We met Tikisha “Kisha” Ellis five years ago when she applied to purchase a home through our program, and one of our first memories is of her opening her pantry door in her small kitchen at her Fairgrounds Valley apartment to reveal all of the neatly-stacked cooking supplies. Kisha was an aspiring caterer.
Kisha started cooking when she was ten years old. She would watch her parents cook from the time she was little, and she started learning the skills from a young age through her eyes. The second oldest of eight brothers and sisters, she soon found herself helping to prepare meals for the family— and with all those kids, that meant juggling a lot of food. “With so many people at the table, we never cooked small; we cooked BIG, and I think that’s what led me into catering.”
Kisha started a small catering business in Chicago in 2012— Works of Faith Catering LLC, named for her daughter, Faith— but ended up moving to Rockford and pushing her business to the side while working for RPS 205 Nutrition Services. She was also living in public housing, and that made it hard to keep her business going because of space constraints and regulations. Even still, a piece of her was still laser focused on her ultimate goal to run a catering business full time.
After she purchased her home through Habitat for Humanity in 2016, Kisha says she started to get more opportunities to expand her business because now she not only had the proper space and storage but also the stability. “I didn’t have the opportunity to focus on my business until I had that control and independence,” she says.
This year, Kisha took the plunge and made her business her full time job, using a small business incubator in Chicago called The Hatchery for her commercial kitchen. She says that it felt extra important to her as a Black entrepreneur to make sure she launched a business that was quality and legitimate, and now her goal is to use her business to create more opportunity for Black employees.
Kisha has catered six weddings, large group events for 400 people, and a variety of events for Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity, Rockford Housing Authority, United Way, Rush Hospital, and various churches. It’s tiring to travel between her house in Rockford and her kitchen in Chicago, but she says that even when she is tired, she loves to cook for people. It is her passion. “Some women get excited about purses and shoes. I get excited about a ten-burner stove. Catering is my dream, and I’m living it.”
Kisha is a woman who never stops dreaming bigger, and her ultimate goal is to start a food truck that would operate in Rockford, Chicago, Texas, and Atlanta.
Kisha went from a shelter in Chicago to public housing to owning her own home to owning her own business. She says that when she looks back on where she has come from, she feels as though it is important to share her story in order to give others hope that where you have been does not need to determine where you are going. As for her own sense of hope, Kisha says that becoming a homeowner helped give her not only the stability she needed to build her business, but also the faith that she is worthy— the faith that anything is possible.
If you are interested in supporting Kisha’s business (and enjoying some really great food), take a look at Works of Faith Catering services’ Facebook page.