O’Dell E. Sanders, proprietor of Sanders Catering in Memphis, just added another title: published author.
“My book, ‘Enduring to the End,’ was written to inspire and encourage people who dream of accomplishing something,” said Sanders. “I wrote about what it means to endure. No one wants to wait. But accomplishing a goal takes time. It’s a journey. It’s a process.”
Sanders started working at 14 in hotel and hospitality F&B, (the food and beverage industry). After advancing to management over the next 15 years, Sanders began dreaming of running his own catering business.
“By the age of 29, I felt it was time to try my own hand at catering,” said Sanders. “From the very beginning, I created my own business model, which included: contributing to the community a portion of what I made, keeping the faith, enduring, and depending on the power of God. I also fasted one day a week to honor God.”
Sanders had learned the entire catering business through his jobs, not only how to cook for a large number, but also how to serve the food his staff had prepared. Sanders took a leap of faith. He was determined to make it work.
“I advertised through everything I could think of,” said Sanders. “I put out flyers, I advertised in newspapers – the “Tri-State Defender” was one. I negotiated trade-offs with WLOK and WDIA, and then I just trusted God to do the rest.”
Sanders has fed children at community events, many times over the years.
“I support the Westwood community where I grew up,” said Sanders. “I was at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church when Dr. James Netters was pastor. I am still a member.”
After 35 years, Sanders has no plans to retire.
“As long as the Lord blesses me with good health, I plan on working,” said Sanders.
Long-time employee, Vergus Jones, started working for Sanders in 2008. Jones also started out working in hotels.
“I started off working at the Hilton,” said Jones. “Then I moved to The Marriott, where I met Mr. Sanders. From the Marriott, Jones moved to the Peabody Hotel. He recalls that managers found his interview comical.
“Back in those days, you had to interview in front of all the Peabody managers, and everyone just asked you questions,” said Jones. “Well, I was asked why I wanted to work at the Peabody. I told them I was from the country, and I had moved to Memphis back in 1965.
“And when I moved, I said I never wanted to work outside another day in my life. I picked cotton, drove a tractor, babysat my younger siblings, and ran food from the commissary to the field workers. When I came to Memphis, that was it for me. Everybody laughed, but I was so serious.”
Jones praised Sanders, not only as a savvy businessman, but as a “good, Christian brother” who was “great to work for.”
A long-time client, Jeannine Gaines said she has worked with Sanders Catering for more than two decades.
“We have two manufacturing plants in Memphis,” Gaines said. “Mr. Sanders has always provided excellent food and great service. He caters all our events: retirement parties, and everything we do – large parties or small events. We have different shifts, and he has served us all hours of the day and night.”
Gaines said for the longest time she had no idea that Sanders was actually owner of the business.
“Mr. Sanders was right there with his sleeves rolled up, working alongside the other employees,” Gaines said.
Sanders Catering is located at 7195 U.S. Hwy 64.