Chief Operating Officer
Culinary WAVE Catering
Location: Denver, CO
Industry: Full-Service Catering
To Lisa Elder, the math is simple: add together 2500 amazing dishes + 1200 satisfied staff + 2200 happy customers and the answer equals culinary success.
On the top of the WAVE, it is Elders mission to provide a worldwide culinary experience with amazing flavors, the freshest of ingredients, beautiful presentation and impeccable service.
Elder is the COO of a family-owned and operated, full-service catering company, Culinary WAVE Catering. She is considered an industry Titan due to her ability to overcome adversity while building, and maintaining a company, being a respected leader and inspiring others.
The Culinary WAVE Catering story is bittersweet.
Culinary WAVE Catering was established in November of 2006 by Janet and Jeff Elder. Jeff had previously been working as an Executive Chef/GM for another well-known catering company in the Denver area when the idea to sell hamburgers and hot dogs on the weekend began. The mother/son duo took action to make the idea a reality when an opportunity came about to purchase a catering trailer. Eventually more space and employees were needed due to their gaining popularity and reputation. In 2010, Lisa applied to be a delivery driver/banquet server.
“My delivery job would soon turn into a life-long career, marriage, and ownership of a company that I love,” Elder said. “My professional background was in special event planning and I quickly became interested in learning more aspects of the catering business.”
Perhaps the most important thing she learned is relationships are everything. In March of 2016, Janet became ill and was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer. Lisa was given the responsibility of taking over the business. At the same time, Lisa had an upcoming major back surgery. During the next two years she overcame many challenges professionally and personally.
“Towards the latter half of 2017, our current lease was set to expire, the landlord issued a new lease that doubled our rent, and we couldn’t afford the increase, so it was time to move, again,” Elder said. “Then in December 2017, I had to have another surgery and Janet was placed in hospice care.” The family lost their beloved Janet, the heartbeat of the operations in 2018.
Elder knew the only way to move forward was to persevere in Janet’s memory and lead the existing staff. Today, Culinary WAVE is carrying on that legacy by growing and adding on new revenue streams.
“During the next couple of years, our company vision is to continue to grow by increasing catering sales with a strong focus on corporate sales. We estimate that we will be able to create 10 additional full-time positions and 10-20 part-time positions,” Elder said. “By the 5-year mark, we plan to be able to offer increased employee benefits with larger employer contributions to plans such as health, dental, vision, 401k, and life insurance to provide more stability and well-rounded employees.”
Elder has been recognized for her hard work and dedication by receiving many awards including: 2018 Denver’s A-List 4th Best Caterer 2018; Denver’s A list 4th Best Wedding Cakes 2017; Denver’s A-List 4th Best Caterer 2017; Denver’s A list 4th Best Wedding Cakes 2017; Wedding Wars Best in Show 2017, and the list goes on.
Dedicated to her family and the success of the business, Elder said, “I know we will continue to thrive and grow. Jeff and Janet believed in me despite my challenges and life struggles.” She added, “This is my way of paying it forward.”
For her resiliency and ability to overcome adversity while building, and maintaining a company, Elder has been named a Titan 100.
Greatest Leadership Lesson
Be kind to everyone. Show appreciation and find value in everyone. Sometimes the "little guy or gal," or the person doing the least desirable job is your biggest asset.
Ride The WAVE! Life and business is like an ocean wave, just ride with the tides, ride the wave.
As a gymnastics coach, I worked at the Gymnastics Training Center of Rochester, New York. At the time, it was the largest training facility in the country. I had the honor of working next to a Russian Olympic Medalist, Maria Filatova. Maria was decorated with 7 Olympic medals.