Chamber Insider Blog

SBA Finalist Spotlight 2021: Cucinamore

Thank you to Daniela Williams, owner of Cucinamore for answering our questions. Congratulations on being a Finalist for the 2021 Loudoun Small Business Awards in the Virtual Business category! View all of the finalists here.

Join us for the 27th Annual Loudoun Small Business Awards on Friday, October 29, 2021 at The National Conference Center. Ticket information here.

Tell us your story of how your business evolved into what it is today?

My business’ story seems to be a series of personal and professional elements, disconnected in space and time, that unexpectedly aligned and came together to take me where I am today:

  • An idea that started in Italy when I was still a teenager.
  • That early dream of a career in the food industry that I had to give up because it was not approved or supported by my family, back there and then: “Working in the kitchen is for those who can’t do well in school,” they said.
  • A good part of my professional life, almost 25 years, spent in a completely different industry, developing skills and building experience I (wrongfully) thought had nothing to do with my original dream.
  • A move across the ocean, late in life, to settle down in the USA, where a series of brand-new opportunities were given to me.
  • My stubborn mentality combined with a huge passion that drew me to cooking school in my 40s’.
  • A little bit of insanity, to think that I could start and grow a business in a new country with all the obvious and less obvious obstacles that come with that.

Well… as crazy as it sounds, it all worked out beautifully in the end, against all odds!

What are you most proud of about your team? 

Our team is only made of 3 people: Terri, my on-site assistant, Nicholas, my off-site assistant, and myself.

On location or behind the scenes, it takes more than just “the chef” to make Cucinamore the well-oiled machine our clients have learned to trust and appreciate for their special in-home events.

Such a small team requires for all to be willing to take on multiple tasks, often beyond what would be expected of the role they play in the company.

Each team member brings a set of skills that perfectly fits and complements the others’, both technically and with their personality.

For all three of us, professionalism, integrity, and excellence are always the ultimate goal. I could not think of a better team to work with, and I take pride in the feedback I consistently receive from our clients.

In what ways do you give back to the community?

Thanks to the many amazing nonprofits in our community, it is not hard to find a way to be of help, even during the tough times when monetary donations are not an option. With the connections we have developed through the Chamber, we stay informed on what is needed the most and respond best we can.

Our team is always willing to be involved in activities that are meaningful to each of us: girl and boy scouts, food and nutrition-based classes to kids and disadvantaged families, YMCA, YEA project, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, just to name a few.

With the new season upon us, Cucinamore is also partnering up with Loudoun Hunger Relief.

What would it mean to you and your business to win a Small Business Award?

Whenever in the past I have seen another business win, a business that I could somehow relate to, it has always made me happy and inspired me to keep going, push harder, do better.

If Cucinamore wins, I want to be that business, this time.

I would like for it to especially inspire female micro-business owners. Those who know so well how running a full time “micro-business” efficiently has nothing to do with enjoying a “hobby.”

Should Cucinamore win, I would also love for it to be something that encourages those who arrived to the US from another country and, just like me, do not even speak the language well, but still bravely started and now run a small business despite all obstacles. I would like for Cucinamore to be an example to them that their hard work is meaningful, seen, and recognized in our business community.

What is the smallest thing that has made the largest impact on your business?

It was the response we received from our clients during the worst moments of the COVID crisis.

When we suddenly stopped being able to work in our clients’ homes, I panicked for a moment.

Michele Organte, Daniela’s mentor

Then, some of our previous clients reached out to purchase gift cards and even encouraged their friends to do the same. Some people paid upfront for full parties that neither them or us had any idea “if” and “when” they were going to be able to redeem.

This very humbling situation, the pouring of encouragement and active support, not only was what we needed to navigate out of those scary days, but it gave me the determination to change my attitude and fight for my business to survive.

I feel such gratitude and I will never forget this!

Who is the one person that has influenced you the most in your career?

His name is Chef Michele Organte: a great friend and an excellent professional I have known, back in Italy, for many years. He lost his battle to cancer not long after I moved to the US and I started my business. Somehow, he still keeps influencing me daily! I learned so much from him!

He encouraged me, believed in me since the beginning, and was a constant reference for all my professional doubts. He was also the one who taught me the priceless value of humility in this profession: an essential tool to never stop learning and growing as a person and as a chef.

He showed me with his actions that the stereotype of the yelling, self-centered, mean chef belongs to reality shows on TV, not to a successfully run food establishment.

What is your favorite thing about running a business in Loudoun County?

What is not to like about working in such a beautiful place, with a scenery that takes me back every day to my beloved Veneto hills, where the Glera grapes for Prosecco are grown?

On a more serious note, though, it’s probably the easy access to professional connections that are essential to me on so many levels. I’m thinking, for instance, of what my LeadShare has meant to my business through all these years. It truly goes way beyond the referrals I received or gave! It’s been a solid base of like minded professionals I can count on to support me in those areas that are not my strongest and I know I can be there for them the same way.

What did you want to be when you grew up as a child? 

A chef! Took me about 40 years but I eventually got there!

Anybody singing that “Hey look Ma, I made it!” song in their head, right now, or is it just me?

What is one book that changed your life and why?

I have been an avid reader of fiction books since a very young age, so it is pretty strange that it is a non-fiction one that comes to mind, to answer this question.

Growing up in Italy, I always looked at the food and wine pairing as an instinct you develop at the table, more so than something you learn from a book.

When I started working in the food & wine industry here in America, I needed help with the English terminology in this field. For this reason, I bought a book called “Perfect Pairings,” by Evan Goldstein. I was immediately and absolutely fascinated by the science behind what I always took for granted as the normal thing one does. It helped me immensely to properly guide my clients make their wine choices at the table and I still often go back to it for information. There is always something new to learn every time I pick it up.

If you’re not in the office where can we find you/what is another passion you have?

At the airport! I was in the travel industry for almost 25 years, in Italy, and travelling is where I still spend all the little time and money I can find, when I find it!

“You have to taste a culture to understand it” is a quote by Deborah Carter that fits me very well: I love to travel and to learn about other cultures, ESPECIALLY (but not only) by exploring their food, right there, in their specific countries.

Homemade tagliatelle with lamb.

How do you see your business evolving in the next 5 years?

Cucinamore will remain a business focused on unique and memorable experiences for small groups of people, more so than the choice for large events.

While I am determined on keeping our focus on carefully crafted small parties, I am still planning for growth.

The challenge I set for us is to grow our client base to include more customers below the age of 40. I know that, with the right business choices, we can absolutely appeal (even more than we already do) to the younger generations too, despite the core of our business relying on the apparently old-fashioned concept of spending quality time in the kitchen with family and friends instead of being in front of a screen of some sort!

We achieve what is to us the “perfect balance” between old and new, by loving, respecting, and cherishing tradition, while letting it inspire today’s response to our clientele’s preferences and needs.

Our party formula, food choices, and cooking methods are all carefully chosen with this goal in mind. I am confident that with the right marketing support we will get there.

Learn more about Cucinamore on their website.