CARLSBAD — After a long and fruitful career as a nurse, Cherimarie “Cheri” Poulos knew she still wanted a bit more.
On a trip to Carmel, she took a food tour and it dawned on her what the next chapter in life would be. She and her husband, Brad, formulated a plan and Poulos went to work creating Carlsbad’s first food tour.
Three years ago she started the Carlsbad Food Tours and on Oct. 6 she won the Best Woman-Owned Business by the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce during its annual Small Business Awards luncheon at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa.
“I actually called Carmel and I said, ‘I want to start this business and what do you suggest?’” Poulos recalled. “They said I had to go to Chicago.”
In the Windy City, she and her husband met Shane Coast, of Chicago Food Planet, who teaches a food tour course for those looking to start their own business.
After the meeting, the Carlsbad couple returned and began laying the seeds. Coast came out a bit later to review the tour giving pointers on what he saw that would make the business flourish.
At first, she said the concept of a local food tour wasn’t resonating with people as food tours are more popular and common in bigger cities.
Poulos said she had to reassure restaurants she would pay for the food, yet it would expand their customer base.
She now works with about 20 restaurants in Carlsbad Village and tours run every day from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. covering about two miles on foot. Patrons experience food, wine and beer tastings.
A typical tour includes eight restaurants and Poulos also gives a historical breakdown of the city. She also offers private and company tours in the evening. Tours are limited up to 20 people.
“One of the businesses, we happen to be their best marketing tool now,” she said. “They get lots of people coming back there.”
“I’m shocked,” she said of winning the award. “It means that people have accepted me, accepted the concept and appreciate the work I do.”
As for the other winners, they include: Oska Wellness, Inc., Innovation in Small Business; the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation Discovery Center, Community Impact Award; Sullivan Solar Power, Best Marketing Practices; Novasyte, Excellence in Professional Services Award; Erin Schelfif of Fortis Fitness and Yogalux, Workplace MVP; Clever Element, Sustainability Award; and Servant Leadership, Leadership Development Award.