Entrepreneur Vanessa Sena is the brains behind My Local Chefs, an online platform that connects Connecticut chefs, farmers, and producers with local homes, where people can enjoy a variety of healthy prepared foods. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price chatted with Vanessa about how she created the business concept and how she’s building a team to help move her vision forward.

NAN PRICE: Tell us about how you came up with the idea for My Local Chefs.

VANESSA SENA: During COVID-19, I saw there was a need for food businesses to create a meal prep model as an additional revenue stream. I also saw the need for people who wanted to stay at home to reduce their risk but still have a healthy variety of prepared food to choose from. So, the whole concept basically came from the pandemic—seeing both needs and realizing there was a demand.

NAN: How did you connect with other local chefs?

VANESSA: At the time, I started getting approached by other chefs and small food business owners who wanted me to help them to run the business side and the logistics side of things. I realized I had that capacity. So, I gathered a team of talented food marketers, designers, photographers, and business consultants and we started My Local Chefs in July 2021.

NAN: Tell us more about building the team.

VANESSA: I think it’s so important for people to realize, whether you’re a small business or a larger, scalable business, you can’t do it alone. I’m all over the place and I’m able to handle a bunch of different projects at the same time. But if I had to do this all on my own, it would never come to fruition.

So, I have a team working on the tech side, a team working on the marketing side, a team doing admin and customer service, and a team working on quality assurance and logistics. I purposely brought in consultants and advisors—people with knowledge about insurance, risk mitigation, and real estate.

NAN: That ties into the importance of building your community. Is that one of the reasons you became a member of the Hartford Chamber of Commerce?

VANESSA: Yes, absolutely. I think it’s smart to have a network of people who understand where you’re coming from. I’ve always looked at Chambers as a way to broaden your network. Also, I’m new to the area and I’m new to having this type of scalable business. I’ve always run small businesses that were capable of working within a small parameter. Now we’re trying to work in a large parameter.

The thought processes that happens with a small business owner versus a scalable business is different. I’m used to making decisions based on a small business’ needs. I need to start thinking differently.

By becoming a Hartford Chamber member, I hope to connect with people who have that experience, can relate, and can hopefully help. That’s what I’m hoping to achieve and why I joined. And then my goal is to become one of those people, in time, so I can go help the next generation after me.

Read the entire interview at Innovation Destination Hartford