Brandon Roland knows firsthand that second chances should not be wasted. This husband, father of two and business owner has made the most of the second chance he was given about eight years ago.
Like many young men, he had drifted very easily into petty crime, finding himself locked up at 18 for buying a pair of stolen sneakers. “I knew they were stolen, but I didn’t think it would come back to bite me in the butt,” Roland explained. He received a six month sentence for grand larceny and receiving stolen property.
Still it took a second jail stint for him to realize that he wanted to get off the incarceration merry-go-round. At 19, he received seven months in jail on a drug charge, possession with intent to distribute. “My last time I was in there for the first two or three months and I saw people who left before me and came back two or three times before I even left,” Roland said. He asked himself,“Is that something I want do? Do I want to keep coming back.”The answer was “no”.
Once released, Roland, 27, made good on a promise he made to himself to never return to jail. In the years following, he met his wife, Tray-Shauna eventually got married and started a family. The couple have two children, Brandon Jr., 2 and Janyia, 6.
He then began professionally pursuing an interest that started as a child – cooking. As a 12-year-old youngster, he would stand behind his grandmother as she cooked. “She said, ‘since you’re standing behind me, we going to teach you some things,” Roland recalled. His first culinary conquest was bacon and eggs.
The middle son of three boys, Roland was raised on Richmond’s Northside in the Highland Park section. “As I was growing up I really only had my mother and grandmother,” he said. “My father was in and out of my life. It was kind of hard because when I needed a father figure, I really didn’t have a father figure, but other than that it wasn’t a bad [childhood].”
While attending Henrico High School, he learned that he could pursue his dream of being a chef by studying culinary arts at the Randolph Community Trade Center. So he talked to his mother about and got her permission. He spent half the day in high school and the other half at the trade center. After high school, Roland continued his culinary training at J. Seargeant Reynolds Community College.
One day while on his way to work as a bakery chef at Ellwood Thompson, car ran a stop sign and hit Roland. He was fired two days later, he said. He had been working there for a year. “I got depressed and down. It took a toll on me,” Roland said. He was pursuing a legal case and was waiting on a settlement. During this time, his mother-in-law asked him to do some cooking for her graduation celebration. Roland obliged. “She said, ‘why don’t you start your own catering company.’” His wife agreed and the couple began looking into what it would take to start such a business.
Once, Roland finally received his settlement from the accident, he invested the majority of the funds into opening Mr. Roland’s catering – after he took care of his mother, mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law, of course. “Most people my age would just take the money and blow it,” he said. “Two or three years down the line what do I have to show for it?”
Roland and his wife are 100 percent owners of Mr. Roland’s Catering, which they started three years ago. As any business owner will tell you, it is not easy. He said his wife told him that there are two kinds of business owners, the ones who have it made and the ones who struggle to make it. His goal is to make it so that he can be in a position to give others the kind of second chance he received. Roland said he’d love to hire those who, like him, may have gotten in trouble with the law. Some employers are not always willing to extend that kind of opportunity. “People do make changes. People do turn their lives around,” he said.
Currently, Roland has three full-time employees and hires seasonal workers when business is at its peak. “We actually have a commercial kitchen where we work and prepare the food,” Roland said. It is difficult sometimes to compete against caterers who aren’t licensed and pay all the fees and costs to run a legitimate business. “You have to be on you’re a game when you’re in food service.”
Still, despite the challenges, Roland said he will continue to work hard to keep his business moving forward. “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t succeed,” he said. “If you want better, you can do better”.
For more information on Mr. Roland’s Catering, visit www.mrrolandscatering.com