Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Abby Thatcher, founder of Grazing Platterboards, located in Chelmsford, MA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Grazing Platterboards originally started out just as custom cheese boards and grazing tables. Over the years, I have expanded to catering and meal prep. I am now teaching private, and public cheese board-making classes North of Boston.
My customers! Let me tell you about my customers. They are THE best you could possibly find. They are the ones who have supported me through all of my growing farmer's markets events and have helped me grow on social media. They have been incredibly essential for Grazing Platterboards because they're always sharing my posts, tagging me, leaving amazing reviews, and reposting my content so other locals can reach out to me. Word of mouth has been a powerful way of (FREE) marketing, and I am forever grateful for these customers. I have met so many people who I regularly see now. It's a comforting feeling to know you can see a familiar face, have a quick chat, and enjoy those little run-ins because they can really make your day. These moments remind me how hard I have worked to create these relationships with my community, and that's something to be proud of.
Tell us about yourself
I welcomed Grazing Platterboards into existence in 2018, but it all began when I started nannying for a family while I was getting my Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education in 2009. Nine years flew by, and as the boys were getting older and needing me less, I found that my job was also shifting. In the back of my mind, I was always unsure of my next job since I'd been there throughout my entire twenties. I decided to get my Master's in Community Engagement and Social Policy and graduated in 2017. I still was unsure of what my next steps would be. One Friday night, my boss asked if I could throw together a cheese board to bring over to a neighbor's house. I dug around the pantry and refrigerator and put together a beautiful spread. I didn't think anything of it, and it turned out everyone was amazed that my boss was the one who told me to start a business out of this. I initially thought it was silly, but I went home and thought about it, did a little bit of research of what I needed to do, played around with names, and doodled my dreams on a piece of paper.
Before I knew it, I had lists of cheeses, ideas of products, a five-year plan, and I started following all the Instagram cheeseboard accounts I could find. At this time, the whole cheeseboard craze wasn't as popular as it is now, and I realized that most of the accounts I loved were in Australia. I thought this would be a fun and exciting new adventure that wasn't well established in my area. I wouldn't call myself a huge risk-taker, but shortly after speaking with my boss, I decided to create a concrete business plan, apply for a business license, chat with my local board of health, get my ServSafe certificate, find a commercial kitchen to work out of, gather all my permits and that's how Grazing Platterboards was born in 2018. Oh, I still occasionally cook for my nanny family too!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Wow. That's a tough question because I have so many little wins. I started as a DBA then turned into an LLC. I created my website all on my own and moved platforms twice. I've hit so many business milestones over the years, but honestly, I have a shortlist of big accomplishments, and I have yet to fulfill them. However, I do have some big news in the coming months, so follow me on good old social media!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I do this completely on my own, and sometimes I don't know what I'm doing or if I'm even making the right decision. It can get overwhelming sourcing quality products, handpicking beautiful fruit, and searching for specific cheeses day after day. On top of that, I'm at the beginning of expanding my business to a brick and mortar, trying to fill weekly orders, teaching classes, and selling at farmer's markets. I try to separate work and social life/personal life, but because of the pandemic, I haven't really wanted to go out in public unless I'm grabbing a quick bite with my partner before heading back to work. I'm still trying to balance my job and fun, but it's tough when you're doing all the work by yourself. It appears like a lot at times, but the excitement of accomplishment is the best feeling at the end of the week, and for me, it's completely worth it.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Create a plan, ask all the questions, and most importantly, don't stress too much! Self-care throughout your journey is very important and has saved me, no doubt. People will want to support you, so don't hesitate to reach out to those resources. You'd be surprised if you just asked.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I'm just blown away by the help and encouragement of everyone around me. I never thought starting a business around cheese boards was ultimately going to be my full-time job. I fill every checkbox for myself I get to be creative, be my own boss, and create new relationships within my community. If you're looking for a change in your life, I'm giving you that little supportive nudge!
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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