How Pulling Weeds Inspired Job Burns to Start Busy Day Cooking & Catering

Job Burns
Job Burns, Image: Submitted

In 2012, Job Burns was pulling weeds and pushing carts at a big-box retail giant.

Like most young adults, that’s not where he wanted to be.

“One day I was sitting there and I thought, ‘this is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. I don’t want to run the ranks of this big box retail store. I want to be happy,” says Burns.

Burns has been cooking as long as he could remember and had worked at restaurants various restaurants in the province since he was 16. He knew where his passion was.

“That was the day I went home, I wrote out the draft of my entire business plan in a night. When you’re pulling weeds, it gives you a lot of time to think,” he says. “I sat there all afternoon and just thought, ‘Ok, what do people need? They want to eat well. They want to eat fast, but they want homemade meals.’ ”

He had the idea, now he had to figure out how to make it feasible and affordable.

“For the rest of my day was, ‘how am I going to do that? How am I going to make sure it’s still affordable? How do they get them the food they want? Ultimately, the answer was working in my client’s houses, rather than building a facility, making it in that facility then delivering,” says Burns.

We’re able to cut down on our client’s expenses and at the same time, their wasted food, because we’re monitoring what’s in their house, what’s coming in their house and then when we are there, if there’s something that needs to be used up, we don’t wait for them to use it, we use it for them, so they’re able to save on their grocery bills.”

That was the beginnings of Busy Day Cooking & Catering, the Saint John-based business that offers in-home, catering and dinner party chef services that are healthy and affordable.

When the business first caught going, while Burns was still in university in Fredericton, it was just him, doing at-home dinner parties and corporate events. But the business now has three additional full-time employees. One is a banquet and events manager, the other two are at-home “Busy Day Chefs.”

“We have clients Monday to Friday for them. They go out to our client’s house with their groceries, pack everything away in their fridge, clean and sanitize their space, and then get to work to cooking their four to five meals for the whole work week and the day,” says Burns.

Our chefs leave one meal hot and ready, leave the kitchen clean and spotless and then they store everything else in the fridge and the freezer for our clients to reheat in the same about of time as a frozen pizza or frozen lasagna.”

The at-home chefs are insured and bondable through Busy Day’s corporate insurance. Since they are working in someone’s home, no formal license is needed. Meanwhile, for catering and banquet services, the company rent licensed facilities around the city.

“We rent licensed facilities and rent under their licenses, rather than having our own,” says Burns. “[That’s] the largest difference between us and a traditional prepared meal service. It is a goal of mine to have my own licensed facility but right now it’s more feasible to rent.”

Burns describes his clients as, well, very busy people.

“Everybody knows that person who you think, ‘oh my gosh, how do they it all?’ They’re a mom, they take their kids to school, they take them to soccer practice after school, they work 40 hours a week, they’re members on boards, volunteer in their communities,” says Burns. “How do they have time for themselves? That’s who my clients are. We help give them time for themselves so they don’t have to worry. We take meals off their plate, so it gives them a lot more time to do the things they want to do.”

In the future, Burns said he would like Busy Day to have its own facility, something he currently has in the works. But near-term he wants to continue growing the company’s client base and bring on some more staff.

“I’m still in what I consider to be my first year of real business because before that it was self-employment and it was only me,” he says. “My goal for the first year is to continue to grow our in-home chef clients as well as taking on some full-time chefs to work with those clients and in our catered events and dinner parties.”

Now 24, Burns has come a long way from pulling weeds and pushing carts five years ago. His advice to young people wanting to get out of their dead end-job and start their own business is to simply try it.

“You’re the director of your own life. Only you get to choose which path you’re going to take. Sometimes you’re faced with a tough decision and you can choose to let it drag you or drive you. Always choose to let it drive you,” says Burns. “I think if someone has a dream, it’s cliche, but if you never try, you’ll never know. The worst thing that’s going to happen is you’ll fail, but life goes on.”

“That’s what it was for me. It was like, ‘if I never do this, it will always be a ‘what if?’ I don’t like ‘what ifs’. I like what was.”