Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Robin Allen, president of Birdie's Pimento Cheese, located in South Hill, VA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Flirting with convention, especially when it comes to one of the South’s most beloved condiments, can be a dicey proposition. For a certain set in the South, there are rules associated with pimento cheese, what goes in, but most notably, what does not.
Birdie’s Pimento Cheese does not subscribe to that notion. At Birdie’s, we’ve mastered the classic and then made it our own. After all, more flavors of pimento cheese only yield more occasions for it to grace your table, which is a tradition we can all get behind. The flavors of Birdie’s Pimento Cheese are not only rooted in my taste memories of the ever-present tub of pimento cheese in the fridge of my childhood home but of my customers as well. When I first began selling Birdie’s at the farmers market in South Hill, Virginia, each sampling often brought forth a story, a softening of the eyes followed by, “Just like my grandma’s, but she added a little….”
Classic, Jalapeño, Garlic Parmesan, Cream Cheese + Black Pepper, Smoked Gouda + Roasted Red Peppers, and Olive -- all flavors of Birdie’s are made from scratch, and are available for purchase in retailers across the country and shipped nationwide. Birdie’s Pimento Cheese is not made the right way. It’s made from my memories and yours the way you like it, your hunting club likes it, and your grandma, too. Just about any way you and yours please, and that’s quite alright with Birdie’s.
Tell us about yourself
I was born outside of Nashville, Tennessee, grew up in North Carolina, and now live in Virginia. I graduated from Appalachian State University, and my first job was as a stripper. (LOL, a now extinct job in the printing industry, but still my husband's favorite story to tell!)
I worked in a couple of printing companies before starting my own with my husband. We ran that print shop for 25 years before an employee made an offer to buy it. We had been taking our pimento cheese to the local farmer's market as sort of a hobby. Once the shop was sold, I turned our farmer's market hobby into a business.
In 2015, I named myself the ambassador of YES! I had never run a food business before and felt I needed as much experience as I could get. It's amazing how saying yes has brought me to places I could never have imagined.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Surviving the pandemic is definitely an accomplishment. Seeking out people that know more than I do gives me a diverse support system. My goal is to create a network of supporters and to hire professionals to fill gaps in my expertise, but mistakes are part of life. While I always do my best, I know that a first attempt is usually not perfect. With that philosophy, I can confidently move forward with an idea or concept, knowing that I’ll polish and improve as I go.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Work/life balance is definitely a challenge, especially while we’re in the scaling phase of Birdie’s Pimento Cheese. I’m lucky that my daughter has grown, and my husband is super supportive. It allows me the space to tinker with an idea at the oddest times of the day.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- If you have a product and can get into a farmers market, do it. It’s the best focus group you’ll ever encounter. You can get lots of feedback in a short amount of time. Then, test the changes you made the very next week.
- Don’t wait on perfection. Perfection is the killer of excellence. Prepare, be focused, but get started. Even small steps are progress!
- I know it’s cliché, but you have to do something you’ve never done before to get something you’ve never had before. Get out of your comfort zone.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.