Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Anna Lee, Co-Founder of Barrier Islands Salt Co., located in Red Bank, VA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Barrier Islands Salt Co. is a husband and wife team on a mission to bring artisan sea salt making back to the U.S. We handcraft flake finishing salt from seawater that we collect by boat in a pristine, 130,000-acre nature preserve. We use centuries-old European methods to produce sea salt in a process that takes two weeks from sea to jar. Our salt is used by chefs in fine dining restaurants as well as by home cooks who appreciate an ultra-pure salt rich in trace minerals that adds a pop of briny goodness to a meal.

Tell us about yourself

I've spent much of my career in corporate brand management for well-known, National food brands. One of those jobs was for the largest spice company in the world, where I became fascinated with all of the varieties of sea salts made around the world. As luck would have it, we live within miles of the largest coastal wilderness on the East Coast, and my husband and I decided to give salt-making a try as a hobby. Several years and hundreds of batches later, we developed the expertise to produce the gourmet sea salt we make today, and we were excited to share it with others.

I'm motivated each day by my love of this business that allows me to spend time outside in nature with my husband and to share a product that distills down the essence of coastal Virginia. We're also incredibly proud to be the first salt makers in Virginia since the 1700s and part of a growing number of artisan salt makers in the U.S.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

The first couple of years of a business are always hard because the workload is high, you're getting your systems into place, and sales and profits are often low and/or unpredictable. My biggest accomplishment has been sticking with my belief in this business through the tough times.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Prioritization and time management. When you're responsible for all aspects of the business, it's easy to spend the day jumping from task to task. It takes discipline to identify the key projects that'll move the needle on your business and commit to working on those at the exclusion of other things.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Don't believe the 'experts' who try to sell you services to teach you 'hacks' for starting and growing a business. There's no shortcut - it takes time, money, and hard work.
  2. Establish systems for getting work done from day one in order to set the stage for growth. The more efficient you are, the more time you'll have to focus on strategically managing your business.
  3. Master your financials. Make sure your profit margin is large enough to sustain you and your business. Understand your fixed expenses each month and figure out what you'll need to sell to cover those and how much you expect to make beyond that. Get set up in Quickbooks Online right from the start, and if you're going to invest in help, I'd start with a good bookkeeper and an accountant to do your taxes.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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