Updated: Feb 14, 2022
Paris Rollins watched her family struggle with health crises such as cancer and diabetes. The further she dove into researching these health complications, the more she noticed it was all in the food and a lack of exercise. This led Paris to scrutinize what she was eating. She committed to not passing those same eating habits to her family. Paris tried to help her family change their eating habits, but they refused to change regardless of how it impacted their health. This led her to understand that food is a drug if not properly consumed. She said, "They do not want to give it up even if they know it will improve their lives because of the pleasure that it gives."
When she introduced these healthy foods to her daughter, she refused to eat them. She wondered if it was too late. This created an obsession for her to figure out how to make healthy food taste good. When her daughter started to enjoy the healthy foods, she was cooking. It inspired her to do the same for other children. Paris created Picky Eaterz, healthier nutrition for picky eaters. She's committed to improving the health of the next generation. It's a food delivery and catering service that offers nutritional options for parents strapped for time cooking healthy foods for their children.
What are you most proud of when it comes to Picky Eaterz?
Paris is proud that she stuck with it because she addressed a problem that she was concerned about that others wanted it. She also spends a considerable amount of time creating combinations that kids will eat, which requires a lot of patience.
What fears did you have along the journey?
Paris' biggest fears were growing her business at scale and not having enough time for her family. She loves being a mom and being present for her family. She wasn't sure how she could be a mompreneur and balance those roles. Paris' next fear was what if people didn't like it? What if what she was creating was only for fun and not a business. Lastly, what if no one enjoyed her food! Moving through those fears was difficult for her, but she's proud of herself for sticking with it.
What's the biggest risk you've taken so far?
The biggest risk that Paris has taken was quitting jobs and moving away from that security. She didn't have a regular paycheck to rely on. But watching videos of people in hospice care sharing their regrets in life inspired her to live a life without regret. And that meant quitting her job.
Tell us about any major setbacks that you had and how you recovered.
COVID forced Picky Eaterz to alter its business model. They created experiences with groups of children and focused on catering at that time. But, Paris had to pivot. She pivoted to home deliveries and door-to-door services. This was a challenge because she went from bulk servicing to working individually with some clients. But that led to other opportunities for her business. She started to work with daycares and camps, and it was through COVID that she discovered a new model of doing business that she added to her repertoire. She shared, "So it was a setback that turned into something that was actually even bigger because now that's what I'm doing. And it's bringing in more than what I was doing before."
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition.
This was Paris' first pitch, but it wasn't her first time applying for a Black Girl Ventures pitch competition. Years ago, she read a Maxim magazine and in that magazine was an interview from a Black woman founder who pitched through BGV. This encouraged her to apply; however, she wasn't selected. When BGV went virtual, she took another shot at it. She wasn't clear about having a pitch deck, and when she attended the first pitch competition, she realized that her pitch deck needed work. She returned a week later with improvements and lots of encouragement from the group.
Paris was nervous during her pitch. She said, "I thought I was going to die. I was panicking. My heart was racing, and I thought life was over, but I was still excited about this new opportunity. It came off as lots of energy, but it was my nerves. It was a lot of energy, so it was fun. I loved it. I learned a lot."
Her advice to those looking to pitch is to go for it. She said, "The time will pass even though you may be nervous, you always have to realize which I was telling myself, well, the time is going to pass, and this is going to be over in about three minutes. So just, get it over with. Time always has to keep going. So just get it over with and get that experience and learn to get used to it. It can just kind of become the normal thing."
Picky Eaterz used its funds to purchase a bigger vehicle with its logo. This helped Paris pack the car with her catering orders to make fewer deliveries. The car has been a blessing for her business.
How do you measure success?
Paris said, "Success is in my mind feeling like you are living your purpose. Your soul feels complete, and no matter what you're doing, you know how to be happy at that moment and see what most people will call obstacles or sad moments as beautiful things that are probably preparing you for something more.
And I feel like to have that peace, no matter where you go, you'll always be happy at whatever it is that you're doing. So, I think that success is when in your soul is it at peace. And then whatever you choose, what you feel that your purpose is that would just be like an extra bonus to life."
Support isn't always given to Black and Brown women in business; when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
Paris shared, "When I first started, I used to go to healthy events, and there weren't many Black people at these types of events. I just knew that I wanted to target all people, but I had a really special zone and focus on the Black community because I felt like we were the worst at eating. So my actual disappointment came when I used to be excited. Like I'm going to share this with the Black community, and my least support came from that community."
Despite this disappointment, Paris understood that perhaps our community had more struggles than most, so eating healthy wasn't top of mind. Now things have shifted, and she's learned how to speak to that community. But it's in those quiet moments that nobody sees when things go wrong that you have to push through.
Paris shared, "And no matter what advice you get from people, you have to push yourself in the end. People can do that, and once they're not doing it at that moment, you can't really rely on people to keep you going. You have to have that in you. And once you start doing business and say something is slow or fails, you have to have that inner you and that positive outlook. Use that faith to keep going no matter what, and be able to see the bigger picture."
What do you think is an important skill or asset you need to succeed in business?
When Paris first started, she spent a lot of time watching interviews of entrepreneurs, listening to their stories, and noticing how different they were in their skill sets and how they did business. But when she summed it all up, she realized that many of them had a few things in common.
She said, "I don't know if that's a skill. But it's purpose. I feel like it needs to—you have to feel that it's your purpose and what you want to do. If you feel that, then that's what's going to take you because nothing's going to stop you from getting to your purpose."
What's the most exciting part of your business?
Paris loves the creative side of her business. It brings out her inner child, and she enjoys making the shapes. She loves how everything comes together. Coupled with knowing that the kids think it's delicious keeps her going.
What do you think the future holds for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs?
Paris had an intriguing conversation with the founder of Build-A-Bear. She said, "We ended up having a meeting. And she said, you know, I really feel that the future of entrepreneurship is in Black women. And I was so surprised to hear that cause, you know, she was Caucasian, and I just didn't even expect to hear that at all. And it made me sit back and think, and I was like, man, it really is.
When I got to do Black Girl Ventures and saw all these women and saw all these other programs and actually taking the time to see what all these Black women are doing, I'm like, oh my God, it is our time. We had other, many other things that we had to do in the past and the future that these obstacles kept pushing us back. But we kind of live in his time where now if you push us back, it's like, it's going to be a problem because everything like televised mail, so you can't make it so obvious.
So women are just like, really going now. They're like literally taken off. I think the future of it's just something that is going to definitely—I mean, add in our flavors, our culture, our everything is just, it's different. It's going to be different. It's going to be new. The world needs something from the Black community, and culture is going to be big. So that's what I think. It's time for a change. And I think that the Black women are about to bring that change, or we're in the middle of it."
If you and I were meeting three years from now, looking back, what would it take for you to feel over the moon about your progress?
Paris hopes to double or triple the growth of Picky Eaterz. She only wants to see the business still in motion, and that's all the confirmation she needs to know that what she's doing is working.
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing. How do you take care of yourself?
Paris is a mother of three children, and she has a partner. She receives a lot of support from her partner and her daughter. Reading the bible keeps her grounded and praying. Paris focuses on maintaining a peaceful mind. She will often get fresh air by spending time in nature. Lastly, she'll ask herself, what would she be doing if she wasn't doing this? That thought scares her yet keeps her motivated.
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
"Next year, you would've wished you started today."
"I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 things that do not work."
What's your favorite business hack or app you can't live without?
Name one food item that you have a hard time saying no to.
What's next for Picky Eaterz?
Picky Eaterz is working on product creation that helps nursing moms. She would like to encourage nursing mothers to focus on what they're consuming because the nutrients in their breast milk impact the nutrition of their babies. Not only does she hope to support nursing moms, but she hopes to create natural and nutritious baby food. She hopes to see eating vegetables as a typical norm for families.
Any last words…?
Paris said, "I still watch the pitches. I really love what Omí is doing. I think it's amazing. Her mission just really has drawn me in. I just really love what she's doing. And even the follow-ups and stuff like that, staying in touch. It really was a big help for me to keep going and get to where I'm going faster. It just looks so much better when I pull up in that vehicle that looks more like a catering vehicle, more professional."