Thursday Food shares the story of two young Jamaicans who are now co-owners of a US-based kitchen remodelling franchise called Kitchen Tune-Up.
After years working within Jamaica's corporate sector, Steven Livingston got a call on Monday, December 15, 2014 that would change his life. It was his former employer Diageo. "We've been trying to get a hold of you with no luck, we have you down for a final interview tomorrow at 10:00 am for a role you inquired about months ago," he was told. When Livingston asked where, he got the quick response: Chicago.
A subsequent call from Diageo's travel team was to schedule a flight departing four hours later. The following day, he was in downtown Chicago making the rounds of interviews with senior management for one of Diageo's largest regions for the role of sales analytics manager. Three weeks later, he got the news that he'd landed the job. With that, he resigned from GKMS as business development manager, married his girlfriend Takia Shara Livingston who was enrolled at The UWI, Mona's Doctor of Dental Surgery Programme, and migrated to Chicago, moving into an apartment that he was seeing for the first time.
Takia Shara followed soon after, upon graduating. Livingston progressed quickly, later moving on to work for companies such as Colgate, Walmart E-commerce, leading several turnarounds for various divisions across sporting goods, fashion and home. Most recently, he has gone on to eBay serving as director, leading their sneakers division, the third-largest e-commerce operation in the US.
The couple quickly realised that there were alternatives to the status quo. For Takia to practice dentistry in the US, she would need to matriculate through school for an additional three years and take on student loans of over $200K. After weighing that cost and time, they decided it wasn't worth it and turned their sights instead on a family business.
With that, they hired a franchise consultant and evaluated numerous businesses. It so happened that during this process, the couple had to be renovating their new home and remodelling their kitchen. One of the businesses presented to them was a kitchen remodelling franchise known as Kitchen Tune-Up that had been in business for over 30 years across the US. Takia realised that this was something she would enjoy. They quickly researched and discovered the stark opportunity within northern New Jersey, which was saturated with older homes. October 2019, the pair launched the very first Kitchen Tune-Up operation in the New Jersey region, operating from the basement of their home. The business was built on an ethos of amazing customer experience and services that delivered a brand-new remodel in under five days.
In three years, with Takia at the helm as general manager/CEO, they've delivered over 200 projects. The business has grown from a team of two to nine and on Saturday, February 25, they launched their brand-new showroom in the Bloomfield community of Brookdale. The showroom is surrounded by affluent towns such as Glen Ridge, Montclair and Cedar Grove. Additionally, they have recently purchased additional territories, expanding their operations across northern New Jersey. Takia prides herself on being a new entrepreneur, reminding others that they don't have to pursue traditional roles but can, like her, pivot from dentistry to business even with the attendant challenges. She's proud of the smiles she has been delivering every day and the lessons she'll be able to impart to her two children.
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