Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Samantha Swan, founder of Cottage Lane Kitchen, located in Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are a woman-owned company with generational ties to Chapel Hill, NC, and a deep love of spicy pepper relish. Cottage Lane Kitchen isn't just a business but a special home where four generations of relish makers have cooked and preserved spicy peppers out of love and tradition.
The last batch of my family's spicy pepper relish was made by my Grandfather in the early 1990s. My father rationed those bottles as gifts to me through the years, and by 2010, there were only a few unopened bottles remaining. Those treasured bottles tied me to my family's lineage of relish-makers. And in 2020, I launched our first hot sauce that is proving to be a customer favorite!
Tell us about yourself
It all started when I wanted to make my family's recipe of spicy pepper relish. My husband, a serial entrepreneur, loved it so much that he thought we should try to start a food business. Since the recipe is tied up in my family story, the products are near and dear to my heart. It's my family's legacy to the world.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Upon reflection, some of the most memorable moments in my business are personal. I love keeping my family recipe alive and sharing it with others. Learning how to cook and bottle our pepper relish with my father in our family kitchen where previous generations before us did the same thing is not only magical to me as a professional business owner but personally keeps me connected to my origins and gives me my WHY every day.
And when our products are recognized by 30+ awards, distributed throughout the USA, and continue to receive rave reviews from a growing customer base, that helps too. My connection to our customers is very special to me as we couldn't continue to exist without them.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
There are always problems to be solved (and even more so during the pandemic). Problem-solving is one of the most critical skills as a business owner. But there are always solutions - you have to persist in finding them!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Find your industry associations and organizations and join them to meet your peers and colleagues. They are the best source of information and will help you problem-solve.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. People love to share their lessons and knowledge (within reason). Finding a mentor, mastermind group, or accountability partner in business is always a good and economical way to keep motivated and on track.
- Financials are essential to keeping your business open and operating well. Know your numbers.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
When starting out, every entrepreneur experiences the thrill of excitement combined with some level of fear and doubt - that's entirely normal. You are not alone when encountering these emotions. Just don't let them distract or paralyze you.
And being a solopreneur - you need to find breaks for self-care and community so you aren't isolated and supported and so you can eventually work on your business and not stay working in it.
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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