Women Who Inspire: Kat Alexander of Portable Provisions
From seasoned style to seasoned food, this isn’t your basic unconventional career transition. Meet boss babe Kat Alexander, founder of Portable Provisions – a New American cuisine catering business based in New York City. A former fashion tech, inventor and owner of an artisanal cheese shop, Kat means business. Heavily influenced by her Korean-American mother’s cooking, food has always been one of Kat’s biggest passions. The catering business came naturally to her: “I have always loved cooking and entertaining and I feel like it’s the convergence of all the things I love.” Owning a business has always been in her blood; the increased responsibility allows for a greater sense of achievement.
Her most ambitious achievement to date is her unique catering business. Kat describes the typical Portable Provisions experience as an interactive trip around the world for your taste buds. She uses client feedback to create a tailored seasonal menu to keep things fresh and interesting. The food itself is “an amalgamation of many different cuisines” influenced by her Asian heritage, Jewish identity and love for travel. For Kat, cooking is a way to incorporate her experiences abroad into her work.
Portable Provisions isn’t just internationally influenced, but also globally conscious. With an emphasis on sustainability, their menu is 100 percent organic and served in biodegradable materials. Kat makes a conscious effort to make her tapas-style food not only look and taste good, but be good for you too. Highlighting the organic tones and textures, she elevates the ingredients in the dishes she serves: “I would never want to serve things that I wouldn’t serve to my own child.”
Even the exposure is organic. In just four months, Portable Provisions has “unexpectedly exploded” and continues to grow rapidly. Her catering clients include Big Lives, First Republic Bank and WeWork.
Before Portable Provisions, Kat owned an artisanal cheese shop in Upstate New York. She took over the business at 19 and kept at it for a decade. After that, she tried her hand at product development, focusing on developing a wearable alarm system for women called Siren. Self-funding the project for five years, she worked to incorporate the alarm into an ordinary looking ring and was runner up in the NYC Women’s Startup Challenge in 2015.
Kat describes her experience in the technology space as challenging and intimidating. Her background in women’s studies and creative writing hadn’t prepared her for the technical jargon necessary to work with engineers and designers. Yet, that didn’t stop her entrepreneurial endeavours. “I loved building relationships with clients and customers. Having that long term relationship is so much more meaningful when you feel personally responsible for them, when you are invested in their happiness and their needs.”
Her favourite part of Portable Provisions? The opportunity to be part of her clients’ celebratory occasions while enjoying the autonomy of being a business owner who plays a major role in the creative process. Her greatest motivation? Being able to produce something that makes others happy and is both enriching and challenging.
Two years before starting Portable Provisions, Kat struggled to find a balance between being a new mom and her own career development. “I realised, as gratifying and wonderful it was to be a new parent, I did feel unfulfilled professionally and I think that this is something that a lot of modern women struggle with – finding that impossible balance to obtain.” She found that balance with Portable Provisions.
Kat’s business keeps her constantly busy, and her makeup routine is based on simple, tried and true products that last throughout the day. She describes her daily beauty ritual as “lazy, under a lot of time constraints and very habit driven.” Her favourite type of cosmetics are oil-free and contain minimal additives or chemicals. Kat’s go-to products: Klorane dry shampoo, Ilia’s Nobody’s Baby tinted lip conditioner and Johnson & Johnson’s dual action moisturizer, a treasured classic she has used since she was 16.
It’s a drastic change from her outlook on beauty when she working in fashion technology. Expectations were different; fashion tech is an image conscious industry where there is a need to look polished and sophisticated. Kat explains that the food industry requires the professional and polished look to a lesser degree, and that comfort is key. Products that are efficient and easy to use are necessary when spending 14 hours a day on your feet.
Kat’s advice to women who are looking to make unconventional career changes: make connections. Taking a leap of faith to start her own business, Kat knows it’s important to have a support system who can connect you with other people and resources, but to also pay it forward whenever possible. “I always try to do everything I can to be supportive… and to share any resources I have at my disposal, because that is the only way any of us can succeed – to share what we have and be supportive of one another as women.”
For more information about her catering business, visit their Facebook page @portableprovisons.