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Food Fair

How one caterer's soiree made her the talk of the town

After one short year in business, Connie Chantilis' catering company, Two Sisters Catering (which she originally started with her sister) suffered an identity crisis. With a large yet varied customer base of recruiters, nonprofit organizations, private schools, universities and a corporate lunch program, some people were confused as to whether Two Sisters still handled the small events it had started out doing. Chantilis decided to set things straight by throwing a party.

To celebrate Two Sisters' first anniversary, Chantilis, 39, invited meeting planners, customers and prospects and placed an ad in the local newspaper. The 375 guests attending the party, held outside the retail location in Dallas, not only got to taste the type of fare Two Sisters could provide for any size event, but were also treated to valet parking, a classical guitarist and tented bar and buffet stations.

Positive feedback and tremendous word-of-mouth followed, with Two Sisters doubling sales since its first anniversary party in 1996. Today, with 2003 sales approaching $3 million, Chantilis uses the annual event to showcase different aspects of the business, such as various food styles, florals and designs. As Chantilis has discovered, it's important to stay one step ahead: "I had no idea the response would be so phenomenal [the first time]. But as soon as we realized it, we've planned for a party every year after."

This story appears in the May 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »