Nothing beats a great combo of chicken and waffles, and if you’ve ever been to D.C., you know that Capital Chicken & Waffles is the place to be! Founded by #COOKIEChick, Sharisse Barksdale, the popular food truck is the first and only of it’s kind in the Nation’s Capital! We sat down with this amazing entrepreneur to learn more about how she makes it all work!
Please tell us about yourself and your business.
I am the founder of Capital Chicken & Waffles….a DC area food truck!
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I want to be Oprah! Or as close to her as I can possibly get, lol. Really though…I have wanted to be an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. I remember someone telling me when I was younger that the only way you can make money is to have your own business and I guess that just kind of stuck with me. I read an article in Money magazine once that said all millionaires have multiple streams of income and at least one of those streams is their own company. After graduating from college, I had many different business ideas, but none of them stuck. I even went back to school to get my MBA thinking that would help me in my path to entrepreneurship. Because of my education/experience, friends & family often looked to me for business advice, and it just finally clicked that building businesses is what I love doing. So, I decided to take that big leap of faith and stick my own neck out there to see what I could do for myself…as opposed to always helping others fulfill their dreams.
What hurdles have you had to overcome during this journey?
As a woman, the biggest hurdles all come from getting others to take me seriously and know that I mean business. A lot of men feel as though they can walk over you and that you will let stuff slide. And to be honest, other women will try things as well. But you have to put your foot down and let them know that you are running the show and your expectations. It is your name and your business/brand on the line. I was worried about being called the “b” word. But, I’ve heard Oprah & Beyonce both say that it’s necessary when running your own business. You have to say what you mean and mean what you say if you want others to respect you.
To date, what’s been your most rewarding entrepreneurial experience?
The most rewarding thing was when I went to pick up my food truck from the builder. Just seeing all of my ideas & dreams come together (and look good!) was amazing. It definitely felt surreal. The next most rewarding experience was being in Black Enterprise magazine!
Who/what motivates you?
If you had of asked me this 7 months ago, my response would have been “not failing”. But now that I am a mom, my motivation is my son! I want to give him the best life possible and open up doors so he can fulfill his dreams. I also want to be the best role model and teacher that I can be for him. I don’t want him to look to others and find inspiration in the wrong places. I don’t want him to ever feel the need to rely on others for anything. He should be able to see what he wants and know how to go get it. I want him to grow up and become a successful, productive member of society and the only way I know how to do that is to give him a real-life example of hard work and dedication. My parents & grandparents were all hard workers and I definitely think that seeing them work hard to succeed gave me the drive and motivation to do the same.
What advice would you give rising female entrepreneurs?
My advice is simple: don’t give up! Visualize your dream and don’t ever let that go. You might feel like you’re facing an uphill battle, but I promise the rewards are worth the hard work and sacrifice. I truly believe that you have to figure out your passion and life’s purpose in order to be truly happy. Also, you don’t have to jump in head first. You can start small and just do something on the side. For example, if your dream is to be a hairstylist, start doing your friend’s hair on the weekends or volunteer at a hair salon. Once you’re able to do what you love, whether it’s part-time or full-time…you can become the best you possible. And, if that doesn’t work, just ask yourself: “What would Oprah do?” lol.
What is next for you and Capital Chicken and Wafffles?
We’ve recently entered into the catering industry, handling everything from office parties to weddings. With our busy season starting up again, we plan to expand to Maryland and Virginia, in addition to adding new menu items. If all goes well, we’ll have another truck by 2015.
How important has your family been in the running and success of your truck?
Since CCW is a family business, my family has been EXTREMELY important! My family members were my first investors! They are involved in everything from creating the recipes and cooking the food, to actually working on the truck. This business wouldn’t be possible without them.
How do you balance it all (motherhood, business, relationships, work)?
HELP! I couldn’t do it without the support of my family, fiance’, his family, business partners and friends! When I was pregnant and couldn’t work as hard, there were SO many people who stepped up to make sure that business kept running smoothly. My mom & aunts actually forbade me to work on the truck and often times pulled 12 hour shifts. We joke that my son would have been born on the food truck if I had my way, lol. Sometimes you just get so involved because you want everything to work out perfectly, that it is hard to let go and take a step back. My family & fiance are good at taking the reins so I can get a breather every now and then.
It is not easy, not at all…and sometimes I feel bad because I don’t get to spend as much time with my son or go on vacations. Sometimes the dishes don’t get washed and we eat fast food 4 times a week, sometimes I have to wake up at 6 on the weekends or only get 3 hours of sleep at night. But I just think about the end result. I am still learning how to balance personal and business relationships…it’s hard when you work with family & friends. But I just do my best to try and separate the business from the personal. It helps when your family/friends respect what you do and your position, and don’t try to cross those lines or take advantage of the situation.
Are you ever surprised at the amount of success you’ve achieved? Why/Why not?
Certain things have surprised me. Like being chosen as one of the few food trucks on the 2013 Presidential Inauguration parade route…before we even opened for business. Or, being in Black Enterprise. But the everyday success of the business doesn’t really surprise me because I work hard and I have a great team behind me that also work hard.
I can honestly say that CCW’s cuisine is some of the best chicken and waffles I’ve ever tasted! If you’re in the Washington D.C metro area and want some of your own Capital Chicken and Waffles, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, and “like” their Facebook page to find their daily locations.