COVINGTON, Ky. -- Growing up, Mavis Linnemann-Clark thought that baking was a hobby.
So she baked and she wrote and she had a well-rounded childhood in Ryland Heights. After graduating from St. Ursula Academy, she landed a scholarship to Syracuse University, where she earned a degree in journalism.
After college, she moved to Chicago and began to pursue the life of a freelance writer. In an effort to make friends, she began hosting dinner parties.
“And I fell in love with cooking,” she said. “And my guests started noticing.”
Although she had writing opportunities, she had plenty of cooking opportunities too, and as people started eating her fabulous meals, they started asking her to cook for them and their events.
So she enrolled in culinary school at Kendall College in Chicago.
While in school she taught herself how to make jam, but it was no average jam.
“I wanted to take my culinary skills and fuse some of these new ingredients into my jelly,” she said. “I did not want any of it to be ordinary.”
She started making jams with flavors like peach lavender, blueberry lime and cranberry pear chutney under the business name of Made by Mavis in 2013. Her jams are now in more than 100 retail locations in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.
After culinary school and a stint in Italy, Linnemann and her husband decided to move back to Northern Kentucky to be near her family and start a personal chef and catering business.
“My family owns Linnemann Funeral Homes here, and we know so many people from that business,” she said. “I knew I could try to be a big fish in this little pond, rather than trying to form all new connections in Chicago.”
The Delish Dish was born almost five years ago, but it was her introduction to Bad Girl Ventures (BGV) in 2013 that really put her business on the right path. BGV is an educational and micro-finance organization designed to help female entrepreneurs.
The eight-week program, which Linnemann compares to earning an MBA, has a curriculum that teaches how to create a business and marketing plan as well as forecast projections, and supplies behind-the-scenes help.
In addition to winning a $25,000 loan from Bad Girl Ventures, she was also introduced to Carlin Stamm, who became her mentor, for no charge.
Stamm, of Mount Lookout, has had a successful business career and is eager to help those who are just starting out.
“We have to nurture and protect these small, homegrown businesses,” he said. “Those that start here and grow here, will stay here. It just adds to our own economic development.”
After working most of his career with large corporate entities, Stamm said it is rewarding to work with small businesses, where success comes in incremental terms.
“Carlin is an incredible asset to me,” Linnemann said. “He helps me do things like negotiate contracts and navigate human resource issues, and he’s way cheaper than hiring a consultant.”
Her two companies have seven full-time and 30 part-time employees, catering an equal mix of weddings, social and corporate events. The headquarters is located in the Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen on Madison Avenue in Covington. She rents the space six days per week and has been there since 2013.
“The kitchen has been a serious blessing for us,” Linnemann said. “We have been able to collaborate with other chefs, capitalize on supplies from vendors, and it has given us everything we have needed in a commercial kitchen.”
She hopes to find a bigger, more permanent, spot to call home soon, though, because business is booming. According to Stamm, she has gone in three years from zero income to about $500,000 projected for this year, and, he said, things look even better for next year.
Sean Kylen, the lead sous-chef who has worked for Linnemann for about three years, started part time and was simultaneously working as a cook for other organizations. But as business increased, he gave up his other jobs to be a full-time employee.
He credits Linnemann’s success to her drive and ambition.
“She knows how to pull people in, and that works for both employees and customers,” he said. “She is smart, and you can tell she cares about all aspects of the business.”
Some of her signature items include candied bacon in a shot glass, served with Guinness chocolate sauce, or mango shrimp lollipops, which are sweet and spicy and easy to eat.
“Besides a great menu, what makes us different is that we make everything in-house, from dressings, to marmalades, sauces and, of course, jams and preserves,” Linnemann said.
The jams, which have received the Kentucky Proud designation, are also featured on her Delish Dish lunch menu. She trademarked the name Jamwiches, which are wraps and sandwiches featuring one of her unique jams, sauces or chutneys.
Kylen, whose favorite menu items are wine dishes like beef bourguignon or chicken marsala, credits Linnemann for using really good recipes and locally sourced products whenever possible.
“She does all she can to 'ooh' and 'aah' her guests,” he said.