Celebrating Success: Owner BJ Duft featured in the Puget Sound Business Journal

September 18, 2014

We are thrilled and incredibly proud to grace the pages of the Puget Sound Business Journal’s September 12th issue. The full-page Sound Strategies spread can be found below.

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Herban Feast sprouts offshoots for events with Northwest vibe
SOUND STRATEGIES

Glenn Drosendahl, Contributing Writer

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Marcus R. Donner

B.J. Duft, owner of Herban Feast, surveys the company’s main event space in the Sodo Park building on First Avenue South in Seattle.

Every Friday morning at his five-acre Vashon Island “farmette,” Herban Feast owner B.J. Duft hand-picks about a thousand edible flowers to take to work.

“It’s my Zen practice … my centering time,” he said.

Centering apparently works. In 15 years, Duft has built Herban Feast from a two-person operation into one of Seattle’s leading catering and events companies with about 800 events last year and annual revenue of nearly $7 million.

Innovation and diversification have been keys to the company’s growth.

It started with a small West Seattle café in 1999. It restructured, became a catering company in 2003. Then came the big changes that turned it into a local industry leader.

Herban Feast added its own event venue, Sodo Park, in 2008, followed by a restaurant (Fresh Bistro), a second indoor event venue (The Foundry), a design studio and, this summer, an outdoor venue on Vashon (Froggsong Gardens). A flower shop is scheduled to open in November.

“Building a business model that’s financially supportive,” Duft said, “gives you the depth to be creative.”

Herban Feast goes into what he calls “ideation mode” to meet changing customer expectations.

Wedding parties now are less likely to want the traditional sit-down dinner and multi-tiered cake than something more innovative. Similarly, Duft said, corporations want anything but stuffy and predictable, and are asking instead for events that get workers away from the office and electronic devices.

“The Northwest has a distinctive way of doing events,” he said. “The glitz and glam factor is not as big as in some other cities. People here are looking for other approaches.”

Herban Feast’s jobs are split roughly 50-50 between private and corporate events. Duft is aiming for higher-end events now – for example, weddings with a budget of at least $50,000 – reducing the overall number while keeping total revenue about the same.

The company was named “All-Around Best Wedding Vendor” this year by Seattle Bride magazine. Online voting was open to anyone to produce a top five, and then was limited to industry professionals to pick the winner. “So,” as editor Ali Brownrigg put it, “that means Herban Feast gets high marks from both their clients and their peers.”

Duft plans no more growth in terms of facilities this year, but would like to consolidate next year to get his office and sales teams, and his 4,500-square-foot catering kitchen, all under one roof.

A special thank you to Glenn Drosendahl and Ali Brownrigg for sharing our story, and our partners, friends, clients, and guests who have made this successful story possible.