Meet Two Small Business Owners Creating Purpose-Driven Work

Capital One’s Supplier Diversity Development programs are helping a chef and a veteran mill owner maximize business outcomes

An Elegant Approach To Clean Food

From the time she was a young child in Liberia, Theresa Headen wanted to be a chef, often creating dishes that grabbed people’s attention. Headen wrote a letter to her future self in high school, declaring that she would have a family and a restaurant called “Elegant Cuizines” a decade after graduation. Building on that goal, Headen started Elegant Cuizines in 2016 as a catering business. Once the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the need for event catering, Headen pivoted her catering business into a weekly meal preparation operation as a way to provide restaurant quality meals for people at home. More recently, Headen fulfilled her dreams by opening Elegant Cuizines as a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Richmond, Virginia. 

“I always wanted to open a restaurant where I serve clean food without added salt and sugar,” said Headen. “I’m able to serve a need in the Richmond area because Elegant Cuizines aims to offer quality food without compromising the health of my customers. After people eat my food, they tell me that they don’t feel tired or bloated .” In addition to creating meals with fresh non-GMO ingredients that are in season and locally purchased, Headen’s recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, salt-free and plant heavy, and her meals are cooked in coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil. 

Over the past year, Headen supported her career through the Catapult and Mentoring programs offered by Capital One. These are just two of three programs designed by Capital One to equip and empower diverse business owners to be more competitive in the marketplace.

“The Capital One Supplier Diversity team provided so much knowledge,” said Headen. “Through the two programs, Capital One associates taught me things that I didn’t know how to do myself, like social media marketing and website design. They also taught me how to do a business pitch where I was forced to look at the market solution and my target audience. I also learned to think outside the box through the Design Thinking class. As a business owner, I’m usually stuck on one strategy, but Design Thinking made me think, ‘what if I turn left instead of right?’”

For Headen, the lessons she took from the two programs will directly benefit Elegant Cuizines. “My restaurant will be used to educate people about mixing herbs and spices to create delicious, healthy food. The Supplier Diversity team gave me the confidence I need to help show younger immigrant women that they can also make their wildest dreams come true.”

Communities and People First 

Similar to Headen, social entrepreneur Staci Gray-Redmon graduated from Capital One’s Catapult program to better work through the hurdles she might face after purchasing a longstanding millwork company that’s been in operation since 1998. 

In March 2022, Gray-Redmon became the owner and president of Veteran Wood Creations Inc.,a company that creates cabinets, built-ins, and custom millwork products to suit individual needs. As a military veteran herself, Gray-Redmon knew she wanted to continue the business through meaningful employment for other veterans, particularly those affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some anecdotal evidence shows that woodworking therapy, which is a form of art therapy, helps to steady the brain, help people focus, and take control of their symptoms through a creative way. 

“This millwork company was something where I could put communities and people first and give folks with military PTSD a chance to create products they can see,” said Gray-Redmon. “I also wanted to make sure that the employees I inherited from the previous business owners knew they were valued.”

As one of the latest team projects, Gray-Redmon’s employees worked on a chain-of-command board as an entryway showcase for a military unit. For many veteran employees who worked on the project, the board became a way to work on something meaningful and at the same time, relatable. The craft of woodworking, Gray-Redmon explained, was one way for employees to engage both hands and minds to bolster healing and growth.

Through the Catapult program, Gray-Redmon was able to think outside the box as she made the decision to purchase the millwork company. Although she previously worked with the federal government for more than three decades, Gray-Redmon said that the Catapult program provided a “safe space to go outside my comfort zone” and gave her the courage to make the decision to purchase Veteran Wood Creations. 

“Just having the resources and reassurance to think through the blind spots I’d miss from going into a different industry was very helpful for me,” said Gray-Redmon. “The Catapult program was transformational in the way it made me look through the process of being a small business owner. Particularly during the pandemic, I knew I wanted to seek out purpose and meaning in my next career.”

Capital One Supplier Diversity Summit 

In the fall of 2022, Capital One kicked off its inaugural Supplier Diversity Summit to provide a forum for education, networking and celebrating accomplishments. By bringing diverse suppliers and community partners together with Capital One associates, the Summit offered a platform to further highlight the benefits of having a diverse supply chain base representative of the communities in which Capital One does business. It also offered an avenue for the Supplier Diversity team to identify mentors across the organization to enable businesses such as Elegant Cuizines and Veteran Wood Creations to be more competitive in the marketplace.

“If you have healthy businesses, you have healthy communities,” said Theresita Richard, Capital One’s Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging. “So having this partnership where our associates can share their skills, talents and gifts with businesses in a way that continues to give back [to the communities] is incredibly powerful.”

Over 400 attendees participated in the one-day virtual Summit where leaders across the company, communities and industry shared their strategies on how to educate, connect and align on advancing opportunities for diverse suppliers. 

“One key takeaway I am hoping our business leaders left with is to be comfortable being uncomfortable, to grant opportunities for a diverse business owner to serve as a supplier for them, and to give it time,” said Reuben Essandoh, Head of Supplier Diversity at Capital One. 

“This job isn’t about the bottom line for me,” said Gray-Redmon. “It’s about creating lasting memories for employees to find purpose in a new way of life and show off their woodworking expertise to family and friends. This is also a ‘Made in America’ opportunity to grow our economy and make an impact in the lives of others in Maryland and the surrounding mid-Atlantic region.” 


Related Content