Film opportunity takes catering business from Mom’s kitchen to million-dollar enterprise

You think it only happens in the movies, but how about this real-life script?  A twenty-something culinary and medical school dropout down on her luck turns her big break into a million-dollar company within a year, thanks to the Georgia film industry.
Joy Merle

It happened to Joy Merle of Atlanta.  After running her catering business –– Finding Flavor –– out of her mother’s kitchen when she lost her biggest customer in 2015, she decided to explore the opportunities in film.

“I sent out about 200 emails to every producer, director, production coordinator or office assistant I could find in the Georgia film help-wanted hotline,” says Joy. Just one person wrote back, but it was the right one –– a production assistant on “Baby Driver,” a film then scheduled for shooting in Atlanta.

“They needed some office catering, and that job lasted about a week,” says Joy. “After they tried another caterer for a couple of weeks, they called me back and said they wanted someone to cater the rest of the movie.  They gave me a deposit so I could get out of mom’s kitchen and outfit my own.”

After that, the work came pouring in.  Within a year her company Finding Flavor, based in Sandy Springs, had 10 employees and a million-dollar revenue stream.

Joy says she loves the steady income, but even more, she loves the energy and passion in film and television work.  “I have great clients in this industry, great people who have been kind, patient and open,” she says. “But your dreams can’t be based on money.  If that’s all you want, you’ll have a short run.  The people in this business all have a passion.  But it’s not for the faint-hearted.  They work hard, 16-18 hours a day.  But they love it.”

In addition to “Baby Driver,”  her catering credits include “Stranger Things,” “Fast and Furious,” “Hidden Figures” and “Pitch Perfect 3.” 

Is there a secret to her success?  “Get the word ‘try’ out of your vocabulary,” Joy says. “It’s all about execution.  Either you deliver or you don’t.  If you can execute in the movie business you can win.”

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