Playing to their strengths: How two local woman parlayed a hobby into a business

Last modified: Tuesday, October 01, 2013

AMHERST — Homemade tablecloths and plates, a burlap banner reading “welcome home” in school colors and food, all prepared by parents, was part of the grand opening ceremony at the expanded Amherst Montessori School last spring.

This was the humble beginnings of a new business, Homespun Event Design & Catering, based in downtown Amherst.

Kim Snyder, of Sunderland, and Amanda Robertson, of Hadley, the two parents responsible for creating the environment at the Montessori school’s grand opening, have parlayed their hobby into a bona fide business.

“It really started to grow organically,” Snyder said.

“This seems like more of a natural step,” Robertson said. “People have been telling me for years to do event planning.”

They started in July, and this month, the women begin operations at 71 North Pleasant St., a base from which they will do all baking for events they are hired to cater and meet with their clients.

“You can come here and we can help you do part of the event or the entire event,” Robertson said.

The business goes well beyond just the food that will be served, as Robertson and Snyder can handle all the accompanying decor, from sewing tablecloths and napkins, to reupholstering folding chairs and painting them to fit the color scheme of an event, and creating floral arrangements.

Snyder jokes that she and Robertson, coincidentally both married to doctors, are giving up their stay-at-home-mom jobs for the opportunity to do more event planning and catering.

“It was sort of kismet for us to meet and share a culinary and aesthetic point of view,” Snyder said.

To be licensed caterers, they needed a commercial kitchen, which they found at the North Pleasant Street site, located below Starbucks, and space that had been previously used for catering.

Inside it is outfitted with all their needs. They purchased a 10-burner stove, two ovens and three refrigerators, painted the walls, scrubbed the tile floor and cleaned out the large commercial sink. A bright red door greets visitors.

Robertson brings experience as a chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America and previous work experience at the Ritz in San Francisco, a test kitchen for the Atkins Diet Plan in New York and as manager of prepared foods at Whole Foods Market in Hadley. Her grandmother ran Fedora restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Snyder has dabbled in catering and worked in non-profit administration in both marketing and communication.

Snyder said a trend in catering is for one-stop businesses that can manage the entire service.

“We can do soup-to-nuts planning and organization,” Snyder said. “We can do smaller unique events or a larger-scale wedding.”

As a demonstration of their range, Snyder said Homespun did a children’s birthday party with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme, creating original masks that children could wear, made and served cupcakes with turtle faces and came up with a craft activity for the children with glow-in-the-dark toxic slime.

They also handled an 80th birthday party, where eclairs substituted for a cake and they prepared ham and crabcakes for the meal.

Snyder and Robertson have a wedding planned for May, for which they have already had a food tasting for the in-laws and will handle the cocktail reception. They are creating the menu of heavy appetizers to be served at that reception, and arranging to get locally raised meat.

In addition, the women are sewing the table runners, using sewing machines at their homes. They will also contact any subcontractors needed, such as a wedding photographer.

They say they do not work from a standard template or have a limited range of premade platters and meal offerings, Instead, their eight-page menu aims to be a jumping-off point.

“People are not used to people making real food for an event,” Snyder said.

“We want to work with people to figure out what they like and then to figure out what they want,” Robertson said.

They plan to use as many local products as possible and anticipate becoming members of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture.

Many will feature savory tarts, such as caramelized onion and kalamata tart, as appetizers.

“We’re trying to make these more thoughtful than a cheese platter,” Robertson said.

Robertson said they will typically have plenty of time to make all the food.

“We can make very personal, unique food,” Robertson said. “If you know the fundamentals of cooking, there’s nothing you can’t make or teach yourself how to make.”

Among the menu items are a brie cake stuffed with blue cheese and goat cheese, dates stuffed with orange herb goat cheese and a mint pea pesto, which Snyder said is a beautiful bright green color and can be used as a spread for bread or as a dip for vegetables.

Their cheese board comes with fig jam, fruit compotes, nuts and fruit.

They also make signature cupcakes.

Another goal is to have the decor unique to each event.

“We really love hand-made stuff,” Robertson said.

Many items can be repurposed, through the concept of upcycling, such as vintage linens that can be turned into napkins.

One particular item that appeals to them is the vintage feedsacks that they use in their logo and on business cards. In the 1920s, homemakers would take these and create curtains and dresses from the patterns.

“I’ve always liked feedsack. It seems like a good image for everything we liked to do,” Robertson said.

By having their own space and a catering license, Snyder said it will be easier to coordinate other people to assist and may tap into the University of Massachusetts students pursing hotel and hospitality degrees.

They expect to serve people throughout the Pioneer Valley and may also cater in Connecticut, Vermont and Boston.

The start-up costs were around $10,000, primarily self financed, to outfit the kitchen and meet all safety codes.

“Ultimately, we want to make people happy and bring happiness and joy,” Snyder said. “We’re excited to do that.”

Homespun can be reached at or by visiting where menus and photos are available.


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