Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with David Landay and Bennett Hirsch, founders of Charlie's Table, located in NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
NY Restaurant quality fresh gluten-free pasta (that is also non-GMO and Kosher) identical in taste to pasta with semolina, made with a traditional bronze cut die to help the sauce adhere to the pasta. Our customers like artisanal, affordable luxuries.
Charlie’s Table sells great-tasting pasta, just like you would expect to be served at the finest Italian restaurants, and our pasta is also gluten-free! We created Charlie’s Table because we believe there should be a seat at the table for everyone, including those people who must or prefer to eat a certain way. Now, everyone, including people who suffer from Celiac disease, are gluten sensitive; the over 30% of consumers interested in a gluten-free lifestyle can now join all of their other friends and family members at the table to enjoy an affordable luxury, Charlie’s Table fresh gluten-free pasta.
Tell us about yourself
Wharton School, Harvard Law, lawyer, Broadway producer, writer, serial entrepreneur of non-profits such as a founder of Broadway Cares. The owner/friend of a NY mid-town Italian restaurant became gluten intolerant and spent a year with his chef making a gluten-free pasta he would eat. He knew he got it right when a customer returned a meal saying: “This is too good to be gluten-free.” What motivates me each day? Helping people.
I’m proud to say that I live to eat, so the idea of launching a food company, let alone one that puts smiles on the faces of people who, for medical and other reasons, have missed out on the joy of enjoying fabulous food, keeps me excited all the time. Just like many other passionate foodies, food has always been a significant aspect of my life. From dinner at the kitchen table with my family growing up, to tasting cuisines traveling throughout the world during the corporate phase of my career, to owning a couple of pizza joints later on, when my business partner, David, introduced me to the pasta, I knew this was the opportunity I was seeking. Now, getting to be part of building a brand whose first product line, artisanal pasta using traditional Italian made equipment and bronze cut dies to create a texture that better holds the sauce that receives rave reviews, gives me all the motivation I need.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Creating Charlie’s Table to give people who eat gluten-free the option of eating food they can serve to anyone at their table with an affiliate non-profit that provides guides to all aspects of living gluten-free for people who have to, their families and friends and an innovative program that is free to a restaurant to join to make gluten-free food served in restaurants people can feel comfortable eating out with friends.
At this phase in Charlie’s Table development, we think about achieving milestones and then establishing new ones to reach. Accomplishments are something to look back on in the future. From an objective standpoint, taking the basic pasta recipe that was handmade by a chef every day to be served to restaurant guests that same evening and replicating the exact same dining experience at home for pasta created in a high output manufacturing environment has been very satisfying. Subjectively, starting to build a brand with a strong social responsibility component addressing restaurant safety, celiac and gluten sensitivity information needs, and food insecurity that resonates in the market feels very good.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Time to do everything I want, including spending time with the people I love.
Always playing the what-if game of strategic versus tactical investment, whether we are talking about dollars, time and/or other resources. While it’s a difficult topic, it is a great way for business owners to continually challenge themselves on whether the decisions they plan on making are the best ones for the company.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Think about all the aspects needed to start and grow a business. Which do you fill well? Find like-minded people to fill those you don’t.
- Understand that you will devote much more time and brainpower to getting the business started than you can imagine.
- Do not use more of your money than you can afford to lose without affecting your lifestyle or that of your children.
- Do your research before you jump in. This includes making sure you have access to the necessary resources necessary once the business gets up and running. NOTE: While the focus among start-ups is to focus on selling products (services), the real prize is to focus on building a brand.
- When you are up and running, continue to seek out feedback, especially criticism. It has been my experience that the stronger the critique, the more good ideas are bound to emerge.
- Assume what product or service got the business started is not going to keep the business successful indefinitely into the future. Always be thinking about what we have to do next to grow the brand.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Follow your instinct.
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.
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