Once a rebellious teenager, Aurelia Geddis, now 33, is a spiritually-based, single mother to a young boy and owner of Sweet Soul Catering.
Geddis’ creations range from fried chicken and collard greens to sweet potato cheesecake and apple pie, from a soul-food feast with creamy macaroni and cheese to an intimate tea party with cucumber sandwiches and Charcuterie boards.
“Cooking is very therapeutic to me,” said Geddis, of Woodbridge, Virginia. “I thought to myself that I wanted to make sweet treats and soul food, so I came up with the name Sweet Soul. I even had a scripture to line up with what I wanted to do. Psalm 34:8: ‘Oh taste and see that the Lord is Good, Blessed is the man that trusts in Him.”
The eldest of three daughters born to Herbert Geddis, a nondenominational deacon, and Toni Geddis, a minister, Aurelia was the apple of her parents’ eyes. Once she past her growing-up years, she started her business in 2015.
Geddis talks with Zenger about her journey from an 18-year-old who was twice kicked out of her home to successful culinary businesswoman.
Zenger: What is the origin of your business, and how did you arrive at that name?
Aurelia Geddis: I started it in 2015 with just baking and making a few dishes for people at church. I remember writing a Facebook post with suggestions on a name. With my sisters Shanelle and Te’onya, I had a pretend restaurant called Ree’s Palace.
I had a notebook and took my sisters’ orders. The menu consisted of peanut butter and jelly, ramen and anything microwavable. My sisters always sent me ideas and the craziest and hardest recipes. To this day, I’m still taking their orders.
Zenger: Can you describe what you do?
Geddis: I am a caterer. I provide services for people who need cuisine at their events, parties, weddings, funerals, dinner parties, etc. I have had the honor to cater at some awesome events. I have catered several weddings and proms. I’ve done the Taste of Black D.C. with the University of the District of Columbia, an event at the Embassy of Haiti.
At an event with the Greater Washington Urban League, I actually won the chefs’ competition. All of these chefs owned their restaurants, so I felt like I understood the assignment of what I do. I’m a black single mother.
Zenger: Has COVID been a factor?
Geddis: Pre-COVID, the business got so busy that I had to start rejecting business. It was stressful. I could tell I was starting to experience burnout. So when COVID happened, the break was needed. I tried to think about how to revamp the business to still accrue business without having to travel to my clients.
I started making seasonings and extracts. I plan to start advertising it in 2022. I have really advertised recently, but now that things are opening back up, I have taken on more events. I literally started out doing small things and making mistakes.
But I expanded to catering weddings and large events with over 200 people. I’m tired, but I truly love it. Now, I plan to do smaller events and dinner parties and meal prepping. I’ve also entertained the idea of being a personal or in-home chef.
Zenger: Can you characterize your bond with your parents and their spiritual role in your life?
Geddis: My relationship with my parents wasn’t always great. As a teen, I understood that we lived in a nice home in a nice neighborhood, but I also understood that we didn’t really have money and funds were tight. There was a time when I was being rebellious.I got kicked out of the house.
Zenger: How was life for you at that time?
Geddis: Even while kicked out, I would come visit, and they loved me. There were arguments, but I knew they loved me. I came back after a few years and got kicked out again. I lived with my pastors for a couple of months while they mentored me, loved me and convinced me I should go back home and reconcile with my parents.
My mom raised us in church. I stayed in the church I was raised in and would see them sometimes. I constantly felt God pulling on my heart, bringing me back to a life of faith instead of partying and entertaining bad influential people. I knew that God was the only way to go when I felt I didn’t have anywhere else to go.
Zenger: Were there challenges raising Caleb as a single mother?
Geddis: Being pregnant was the most difficult thing. I was having a baby with a man that I didn’t want to be with. I was depressed all day. The day I had Caleb, I wept so hard when I heard his cry. It was the most beautiful and joyous thing I’ve ever heard. I remember not sleeping at night to make sure he was alive and breathing.
I silently went through postpartum. My hair fell out and support was not coming through like I wanted it to. My son made me grow up. He makes me make better decisions. He’s the reason why I went back to school and got my degree. He’s the reason why I decided that I wouldn’t continue a relationship with his father.
My son understands that I work with cooking. There have been several late nights with being in the grocery store, doing homework and prepping meals. He rarely complains about it. We now have a deal that his job is to go to school and do well, and mine is to make the money, so we can go on vacations.
My ultimate goal with him is to raise him as a gentleman who treats women well, tells the truth, prays and seeks God for all things. Everything else will fall into place. We pray every day for his teachers and classmates and of course for my future husband.
I recently had a meeting with his teacher. She had only good things to say about his behavior and kindness to other students. He sits next to a student that is on the spectrum, and she states that he is so kind and patient with him when other students aren’t. That only shows me that I’m parenting him well.
Zenger: How did you develop your business acumen?
Geddis: My independence as a child allowed my parents to trust me more with finances. After all the years of craziness, they helped me purchase my first car and my second. My mom always volunteers my services to any person she comes in contact with. She is the ultimate networker. My dad loves to eat. He’ll tell me if the dish was good or not.
Before I had my son, I always said I wanted to purchase a home. I’m in awe of how I actually bought a home, revamping it during the pandemic. I found out I had identity theft when my credit report was run. It took me a few months to get it cleared up.
I went to an open house on a Sunday afternoon with my dad. When I walked in, the home needed work. The previous owner didn’t take great care of it, so the cost was under market value. I was able to take advantage of a loan and get renovations included in my mortgage. Every area of my house is new. All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Zenger: What is your educational background?
Geddis: In high school, I contacted a culinary artist from Johnson and Wales [University]. The day, I called my mom to let her know what I wanted to do, she was calling me. She said God told her what I should be going to school for, and we both said the culinary arts. I actually got accepted to Johnson and Wales.
But because of the family dynamic and the finances at the time, my dream school was not in the picture. I would cook for different church functions and my church family would always hype me up and encourage me to do more. One day, I just got the courage to stop making excuses and just start.
After high school, I went to community college. I didn’t really go to classes or do well and was in and out of school for a while. It wasn’t until after I had my son that I wanted to be a good example to him. I enrolled in Mid-America Christian University and graduated in 2017 with my bachelor’s in business administration with a focus in accounting and ethics.
Zenger: Are there any causes you aspire to?
Geddis: When I attended the Greater Washington Urban League, I promoted healthy eating for low-income families.
There are several diseases the black community is more susceptible to because of the food they have access to or what is more or /less expensive.
I was able to create a meal to show that we can eat healthy — even in the means that we live in. I also created a video showing how to cook healthy meals they promoted on their site.
Zenger: Was racism ever an issue?
Geddis: I never really thought I could accomplish as much as my Caucasian counterparts. When advertising myself, I wouldn’t get as many hits or business. But through faith and prayer, resources and businesses were drawn to me like a magnet. My family, friends and extended family allowed me to believe I could accomplish anything.
Edited by Judith Isacoff and Fern Siegel
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