Baltimore native Kelli Ferrell says she wasn’t raised with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth. Now, whatever the utensil used, patrons in Georgia can enjoy Ferrell’s kitchen prowess at her popular eatery, “Nana’s Chicken-N-Waffles.”
“I’m from Baltimore. I actually grew up in Edmondson Village and for a short time later my family transitioned to Randallstown, where I went to school and graduated from Randallstown High School,” said Ferrell, a married mother with five daughters.
After high school, Ferrell moved to Atlanta and studied fashion merchandising and design but soon reverted back to a family tradition: cooking.
“Anyone would tell you my mother and grandmother always cooked, so I had no choice but eventually venture into cooking,” she said.
While she has yet to expand her business to include a permanent Charm City location, Ferrell recently received an invitation to host a Pop-Up of her Nana’s Chicken-N-Waffles restaurant at Eager Park in Baltimore, as part of the John Hopkins East Baltimore Medical Center community event.
However, that event which organizers planned to feature free health screenings, face painting and other activities, was canceled due to the recent floods in and around the city.
Still, it didn’t deter Ferrell’s mission to encourage others, particularly young girls whom she believes by focusing on striving after greatness will help them to achieve success.
“It [focusing on success] makes me work harder, Its very important to me to show my girls that I’m able to be a wife, mom, and still run a business,” Ferrell said. “It’s not always easy but I get it done. Because I grew up in Baltimore and understand some of the challenges and a plethora of negative circumstances that so many inner-city young girls are faced with everyday, I want to inspire them by my success as well as all Baltimore natives.”
Overcoming obstacles, is essential for any businessperson especially women, Ferrell said, noting she has had her share of challenges.
“No one would help me. I had to teach myself and do a lot of reading and research,” she said. “I still have trials and errors, but I’m doing it my way, and it works for me. We’re working hard to build the brand of ‘Nana’s Chicken-N-Waffles.’ So the reality is I can’t worry about doing everything other restaurants have done, because we are carving out our own niche and lane.”
The idea for her restaurant came when she and her husband put together a vision board some years ago and put a restaurant on it.
“We always talked about how it would be nice to combine our family recipes together, and that’s what we did,” she said. “I’d say my grandmother, whom we call ‘Nana,’ is definitely who inspires me.”
With five daughters, Ferrell says she seeks to be an inspiration to them, as well as others.
“My advice has always been to keep God first and don’t be afraid to fail,” she said. “Failure is an inevitable part of success. My first business failed and I had to get a second job to keep it afloat— but I never gave up.”
Ferrell still has plans for several pop-ups in Baltimore and she foresees opening a restaurant in the city.
“We are currently working on two new locations with plans to open a location in the Baltimore area in the near future,” Ferrell said. “I’m so excited about opening our Baltimore location eventually, but for the time being we plan to have a series of pop-ups all around Baltimore every three to four months until our brick and mortar location opens.”
Ferrell says she is also a busy public speaker at women’s empowerment and working mothers groups.
“I just want to inspire others [so] that they too can reach their dreams. It's important that they at least have dreams,” Ferrell said.