Just ‘In Time Catering came from many years in the kitchen of Justin Wells’ Grandparents. Growing up, Justin spent a lot of time with his grandparents, watching them compose meats, spices, and vegetables to make incredible soul food dishes. From those experiences, Justin developed a knowledge and affinity for cooking. After his grandparents passed, Justin took an entrepreneurial leap to keep his grandparents’ memory alive. According to Justin, “through my business, I wanted to keep their name alive and keep connecting with them because I don’t want to lose memories of them. Everything I have cook-wise literally has come from them. That’s my venture, just being around food forever.”

Creating a catering business from the ground up was a daunting step for Justin. Since he had no experience in the industry, Justin had to learn many things about running a business very quickly. To help with this endeavor, he met several established industry professionals and found their advice invaluable. However, that still left Justin with figuring out innovative ways of implementation.

As a new business, Justin’s main aims were to spread the word about his business, gain credibility, and give back to his community. To set a foundation for success, Justin began by creating an incredible product. He spent countless hours in the kitchen, designing his menu and promoting his business. To accomplish his goals, Justin did a lot of volunteer work. This allowed him to meet with the community and have them try his food. Justin reflected on his early years. “I could do it for free just to be seen because I wanted people to know that it’s not about me, it’s about being part of my community and being an asset to the County.” Through Justin’s work in the community, he gained recognition and his business expanded considerably. However, he was still aware there was a great deal to learn in this field.

Justin discovered the Launch Lenawee program through social media and heard about it from several of his friends. Launch Lenawee, based out of The Adrian Armory, is a program designed to foster and support new entrepreneurs during their experiences. Their mission is centered around providing access to services, resources and mentors. He met the leaders of Launch Lenawee, Mark and Mary Murray, and they extended an invitation for Justin to join the program.

Going into class, Justin admitted to being a bit intimidated. As a business owner, he already had countless tasks to balance, as he was working to build an enterprise and develop his skills as a business owner. The thought of adding the equivalent of a college-level business course to his already packed life seemed nearly impossible. Despite his initial hesitations, Justin decided to enroll in Launch Lenawee and found the experience invaluable. The collaborative atmosphere increased Justin’s passion and provided him with a network for support and accountability.

As a Launch Lenawee student, Justin gained a multitude of insights on how to better run and scale his business. According to Justin, his main takeaway was the importance of customer segmentation. “It’s essential to be very clear on who an ideal customer is, and that one can’t market to everyone.”

By leveraging this information, Justin was able to cater for many successful events in Lenawee and develop his business within the broader region. His ventures have allowed him to branch out as far as Kalamazoo, where he did some catering for the People First Economy, a program similar to Launch Lenawee. Despite the two-and-a-half-hour drive, Justin enjoyed working with the program and getting to meet aspiring entrepreneurs from Kalamazoo. The program attendees loved his food and services, and wanted to know if he would ever return to cater again.

Justin has had a number of other successes as an entrepreneur, many of which have allowed him to positively impact the community. As well as catering countless parties, weddings, and other events, Justin has provided food events for various non-profits including Share the Warmth, Catherine Cobb, and Hospice of Lenawee. He was also actively involved in Adrian Dominican Sisters 100th Jubilee and Lenawee Now’s Square One Pitch Competition. Justin has been able to secure a contract with GM, as their default caterer, and is allowed to sell food in the plants.

In the future, Justin has high aspirations for Just ‘In Time Catering. Currently, he is excited to be able to offer employment to the Lenawee community. For employees, he wants other individuals who want to give back to the community and are willing to work with different schedules.

Within the next five years, Justin is looking forward to expanding his reach with a food truck, allowing him to work in a wider variety of outdoor venues and would love to start a restaurant to bring the community together.

From starting a business based on his Grandparents’ legacy to his many expansions, Justin has had an affinity for the community and has been pleased to have a role in it. According to Justin, “I do business in Lenawee County because I’m from Adrian. So, I see myself as being an asset in Lenawee County. I want to be a positive role model and a figure that people in Lenawee County can come to for advice or for good news.”

Written in collaboration with Lenawee Now