What’s the recipe for turning a hobby into a hustle—and then into a small business? Chef JB is about to give us the raw story of how he turned an Instagram post into a business that he now runs full-time.

Meet Jabari.

EatWithJB

Jabari is “a budding culinarian with a passion for people and food, Jabari Butler focuses on creating unique memorable food experiences. ‘eat with JB’ is a full-service brand that provides prepared meal services, coordinates private catering, and hosts seasonal food events.”

This is probably a good time to warn you: this Side Hustle CEO feature is about to make you very, very hungry.

Jabari is a young chef who didn’t take the conventional route. He didn’t start his journey in culinary school. He doesn’t come from a long line of fancy chefs. And, no, he didn’t even major in Hospitality in college.

If you’ve ever had his cooking, you wouldn’t know that.

It’s probably because Jabari is really skilled at cooking with one particular ingredient—the ingredient that makes the difference between a dish that just tastes good and a dish that tastes good and makes you feel good. Jabari makes everything with love.

It’s that love that makes people ask when the next EatWithJB event is going to happen. And makes people ask him how they can fly him out to cater events. Or how they can hire him as their private chef during birthday vacations.

We did mention that he didn’t go to culinary school, right?

Jabari is a perfect example of going after what you want relentlessly without making excuses. He didn’t stop because his story didn’t look like the stories of other chefs. He didn’t skimp on his dream because other people told him it might be too hard. He didn’t discount himself because he lacked “formal” experience. He cooked. And then he cooked some more.

Clearly, Jabari could stand the heat. Because he stayed in the kitchen.

See what we did there?

OK. We’re gonna take a break from the cooking puns and let Jabari talk now.

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Jabari Butler, Founder and Head Chef of EatWithJB.

What is your side hustle?
I own and operate my own private catering business called EatWithJB and prepared meal program called MealPrepWithJB.

When did you get interested in cooking?
I’ve always loved to cook, but I began pursuing it professionally in 2013.

Tell us the story of how you made your first dollar.
I host seasonal themed food events “with JB” centered around a featured menu that usually include bottomless drinks. The concept came from a very casual Instagram post where I asked my followers if they’d be interested in a “Brunch with JB.”

The first three events either broke even or lost money. After taking a moment to regroup, and better design these food experiences, I added a live band, got some professional graphics created, and sold out my 4th event, “SOUL FOOD with JB,” with a profit!

At the time, did you feel “qualified” to start charging for “WithJB” events?
Yes, because food costs; moreover, my time is invaluable.

Later, I had to take a moment to realize I was charging a discounted price for a premium product and I wasn’t paying myself. Initially it was OK to not make a profit because I was simply excited to have support. Over time, I had to value by time and the quality of the product I was providing.

Looking back, do you feel like you were qualified?
No, but I didn’t care. I knew my food was good and I was creating an experience you can’t get everyday.

What made you take the leap and start EatWithJB?
The feeling I get when I cook for my guests and clients (or even my family and friends) is unmatched. The genuine joy I feel from creating memorable food experiences is why I took the leap. It’s an honest labor of love.

Where would you say you are in your business growth now (Hobby, side hustle, small business, large business)?
Small Business!

What stage would you like it to get to and when?
I want to stay at the small business level for now. I have other culinary goals I’d like to accomplish before I “get big,” but if the opportunity arises to grow, and it makes sense for me, I won’t back down.

Would you do anything differently in the “WithJB” journey?
I don’t think so, honestly. I’ve had a very dynamic journey this far. I’ve cooked with a lot of different chefs in various capacities over just 4 years. I’m able to do some things that chefs who have been cooking longer than I have been alive can’t do/haven’t done. My biggest competition is myself and I feel myself growing daily.

I like my lane.

If you could go back in time to the day before you made your first hustle dollar and tell yourself anything, what would it be?
Value your time. Ask for help if you need it. Show appreciation as much as you can. BREATHE! It won’t always make sense, but it’s your lane…take a detour, roll over the speed bump, do what’s necessary—but don’t stop.

Last question. What’s a song (or two) that helps you stay motivated? And why? (Yeah, that was two questions)

1. Let’s Get It/Sky’s the Limit — Young Jeezy
Although Young Jeezy and I have different hustles, the energy we give to our grind is very similar. This song resonates when I’m motivated and when I’m discouraged. The sky is the limit!!

Favorite Bars
The HOOK::
“The world is yours
And everything in it
It’s out there
Get on your grind and get it”

“Anything you put your mind to put your grind to”
“Men do what they want
boys do what they can
And it ain’t no secret
I’m a grown ass man”

2. Optimistic — Sounds of Blackness
I grew up listening to Sounds of Blackness with my mom so in addition to this pick being nostalgic, the purpose of every single line is encouragement. I think it’s impossible to listen to it and NOT feel good afterward. The energy also gets higher as the song progresses so by the end you’re ready to run a marathon haha.

Favorite Lines
“When I’m the midst of sorrow
You can’t see up when looking down”

“No matter how hard reality seems
Just hold onto your dreams”

“As long as you keep your head to the sky you can win”


Huge thank you to Jabari for sharing his story with us! You can check out his website at EatWithJB.com (and you can place your meal prep orders there if you’re in the Washington, DC area, too!). Don’t forget to follow him on Instagram!

Did Jabari’s story inspire you like it inspired us? Tell us how in the comments 📝

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