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24-Karat Gold Syrup Is Just One Part of This Self-Taught Chef's Empire Kelli Ferrell of Nana's Chicken-N-Waffles discusses building a personal brand, balancing work and life, and selling a line of unique products.

By Shawn P. Walchef

Key Takeaways

  • Branding is a crucial part of any business. As the owner of Nana’s Chicken-N-Waffles and self-taught chef, Kelli Ferrell wanted to separate her personal brand from that of the restaurant.
  • Kelli Ferrell is not your typical restaurateur. She has launched unique products, including a luxurious 24k Magik Maple Syrup and waffle mix for fans and patrons to take home and enjoy.
  • Follow her @whoiskelli across all social media platforms.
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Restaurant owners can build their business and personal brands simultaneously.

Kelli Ferrell is a distinct personality in the restaurant space. Not just as the founder of Nana's Chicken-N-Waffles, but as a dynamic individual weaving together her roles as a mother, content creator, entrepreneur, and self-taught chef.

In the world of culinary arts, Kelli transcends the traditional role of a restaurateur.

She uses Instagram as a digital platform to strategically separate her personal brand from that of the business. Her @whoiskelli account offers a unique window into her daily life, offering glimpses of her culinary prowess, fashion insights, and the joys of motherhood.

Related: The Reality of Getting Your Business on Reality TV

"@whoiskelli represents who I am as an individual, as a mother, as a content creator, as an entrepreneur, and as that everyday woman just kind of striving to build her brand," Ferrell told Shawn Walchef of Cali BBQ Media. "My degree was in fashion, merchandising, and design. It had nothing to do with culinary. So you'll get a little bit more fashion-inspired things. But it's food and fashion that you would really see on @whoiskelli."

On the other hand, branding is an essential element for Kelli that extends beyond her role as a restaurant owner. As the self-taught chef behind Nana's Chicken-N-Waffles, she recognized the need to establish a separate brand for herself. Kooking with Kelli became an avenue where her passions intertwine, showcasing her unique approach as a non-traditional chef. "Kooking with Kelli is really birthed for food and fashion," she says. "I knew that I had the brand, Nana's Chicken-N-Waffles, but I was also my own separate brand of things that I wanted to do."

Waffle Mix, Grits, and 24-Karat Gold Syrup

Kelli Ferrell's entrepreneurial spirit doesn't stop at running a restaurant; it extends to launching unique products. She extended her brand by introducing a line of products, including her waffle mix, cajun grits, and a luxurious gold-flaked 24K Magik Maple Syrup.

Related: Bethenny Frankel on Her Approach to Business and Negotiating Deals: 'I'm Good at Concepts, Not Contracts'

"I wanted you, the consumer, to be able to take them home and get creative with them," Kelli says, emphasizing her desire for her guests to experience the creativity and uniqueness of her culinary offerings.

"I wanted to do a 24-karat gold maple syrup so you kind of get that food and fashion luxury."

With all these big projects happening, Ferrell is also focused on expanding Nana's Chicken-N-Waffles, and also Women in Restaurants, a woman empowerment movement that provides education and events to women in the industry.

"I believe in building with others," says Kelli Ferrell. "I believe that it's enough room for all of us, and I'm really open to that."

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Shawn P. Walchef

Founder of Cali BBQ Media

“Be the show, not the commercial.”

Cali BBQ Media Founder Shawn Walchef helps brands and leaders leverage the new Business Creator Economy with strategic Smartphone Storytelling and Digital Hospitality.

His Cali BBQ restaurant company has generated more than $35 million since opening in 2008. They operate numerous locations in San Diego and beyond.

Shawn’s weekly video series Restaurant Influencers (published by Entrepreneur Media and produced by Cali BBQ Media) has been seen by over 25 million people.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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