Jeanetha Brown-Douglas is the proud founder and owner of JBD Mobile Catering & Events, bringing traditional and soul food to a variety of catered events throughout the Commonwealth. Jeanetha, a single mother of seven, dreamed of opening her own business, and she has, after 22 years in the food industry, both catering and managing.
Jeanetha’s path to becoming a business owner, however, was not easy. She started taking a business class at Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC) to help build her future business and then she fell on hard times and had to withdraw from the class. Jeanetha’s marriage collapsed, leaving her financially strapped and rendering her homeless. During this difficult period, she found out about Piedmont Housing Alliance and started working with a housing counselor to figure out how to get back on her feet.
Jeanetha slowly began paying down her debt by earning money from weekend side jobs, while still maintaining her regular job. She also enrolled in CIC (Community Investment Collaborative), a local business education program offering under-resourced local entrepreneurs education, micro-loans, mentoring, and networking. She continued working with housing counselors, Virginia and Shelley, at Piedmont Housing Alliance to learn how to manage her finances and reach her financial goals.
With the guidance provided by Piedmont Housing Alliance and other community organizations, Jeanetha was soon living on her own and providing for her two youngest children, Dejua, 14, and Dante, 18. Simultaneously, she learned about and enrolled in the VIDA program (Virginia Individual Development Account) in July 2015. VIDA participants take Piedmont Housing Alliance’s financial management classes and work with a Piedmont Housing Alliance financial counselor. The savings habits they learn are incentivized by the VIDA program which matches their savings with $8 for every $1 they save, up to a maximum of $4,500, to be used towards education, home ownership, or a business. For example, a VIDA participant can save as little as $500 and receive a total of $4,000 in matching funds. Jeanetha used her savings and VIDA funds to expand her business. She was able to purchase a cleaning cart and all the food needed to accept one of her first, large catering contracts—catering for a three-day event. It had long been her goal to win a large contract. When Jeanetha found out she got the contract just the day before the event began, she was extremely grateful—despite feeling nervous.
Since that first contract, Jeanetha has received other contracts and continues to build her catering business. She is proud to work with the City of Charlottesville’s Onesty Family Aquatic Center (Meade Pool) to provide healthy snacks to the children and families who frequent the center over the summer months. In addition, she has purchased additional equipment with her VIDA savings to help with her food service demands.
Now, Jeanetha has a long list of regular clients including the Department of Health, VDOT, Virginia Industries for the Blind, PVCC, and Piedmont Housing Alliance. Jeanetha says she is blessed to have the help of her two children who still live at home and to be able to show them important life lessons including budgeting and saving money for the future.
“I just couldn’t have done it without the gift of knowledge that I received from Piedmont Housing Alliance and the encouragement from others along the way, like Keir (Zander), Stephen (Davis), and Waverly (Davis) at CIC. Sometimes having other people to help you push yourself harder is what you need,” said Jeanetha. “I feel so lucky and blessed to be where I am now. I’ve received so much help, I’ve made up my mind that I’m going to help the next person, because somebody gave me a chance.”
Mark your calendars for this Thursday, March 23 to watch Terri Allard’s Charlottesville Inside Out, featuring Jeanetha in a segment dedicated to the work Piedmont Housing Alliance does throughout the community.