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Charlotte-area caterers savor their new business debut

Heather Scovel, left, and Jodi Wright, founders of Savory Moments catering business, have launched a new venture - Magnolia Woods, an event and catering venue in Huntersville. Their Savory Moments business is now located at the site.
Heather Scovel, left, and Jodi Wright, founders of Savory Moments catering business, have launched a new venture - Magnolia Woods, an event and catering venue in Huntersville. Their Savory Moments business is now located at the site. cesmith@charlotteobserver.com

Sisters and caterers Heather Scovel and Jodi Wright are enjoying showing off their latest business venture - Magnolia Woods, an event and catering space in Huntersville.

They opened two months ago, and have already hosted parties and a Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce networking event last week.

Located at 12125 Statesville Road, they purchased the seven-acre space on an anniversary date of their original business, Savory Moments catering and gourmet shop.

That business opened in 2009, in a leased storefront in the University City area. Savory Moments is now based at the Magnolia Woods event space.

“At five years from the day we opened, we purchased the property. It was like our five year anniversary present to ourselves,” said Scovel, 43.

Wright, 44, and Scovel shared with ShopTalk four strategies they used to grow their business to this point.

Sisters Heather Scovel and Jodi Wright, co-owners of Savory Moments catering business, now have a new event space called Magnolia Woods. Video by Celeste Smith

Seeking training: Wright, who moved to Charlotte after being laid off from her job at an Alabama transportation company, helped launch Savory Moments after graduating from a FastTrac program that helped unemployed workers become entrepreneurs. Wright took three weeks of classes at Central Piedmont Community College, where she learned about trademarks, branding, business plans and handling finances. Program organizers said at the time that Wright was the first of the program's 58 graduates to launch a business.

Building a track record: Starting off in a small leased facility that had a kitchen “gave us a good foundation…and got us on the program of paying the bills and letting the banks see how our business model was working,” Scovel said.

But banks still hesitated to lend money for an expansion, the sisters said.

It took years and “a lot of things fell through,” said Wright. “You would think it was signed, sealed, delivered,” but then the underwriter would reject it.

But one bank that rejected them referred the duo to another lender looking for their type of project -- and who later helped the sisters get an SBA loan of about $700,000.

Relying on family: Their mom, Nicki Vipperman, helped with their 10 percent down payment and co-owns the property along with Scovel and Wright. And the sisters are clear about their division of labor. Scovel, who graduated from Johnson & Wales University with a degree in baking and pastry arts, does all the food, while Wright organizes event and handles other logistics.

Picking the right location: Buying a former motorcycle shop with multiple divided rooms and a large patio space gives their business room to grow, according to the sisters. Future plans for the outdoor space includes expanding parking, investing in garden landscaping and building a barn.

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