By Chris Olsen
Sometimes a business is born from a single idea set into motion. Other times, it comes from years of influential experiences and an eventual aha moment. The latter is how Liza Atkinson’s Nosh and Gather came to be. Atkinson left her career in marketing after starting a family with her husband, Rob. While her children were still babies, she re-entered the business world in direct sales. It was the perfect fit as she navigated the demands of juggling kids’ schedules and managing a busy household.
She also kept things on track at home by dedicating part of the weekend to prepping meals for the coming week. When friends and neighbors heard about it, they asked if she’d prep and cook for them as well. She happily agreed. Creating home-cooked meals for hungry humans came naturally to Atkinson. She was raised by a mother, grandmothers, and great-grandmas who all loved to cook, entertain and feed their communities. She began to consider how she could bring her passion for cooking to the world through a business venture of her own.
Atkinson loved entertaining as well. She’d been hosting dinner parties since she was in college. In her twenties, she joined a gourmet dinner club. The themes rotated monthly and participants were required to create a sophisticated dish that they never would have attempted before. Once again, when people in her network learned what Atkinson was up to, they wanted to know more. The idea for hosting popup dinner parties began to emerge. Atkinson envisioned a business that combined her love of gathering people together over a shared meal—from hearty weeknight family meals to special events with fancier fare.
As Atkinson researched her business idea, she met with a number of food industry professionals, event planners and more in the Twin Cities area. She connected with BankCherokee’s Advertising and Promotions Manager, Jane Oslund, at a women’s business networking event. Oslund mentioned a local chef who hosted popup dinner parties at surprise locations. Oslund had attended one of the events and shared what she liked about it, as well as what could make the experience better. As the two women talked, Atkinson’s vision for her business became clearer.
A year later, as the youngest of her three kids started kindergarten, Atkinson prepared to move on from her direct sales business. In February 2020, she officially launched Nosh and Gather. Just as it began to gain momentum, COVID forced Atkinson to rethink her business model. Popup dinner parties would have to wait until gathering in person was possible. But her weekly home-cooked meal delivery was exactly what many families needed and the service took off. She also launched special event meal delivery with brunch for Mother’s Day and more—all of which sold out.
As Nosh and Gather continued to grow, Atkinson became disenchanted with the big bank where she was doing her business banking. There was no human interaction. It felt cold and impersonal. She turned to other local business owners for recommendations. When BankCherokee was endorsed by a friend, she connected with Heidi Gesell, BankCherokee’s President and CEO via Zoom.
“What pushed me to BankCherokee is the fact that there are women in leadership positions there, which is rare,” Atkinson said. “But I was also searching for a bank that would value me and my small business. In talking with Heidi, I found exactly what I needed.”
Atkinson is also grateful for the advice she got from Oslund all those months ago. “Jane shared really valuable information that helped me make decisions about Nosh and Gather—her passion for supporting small business owners really shines through.”
Taking the leap to entrepreneurship can be scary. There are many unknowns and it can be a challenge to determine your business banking needs. A community bank helping start and grow small businesses for more than 100 years, BankCherokee never takes a one-size-fits-all approach. Each business owner’s needs are carefully considered to determine what’s right for them. And the BankCherokee team prides themselves on meeting and talking with people directly to build genuine, supportive and long-lasting relationships.
About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose”. Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support women-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story and Publish Her as platforms for doing so.