Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kara McGrath, owner of Paste & Rind Cheese Co., located in Washington, DC, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Paste & Rind Cheese Co. is a small business in Washington DC, providing artisan cheese-focused curating services for all occasions. Whether it be our wedges or boards, guided tastings, custom gift boxes, or beautiful displays, if you can dream it, we will cheese it.
We aim to connect people with the best artisan, craft, and farmstead cheese producers to raise overall awareness of the value of artisan cheese and expose customers to the highest quality of products. I believe supporting small-scale cheese, and dairy producers promote humane and sustainable treatment of land and animals, boosts local economies, and ensures the best tasting cheeses on your plate.
Tell us about yourself
After graduating from the University of Maryland, College Park, with Government and International Development degrees, I spent the next six years in the international development world where I traveled, managed millions of dollars worth of USAID programming, and provided Gender and Social Inclusion support across the globe.
In 2019, I decided to pursue her dream of opening a cheese shop and began working in the specialty food industry. I left my development career to work as a cheese monger, caterer, studio manager, and eventually co-owner at Cheesemonster Studio, a cheese catering, and retail shop.
In 2021, with Cheesemonster Studio forced into a pandemic-induced untimely close, I set off on my own and started Paste & Rind Cheese Co., focusing on cheese box collections, catering, and virtual tastings.
Small but mighty, Paste & Rind serves as a gathering space for cheese and wine enthusiasts, specializing in experiences focused on cheese and charcuterie collections, perfectly paired with beverage and accompaniment options.
I aim to educate the American consumer, especially in the DMV area where there is a lack of specialty cheese shops, despite excellent local dairies and cheesemakers, on why they should choose quality over price to support a better value chain and enjoy tastier cheese.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment has been providing a product that creates advocates in the community - people who wanted to evangelize my product to their communities because of the value they felt it created for them. As an example, one of my first-time customers connected me with a local farmer's market that would allow me to introduce more people to my business. Having customers act as my biggest marketing channel means customers are putting their own resources into helping me reach people.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Deciding where to invest my time- especially as a one-person operation, I am constantly being pulled in a million different directions. It can be difficult to determine where to put my time and energy, what will yield the best return on that time and energy, how feasible my timetable is, etc. It can be easy to burn yourself out and spend too much time on projects that ultimately take away from your other parts of the business.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Don't let perfect be the enemy of good - sometimes you just need to get things done and out the door.
- Why not ask? You have to advocate for yourself and your product in a way that you probably never have before, so always ask for what you want. You just might be surprised what you can get accomplished just by posing the question.
- Sometimes, you will need help, and that's not a failure. It's a certainty of being a small business owner. Take the help from people in your life who offer - they genuinely want to help you succeed. Your success is something they are invested in, and it's more than ok to pull on those strings from time to time.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Cheese is so much more than an industrialized commodity - underrepresented in the American kitchen and misunderstood in the American palette. Too many people peruse the grocery store cheese display, overwhelmed by all the choices, without any understanding of the quality of the products in front of them or the process and people by which they are made.
I strongly believe in the small producers who make the vast majority of the cheeses I carry- brought forth by farmers and cheesemakers who treat their animals and their land with respect. The attention to animal and land welfare results in tastier cheeses that are better for you and better for the environment. And supporting these small-scale makers directs money into the communities where the cheese is being made, thus boosting local economies. When you choose high-quality, carefully-made artisan cheeses, you can be assured that your purchase is supporting the work of dedicated, passionate producers and enriching small-scale food systems.
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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