Born January, 20th, 1973, Colette Burnett, was the third of seven children born to Horace and Patricia Cyrus.
Ms. Burnett spent the first twenty four years of her life living in her native homeland of Trinidad and Tobago. She attended Holy Faith Convent, graduating with top scores in the CXC examinations. Upon graduation, Ms. Burnett, continued her education while working for Republic Bank TT and then at the Unit Trust Corporation. At both banks Ms. Burnett, worked as an account advisor where she advised clients of varied financial acumen.
In 1996, Ms. Burnett, migrated to the United States of America, where settled in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. In the United States she attended Medgar Evers College where she majored in Business Management/Finance. Upon completion she began her career as a financial advisor for the Bank of New York.
During her tenure as a banker, Ms. Burnett, held the titles of Small Business Specialist, for GreenPoint Bank; Business Relationship Manager, for JP Morgan Chase; VP Branch Manager II, for Chase Bank; Banking Center Manager II, for Bank of America.
In both banking and community advocacy, Ms. Burnett hosted several homeowner workshops, as well as credit counseling, and small business seminars to assist the community she served.
In June 2009, Ms. Burnett, had a change of vision. She decided to break free from the corporate world in order to launch her own company, Super Wings NY LLC, a Caribbean inspired restaurant that specializes in wings. Ms. Burnett’s vision for Super Wings NY, was to change the entire concept of quick service; from the elements of food to the dimensions of service. She wanted to reinvent the food industry by presenting gourmet food for people on the go. Ms. Burnett, successfully created a niche market and coined the concept of “Gourmet-on-the-go.” Gourmet food, for people on the go.
Ms. Burnett, and her Super Wings NY staff, sought to raise the bar on food and service directly within the Crown Heights community. At 5 months old Super Wings NY, won the title of “Best Wings in Brooklyn” by defeating 16 other restaurants. Since then, they also won the first place title in the People’s Choice category, in Feb 2011.
In 17 months of its launch, Super Wings NY with Ms. Burnett, at the helm has been featured on The Food Network’s, Bobby Flay Throwdown; Eyewitness News, Neighborhood Eats; Good Morning America; Mayor Bloomberg’s, NYCTV Job Hunt; WeTV’s web series, Bouncing Back; News 12, Brooklyn; and countless other media outlets.
In addition to Ms. Burnett’s successful launch of Super Wings NY, she has been a featured keynote speaker and business coach on different international platforms. Ms. Burnett seeks to share her results oriented approach with her clients and is sought out specifically for her ability to create out-of-the-box marketing and sales strategies that produces “amazing” returns. With a laser focus on the key principles of the success that works along all business lines and industries, Ms. Burnett continues to spread the knowledge she has gained on her journey to help other entrepreneurs realize their dreams. Never one to follow the beaten path, she is a renegade in the field of entrepreneurial success and a proven expert in managing the financial and marketing strategies that increases a business’ bottom line.
Q&A With Colette Burnett
Colette Burnett: For me the decision to leave the corporate world to start my own business was one that came about while seeing an economy that was tanking before my eyes. I felt I had to do something that would change the lack of control I had on my own career. Knowing that the industry I had built my career within(20+ yrs in Banking) was shifting considerably and I did not like where it was going, yet I could not make the train turn around. It happened while I was listening to our President during his inauguration speech and I remember he said, “We are the change we have been waiting for” and something in me caught. I knew I had to change my course and so I did. I did so in the simplest of forms through food because, everybody has to eat, it’s a non-negotiable, I knew that in a difficult economy your business should be a staple to have a good chance of surviving. I knew we would be navigating a tough climb with the recession being at its peak when we opened our doors but I really wanted to create someplace that could increase the choices I had in food in a very unique and irreverent way. I wanted to give the world a glimpse of what made up my world thru food. So it had to be a lot Caribbean and a good chunk of Brooklyn and totally NY. I decided to go further and really to create someplace that I would enjoy going to that treated me well, and valued my patronage. I saw that there was a gap in customer service that no one was filling consistently well. I thought I could do a good job and fill that gap. I felt that would be a “SURE THING”! So really, from the idea to fruition, I was never really scared, I knew I could win or I could lose, but I was never really scared, I just closed my eyes and jumped!
BS: What challenges were you faced with?
Colette Burnett: I knew nothing at all about the restaurant business! Nothing except that was the toughest business to find success and the easiest to lose your shirt! I had seen my mom cater for large events and even helped when I was in high school but I did not know about permits and licenses and violations and health codes. I had no knife skills nor had I taken any culinary classes, was unsure what exactly sauté meant but I was sure I could figure it out…I had to learn them all and get great at it really quickly! That was tough. I had never been in a commercial kitchen prior to opening my own and I most certainly did not know the lingo so I was really lost at first, trying to navigate a world unknown.
BS: How did you overcome them?
Colette Burnett: I actually think our lack of knowledge was a blessing…we did not know just how hard things were in the industry so we were always able to remain optimistic and I also relied heavily on common sense. We worked out our challenges by simply considering, ok I need to bake cookies, so I will need an oven, I will be frying wings, veggies and seafood so I need separate fryers for each so I will need 3 fryers…That’s how we did it. I also learned how to quickly forgive myself and my team for our errors, but we could do so only on one condition, that we learned from them thoroughly. When we misjudged an issue, created a gap or just simply made a big boo-boo, we had to dissect it, get to core of why and then we vowed to never do it again! It’s worked marvelously so far!
BS: What are the five most important things, in your opinion, that a person must know and be well versed in in order to be prepared to start a business within the culinary industry?
Colette Burnett: Customer Service is key! Spend a lot of time learning the basics and advanced aspects of hospitality it is what will make or break your business every time.
Standardization of all recipes is important so as to maintain a consistently superior product.
Inventory/Waste management will allow you to manage to your bottom-line at any given moment.
Food Safety is any restaurateur’s top priority and so it is imperative that a culinary professional understands the temperatures and conditions conducive to optimal food safety so as to run a safe restaurant environment.
Building and Excellent team of Leaders! This business is the ultimate team environment; any one part of the team not working optimally will render the rest of the team less effective, no matter the role of the weak link. Thus, building a committed team, that is chosen as much for spirit as for merit, is mandatory to achieving any measure of success. It is indeed the team that carries the vision through to fruition so you better build the best one you can, if you hope to realize the vision you have chosen.
BS: How has this endeavor changed your life? Is there anything you’d do differently?
Colette Burnett: I feel my whole outlook on life has changed as a result of this experience. I feel my confidence in myself has deepened considerably as this endeavor has forced me to look more closely at myself and my relationship with God. I feel my spirituality has taken center stage due to the absolute need to keep oneself accountable to something higher than yourself or your own needs when you are attempting something groundbreaking. Throughout the process, many days it has been very difficult to deal with all the moving parts that is a growing business, and before all the accolades came it was that we did not know what would happen from day to day and that uncertainty for a ‘stable-minded banker” like myself, it was like walking slowly over burning coals! It definitely was my relationship with God that kept me hopeful and focused on winning despite all the obstacles we saw and endured. And I would not change that for the world!
BS: What is the most rewarding experience after creating Super Wings?
Colette Burnett: I have seen my son who is ten years old, blossom into a budding entrepreneur himself as he is so excited about the brand we are building, he scouts new locations wherever we travel to, holds court with anyone who would listen expounding the virtues of all things Super Wings and he is a real help as a mystery shopper as the team never thinks he is observing them for proper process and customer service, but he is…he observes quietly an then reports his findings with uncanny accuracy in most cases, my favorite is when he gives feedback about the team he has observed… Like: ”They’re doing great, but you know, they can always smile more”
BS: How did you create the recipes that Super Wings are famously known for?
Colette Burnett: I harbor a deep love for wings, always have. When I was pregnant with my son, the cravings for wings increased 10 fold but I would never find any wings that tasted like home, my original home-cooked flavors from back in Chaguanas, Trinidad. My inspiration first came from all the favorite East Indian flavors that I grew up with all around me, and I particularly picked the those that I was most fond of over the years, then I increased my radius to include the other islands of the Caribbean because I felt it was just a no brainer. From my travels I had found that our flavors in all the Caribbean islands are similar, yet we each have our own flair, I wanted to capture that. I made up each flavor’s name, thinking only of the flavors I would most want to eat myself! I then described to my mother how I would want them to taste, she went to work in her “chemist lab” (kitchen in Trinidad) and came out with MAGIC! My fiancé and I have since made a few improvements and additions to include our knowledge of the NY market and demographical changes, but essentially you get to eat the same depth of flavor and authentic Caribbean cooking that my mom would make you in Trinidad, except we have carefully prepared it for you right here in Brooklyn!
BS: How important is it to have a team working with you?
Colette Burnett: It is THE most important thing! I could never have succeeded thus far if I did not have a team of the very best foodies this side of the Brooklyn Bridge! They are phenomenal! I tell people to stop by just to see them in action, They are committed to making the BEST WINGS with every order, for real! its wonderful to watch their synergy and to know that they are as much involved in this as I am, they commit so much of their time and effort everyday with the biggest smiles and a genuine desire to WOW every customer every time. They are the reason to do this at all, that’s how big they are!
BS: Have they aided in the growth of your business?
Colette Burnett: My team is the reason for the growth we have seen since opening our doors in 2009. It was because of our spectacular team that we won the Best Wings In Brooklyn Contest both in 2010 and then People’s Choice in 2011. It’s the team that makes the wings PERFECT! Its them you see you would see out there telling all who would listen that we had something wingtastic to say, it’s the strength of that team that I stand on everyday.
BS: Where do you see Super Wings in 10 years?
Colette Burnett: I see a solidly built brand that has been grown into multiple outlets throughout the Caribbean and beyond. I see a brand that brightens the communities it is a part of, providing both jobs and hope wherever it goes Super Wings will be known for its consistently excellent service and outstanding product, and will be respected for its commitment to maintaining the highest standard of food-service throughout its branches all over the world!