Katie Korobkin - Business Owner
We wrap up our Womens History Month Series honoring women who have been trailblazer in our community with an up-and-coming star whose story takes her across the country. Katie Korobkin, owner of Venue 634 and Sweet Potatoe Catering has become a well-known name in our community due to her involvement both professionally and personally in many memorable events.
Katie got to experience firsthand, at a very young age, as to what it means to run a business. Her parents owned a craft store in New York City, where Katie grew up, that included both a storefront and warehouse. Katie remembers that one of the freedoms her parents experienced as business owners was that they were always able to put their family first and make time when needed. She describes her parents as opposites in a way, her mother being “someone who wings it and scrambles” while her father as organized and programmatic. The business owning experience and her parents' personalities were something that stuck with Katie as she began her journey that would lead her to becoming a multiple business owner.
After the passing of her father, Katie and her mother sold the family business and moved to Connecticut. They stayed there a short while and eventually moved to Sandusky. Once arriving Katie would go on to attend a boarding school where she learned extremely valuable lessons, primarily the importance and ability to be independent. A critical skill for a future business owner.
During school Katie was involved in a number of activities. In sports she was commonly referred to as “mother hen” for her willingness and natural ability to look after her teammates and care for the group. She experienced time in a commercial kitchen at 16, starting a job at Creative Cuisine. Having already had an interest in culinary arts, her first experience like this lit a fire that continues to burn today. The “chaos of the kitchen” drew Katie in and kept her engaged as she explored a more serious style of cooking than her fond memories at home with her parents. She was instantly hooked. She attributes a portion of her passion to the amazing mentorship and leadership from Deb at Creative Cuisine. So, now she knew two things, she wanted to own a business and she wanted to cook. Naturally a restaurant makes a lot of sense. But the question was, what’s next? How do you start a restaurant?
Katie explored that question by attending BGSU Firelands studying business administration. Understanding that knowledge of business is critical to running a successful restaurant. She stayed for one semester. Instead, she realized that her passion was cooking and wanted to hone in on that craft and perfect it. So, she applied and was accepted to the nationally renowned Culinary Art Institute in New York City. It was here that Kaite would expand her skill set that would be critical to her future success.
After graduation Katie headed west to take on a number of different job opportunities as she worked to climb the ranks and become a top chef. With some of the finest restaurants in the country, she was surrounded by the right people and the right atmosphere to develop both as a chef and a leader. She continued her professional journey, leading a department, working 80 hours a week, and began to feel the early stages of burnout. So, she did what so many do. She went on a little vacation to visit her mom back in Sandusky.
Once back and while spending time with her mom and her friends an interesting opportunity arose. Her mom’s friend was looking for someone to cater for a small party and asked Katie if she’d be interested. Katie agreed and shortly after was bombarded with requests for additional catering services due to the success of just that one event. With no intention of starting a business, while on vacation, Katie found herself in the middle of what would become Sweet Potatoe Catering.
So, it began. The start of her business but as most business owners know, starting isn’t always the hardest part, it’s what comes after that that determines its’ future. She began looking for space while continuing to offer her services that would allow her to have a commercial kitchen to fulfill more orders. After finding a building, the challenges really began to mount. Her work with the contractors to retrofit the building was a rollercoaster with the renovations ultimately never getting done but consuming multiple years. Then a pandemic hit. Shutting down the opportunity to cater for events, well because we were no longer having events. She looks back now and realizes all the different ways she positioned her business to continue to grow during these challenging times and thinks to herself “I don’t have regrets; I have had learning opportunities.” Viewing these past challenges and mistakes not as limitations but accelerants to teach her ways to make her business thrive.
Katie runs an extremely popular catering company, Sweet Potatoe Catering, and event space, Venue 634, that is not only a byproduct of her upbringing but the challenges and experiences she had in her professional life. I asked Katie what one piece of advice she’d give young women and she said, “finding a network that supports one another.” Important advice because without this network and mentorship many business owners would not be where they are today.