Don’t be a perfectionist — This one is difficult because I’m a perfectionist. Being perfect will get you stuck and you’ll never advance. Sometimes things aren’t perfect, and that’s ok. Most of the time, no one knows except for you. Move on, you’ll get more practice and you’ll continue to improve.
As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathryn Kelly, CEO and founder of Taste Buzz Food Tours
With an extraordinary 20+ years of experience in the Las Vegas food and beverage industry, Kathryn Kelly is the epitome of a self-made entrepreneur, who channeled her passion for hospitality, into the award-winning Taste Buzz Food Tours, which she launched in 2016.Taste Buzz Food Tours is a Las Vegas based food tour company providing guests with an exclusive local insider’s perspective on the absolute best “hidden gems” to eat in the city. Guests can choose between two, three-hour walking tour options, visiting five different venues per tour, with a Las Vegas Strip option (priced at $99) and an evening option in downtown Las Vegas (priced at $95). Buzz Food Tours take guests off the beaten path to “hidden gems” which can range from a hole-in-the-wall street cart, to a food truck, to upscale dining, for a full-encompassing experience on the tasteful variety that the city has to offer.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Taste Buzz Food Tours was created because I wanted to share my passion for dining and knowledge of Las Vegas with visitors who are looking for an intimate and personalized taste (pun totally intended!) of the city. Las Vegas is full of hidden gems that many tourists might only stumble upon with tons of online searching, and even if they do read about something, what if the hype didn’t turn out to be anything special? It can be difficult to get a true bite (pun again) into a city without knowing someone to show you around. So, where do you go and who do you trust? I wanted to be that go-to person for people looking for a friend with the inside scoop in Las Vegas. I worked on the Las Vegas Strip for several years and was consistently asked on a nightly basis for recommendations on where to dine and what attractions to see, within a city filled with overwhelming and unlimited options. It really sparked my desire to launch Taste Buzz, which I did in 2016. I was born and raised in this amazing city, Las Vegas and graduated from University of Nevada Las Vegas with my Bachelor of Arts degree in Romance Languages (French and Spanish) in 2009. I even lived abroad in France for two years, which really ignited my love for social dining.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Since I’m in the food and beverage industry, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and to dine at some amazing restaurants with celebrity chefs. One time in particular, my friend and I were invited to a soft opening to a restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip. There was so much food and everything was fantastic. Afterwards, we decided to take a walk to check out some other new places that were opening in the area. Chef Roy Choi had just opened his first and highly anticipated restaurant in Vegas. We were not planning on dining since we just had a huge meal. We just wanted to check out the venue and grab a drink at the bar. The host told us that they were completely full and we couldn’t even do that. We actually ran into Chef Roy Choi at the restaurant and he invited us to sit in the VIP chef’s table located inside the kitchen. How could we say no to that!? We were the first ones to dine at that table and Chef cooked for us himself! We had a prime view of him at work. It was such a mind-blowing experience!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started Taste Buzz Food Tours, I was still working full time at my previous job. I had to find time throughout the rest of the day to work on the business. Hoping to take advantage of every opportunity, it was imperative to answer every phone call. Customers don’t know that you’re trying to juggle starting a business, having a full-time job, and trying to balance real-life at the same time. When they call, you need to be ready and you need to answer the phone. I had to answer phone calls at the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, driving, and even in the shower! There were so many times I would hop in the shower and the phone would ring. I’d be covered in soap, shampoo in my hair, and I’d jump out of the shower to answer the phone. Sometimes it was spam and I could jump right back into the shower. Other times I would have to answer questions still soaking wet and get on the computer, which was in another room!
On one end, the memories are funny to look back on and it is a good indicator when put into perspective of all the hard work I put into making Taste Buzz Food Tours successful. On the other end, it was partly from this that I learned to make time for myself so that I do not go crazy feeling like the business is overtaking my life.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My good friend, Chef Roy Ellamar. I worked for him at his restaurant and I used to watch him run his kitchen and he was so professional and respectful to everyone. He knew early on that I wanted to further my career and would take the time out of his busy day to answer any questions I had. We ended up becoming really good friends and I learned a lot just by watching and listening to him. He’s a very talented chef and runs his kitchen beautifully because he’s passionate for his craft and he’s always learning to improve.
I don’t have one story in particular but many shared experiences with him. Just having someone that you can look up to and teach you tricks of the trade is priceless. He has supported my transition from working inside a restaurant to working with them since day one, and it helps to have someone that can tell you how things work from a different perspective.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I meditate. When I’m stressed or can’t focus, I know that I need to take a break and clear my head for at least 20 to 30 minutes. It allows me to be in the present and focus on what I need to get done next.
To eliminate unnecessary stress before going to a meeting or an event, I’ve learned from the past to come prepared. When you show up prepared and organized, you become confident in your goal. If you are sure and ready in yourself, then the only stress is from being excited, and that is a good kind of stress to have.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self- reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Living in such a diverse melting-pot country like the United States, we deal with so many different types of people from so many different cultures and backgrounds. A diverse team leads to diverse ideas that are not only good at helping people understand and represent their own workforce but in attracting a diverse group of customers. It’s very difficult to see what we aren’t familiar with and having people from all walks of life so closely around us can help everyone open their eyes just a little more.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
The best way to have an inclusive, representative, and equitable society is to have a diverse and open-minded group of leaders. Diversity is key to learning about the differences in cultures and mindsets. Having an open and non-judgemental mind allows for those representatives to take a step back, process the information, and make decisions that would target and benefit those select groups in a positive way. I love when guests experience Taste Buzz Food Tours because it’s an eye-opening and interactive way for them to engage and experience a multitude of cultures. Experiencing a food tour and visiting different venues is the perfect example of understanding how different cultures are unique, but still just equally as beautifully as the next.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other Leaders?
A leader guides. An executive guides, directs, and is in charge of making difficult decisions.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
When most people hear the word CEO, you imagine someone that is so powerful that oftentimes they are put on a pedestal and unapproachable. Although perhaps this can be true, you have to remember that CEOs are regular people with families, have pets, have hobbies, watch tv/movies, and go out to eat. CEOs aren’t superhuman and this myth would be best broken if more CEOs were able to touch some aspects of all their employee’s lives.
Also, I think people believe that once you become a CEO, that you can just boss everyone around and everyone under you does all the work. This definitely isn’t true for a good CEO. A good CEO needs to respect everyone that works for the company and needs a good understanding of how to execute all departments. CEOs work hard. They just have different tasks. As CEO, you represent the company. You take charge of everything that happens, good or bad, and you have to be able to lead by example.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Females often get overlooked when they represent such a powerful position. It’s been ingrained in our society for so long that males take the leading role and the female is the assistant. It’s the stereotypical gender roles such as male doctor, female nurse, male attorney, female receptionist, male manager, female assistant. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be with one of our male tour guides talking about business and after a quick hello, they stop looking me in the eye and have the conversation with him as if I don’t exist. People just automatically assume that because he’s male, he’s the one in charge of business decisions.
Females also have to work even harder to prove that they are capable of a leadership role. A man automatically gets credit for holding a high-power position regardless of if he’s capable or not. A woman has to not only be capable, but she has to excel to get the credit for being in that position.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
You know, it’s funny because I started doing food tours because I love people, I love good food, and I love entertaining. It’s so rewarding connecting with people and seeing the looks of joy on their faces when they’re eating something so delicious and having such a wonderful time. As the company grew, I found myself having to hire tour guides and now I almost never host the tours. I’m actually the one in the background, managing the team, and having to use a completely different set of skills than what I was good at. Although setting up meetings and working on the computer isn’t something that I set out to do originally, I find pleasure in this aspect of the business as well. I read and respond to all of our reviews so I still get to be a part of the happiness that our tours bring to our guests. I also get joy in seeing how much pride the tours bring to our tour guides. Seeing their guests’ happy faces brings them the same satisfaction. Nothing feels better than knowing you are making people happy.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
Taking on an executive role requires a lot of responsibility. You need to be focused, determined, diligent, organized, and open-minded. Anyone can fill the position if they wanted and tried, but it’s not everybody’s goal. If those characteristics don’t fit your personality or you don’t want such a large responsibility, then it’s not the position for you…. and that’s perfectly ok!
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Females are typically more empathetic than men. This is a wonderful skill and we need to use it to our advantage. Understanding how our employees feel can help us greatly in making decisions. As a leader, you want to guide people in the right direction and you can’t do that by making people feel inferior, defensive, or incapable of accomplishing things. Being kind through positive reinforcement, support, and encouragement can go a long way and motivate your team into knowing that they can accomplish things that they didn’t think they were able to.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
My industry is incredible because I get to work with a ton of people who just want to enjoy life. They are on vacation in Las Vegas and they are looking for a great time. I think just making people happy is imperative for overall health and it’s contagious. Happy people love to spread their joy.
In regards to the community, we are partnering with a local food bank to offer a portion of our proceeds going towards fighting hunger in Southern Nevada. We provide our guests an easy opportunity to donate more if they wish. Giving back to our community is so important. Right now with covid, our hospitality industry is hurting and I feel really good to be able to bring groups of people in to dine at restaurants who are now really in need of the business, with new capacity restrictions and lower tourism.
What are your 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Make time for yourself — When I first started Taste Buzz Food Tours, I had the idea that I needed to work around the clock otherwise my business would fail. I always kept the phone lines open. I would respond asap to emails. I would schedule appointments based on everybody else’s time. I wanted to work for myself so that I could enjoy life but now I felt like I was working for everybody! I was miserable. So one day, I decided to create business hours for myself and take vacations because that’s what people do when at their jobs. By having these work boundaries, I enjoy life again and I’m more focused with my time at work.
- Don’t be a perfectionist — This one is difficult because I’m a perfectionist. Being perfect will get you stuck and you’ll never advance. Sometimes things aren’t perfect, and that’s ok. Most of the time, no one knows except for you. Move on, you’ll get more practice and you’ll continue to improve.
- Time management — Trying to balance work and personal life is tough. We only have so many hours in the day and sometimes work can leak into personal life and vice versa. One of the first things I do in the morning is make myself a nice cup of coffee and while I’m drinking my morning cup of joe, I write on a post-it everything I need to do for the day. The most important tasks get jotted down with the time that they need to be fulfilled and I fill the open spaces with other tasks. As I cross each task out throughout the day I feel accomplished. This is so rewarding and it ties in with my next example.
- Set goals — Starting a business is challenging because there are a lot of ups and a lot of downs. If you get stuck in a down, it can be very hard to pull yourself out of it. Setting goals for yourself is key because each time you hit a goal, you feel accomplished. You can have many goals, but in general, you should have your “long term goal” or the “main goal” and you should set up a bunch of mini goals inside that main goal so that each time you hit a goal you know you are getting one step closer to achieving it.
- Dress the part — This is very important for females especially because, as I mentioned above, we need to prove that we are capable of being in certain positions. I completely understand that this can be taken as a double-standard and perhaps sexist but this is the way our society works. If you want to be taken as a business professional, you need to dress like a business professional. It also just makes you feel more confident in general.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would like to inspire people to find joy in life. Whatever it is that they do, they need to be able to find joy in it. Sometimes this can be from changing your setting, as in work or location, but sometimes this can mean changing your mindset. Life is so short and can end any moment. It doesn’t do us any good to dwell in negativity. Sometimes people are so used to being negative they don’t even know what happiness feels like. Once you find true happiness, you’d never want to feel otherwise ever again.
Can you please give us your favorite Life Lesson Quote? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” by Benjamin Franklin
I was fighting this for so long. Working in the restaurant industry, especially in Vegas, you get used to working late hours. I had always woken up earlier than my colleagues because I wanted to run errands and go to the gym before work, but I loved staying out late too. When I was transitioning into starting Taste Buzz Food Tours, I felt as if I could still live the same lifestyle. And I did, but it was difficult. The phone would ring early and I’d have to answer while my mind was still groggy. I’d start work but 5pm would come around and because other businesses were on a 9 to 5 schedule, I wouldn’t be able to finish all my tasks.
When I finally decided I needed to wake up before the sun rises, I was able to accomplish so much more before other people were just getting to work. I won’t go back to my previous lifestyle knowing how much more beneficial rest and a productive start to your day can make.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
I would absolutely love to meet Joe Rogan! His dedication, his hard work, his personal growth, growth in career, and his mindset are exactly what I strive to be. He had to fight hard to get where he is today, yet doesn’t hold the struggles against the world. He actually uses it as motivation to thrive in success. He’s into fitness, mental health, and eating healthy, all key elements to living a happy and healthy life and I couldn’t agree with that more. He’s well rounded because he immerses himself in diversity. I admire that he invites people of all different backgrounds and perspectives on his podcast. I look up to him immensely.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
It was completely my pleasure! I love inspiring and helping others that are looking for guidance. Thank you for having me. I’d love to connect with all of you in the future. Please follow TasteBuzzFoodTours on social media, @TasteBuzzFoodTours on Instagram, Facebook.com/TasteBuzzFoodTours and @TasteBuzzFoodTours on Twitter!