Marcela Geer made the leap from an ascending career in finance to start up her passion project in hospitality — a Latin catering and food truck company, El Bosco Catering. Marcela shares her story on how a mashup of experience is fertile ground for a self-made career, and the lessons she’s learned so far as a founder, owner, and director of operations.
By Marcela Geer
After a decade climbing through the ranks in finance, I made one of the scariest decisions of my life: to leave my corporate role as Manager of International Banking at RBC, and pursue my passion for culinary event planning and management. But this wasn’t my first brush with the hospitality industry.
My love for hosting and the business of food dates back to my arrival from Colombia to Canada at 13, when my family opened up a restaurant called Coco Loco in London, Ontario. They wanted to bring authentic Latin cuisine to the community, and teenage me was more than keen to jump in and help in any way I could. I busied myself serving, handling cash, and bussing tables every day after school and on weekends — and sneaking empanadas and, my favourite, Salvadoran pupusas, whenever I could.
The restaurant was a success, and at just 14, I was entrenched in all sides of the family business. At 18, I relocated to Toronto to earn a Bachelor of Commerce in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Ryerson University, and I went on to spend 15 years in the restaurant and bar industry in Toronto, bartending, serving, and finally managing at some of the most prolific spots Toronto has to offer.
Fifteen years into my food career, I was offered a role at RBC that promised change and job security. I was drawn to their clients-first culture, diversity and community involvement. I worked hard — and smart — and was promoted several times before securing my role as Manager of International Banking.
Later, when I made the decision to move on from my decade-long tenure, it came with mixed emotions, but the experience I took with me into my new catering venture — the ability to network, forge strong relationships and, of course, shrewd money management and negotiation skills — compounded with my previous experience in food all came together like kismet, like puzzle pieces that had been waiting to click. Who knew a zigzag path from hospitality to finance, and back again, would one day form the quintessential foundation to head up events and management for my very own company, El Bosco Catering.
“Now, I firmly believe that if you partner with like-minded, valued individuals, the possibilities are endless.”
So, there I was, with my life-shifting decision to leap — and with this unplanned, yet serendipitous mosaic of perfectly-appointed skills, that on paper was going to make El Bosco a huge success. I thought I would write my business plan and work my way through it, mostly on my own. I had a vision, but when it came time to execute, I expected to delegate my vision to the people for the job and move on to the next. I was in for a shock.
I found myself deeply involved with every single task, analyzing every detail of the job, allocating more time and energy to every single need than I could have ever imagined. Suddenly learning about various industries, not just the one I was in. I was getting a crash course in advertising, marketing, web development, graphic design, PR, social media and more. My expectations-vs-reality-wake-up call left me in a flurry of anxiety, sleep deprivation and over-perfectionism. I realized I had to find a healthier approach. I began doing regular “brain dumps” of emptying my busy thoughts into notebooks, jotting my ideas down and sketching — just to get the information out, to get some mental relief.
I hired one professional after the other, dipping deeper into my budget than anticipated. When I finally understood the power of investing in key people, and how it changed the trajectory and potential of my business, it was a watershed moment. Onboarding the professionals I needed — an esteemed publicist, culinary director, marketing pros, advertising and many more was worth every dollar spent. In contrast to my former life in finance, I planned ahead for future results — with catering, clients demand and deserve instant gratification. It’s incredibly important to get it right on the first try — there are no second chances. Now, I firmly believe that if you partner with like-minded, valued individuals, the possibilities are endless.
Having laid the foundation for a strong and solid launch, my focus is on business development for El Bosco. We’re scheduled at various festivals and events all over Toronto to expand brand recognition, and ultimately grow.
I’ve learned a tremendous amount in the last year leading up to this pivotal moment. And I’m honoured and privileged to share my journey with the leaders of our future, in the hope that they, too, will glean a few key lessons to bravely and boldly leap.
Here Are My Top 3 Lessons Learned:
A nonlinear trajectory can be an asset
Don’t worry if you change careers several times over the course of your professional life. (I’m talking to you, millennials!) When you consider that any business owner is straddling several industries and possesses many skills, zigzagging through multiple jobs and industries can actually be an asset. Had I not spent 15 years in hospitality and 10 in finance, that happy-accident mashup of skills would have never occurred. I look back now with immense gratitude that I did all of that, even though at times it was confusing and I worried I may have wasted time.
Invest in people to succeed
Without question, the greatest lesson gleaned while launching my catering business was that despite thinking I could do most things on my own, I was dead wrong. The minute I made the choice to invest in talent that are rock stars in their respective fields, the opportunities and possibilities blew wide open. You only get one chance to do it right, especially in my field.
The lessons will never stop — embrace them and chase them
I’ve learned a tremendous amount in my career transition thus far but I know it’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I refuse to ever fall into the trap of thinking I’ve learned or know it all, that will only make me comfortable and comfort is a recipe for disaster. There is always something to learn and I made the choice long ago that I will always seek challenges out. I guess that’s why I am where I am today. This is advice I’d give to any aspiring leader.
Founder, Owner & Director of Operations of Toronto’s newest Latin catering and food truck company, El Bosco Catering, Marcela Geer is a force to watch. After making the leap from an ascending career in finance, to start up her passion project in hospitality, Marcela shares her story on how a mashup of experience is fertile ground for a self-made career.