cash and not as her primary income.

It can take a considerable amount of drives with the minimum rate that starts at $3.64 and goes up per mile.

Part of the payment for her though is the entertaining riders.

A car ceiling full of collector buttons
Riders can tip and rate drivers on quality and efficiency of the rider’s trip. Lex Lea boosts her rating with a conversation-starting element to her car: a car ceiling decked out with her collectible-button collection.

One of Lea’s favorite interactions came from a group of drunken girls who “hyped her up” by persistently calling everyone in the car, Lea included, “on point and so pretty.”

“It’s interesting that drunk people always think that they’re found to be annoying by sober people. I don’t mind, though. It’s entertaining and much better than sitting at home.”

Kaitlyn Tenney, a Winona State senior, started with Lyft in October as she saw her dad go through the process, which she described as “super easy.”

When Tenney drives, she said she prefers Thursday to Saturday nights until bar close around 1 a.m.

Despite drunken antics, Tenney said the service makes sense for Winona.

“It’s a useful service for the bar scene and convenient because
almost everyone has a phone,” Tenney said.

According to Tenney, she’s had riders who use it if they’re unable to drive and need to get to work, pick up groceries and get to
treatment groups.

As more people learn of the service, Lyft may become the primary way to get around Winona.