Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Raema Obbie, founder and CEO of Rockerbox Spice Co., located in Schoharie, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Rockerbox specializes in making garlic and onion powders the way they're supposed to be made, free from fillers and additives. That means Rockerbox "dust" is fresh, pure, and INTENSE! Naturally, our customers are garlic-loving foodies who've discovered that there are better options out there besides generic granulated powders.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Raema, and my love of garlic began with my grandparents' farm. They grew Hardneck garlic in Western NY. I'm far from the "chef" you might expect to see as the founder of a spice company. Truth be told, I wasn't even much of a cook until about ten years ago! I first tried making my own powder on a whim in 2010 in a small dehydrator, and it was genuinely a shock to me that my powder was so much more intense than anything I'd tried before. It dawned on me that there was no source for REAL, quality garlic and onion powders like this out there. Two years later, Rockerbox was born.
My love of food, people, and entrepreneurship is what motivated me to take this step. I truly enjoy cooking with my own spices every day, and it brings me so much joy to see other people enjoying them as much as I do. Connecting with my customers through our shared love of cooking good food is deeply fulfilling. Food connects us all, even across other divisions. Being my own boss is also something I'll never take for granted. I work hard but also deeply value having a balance between work and other life pursuits. Knowing that I alone hold the reigns drives me to do the hard work of running a small business solo.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment as a business owner was seeing my business make it through the pandemic. Before 2020 I would have had a different brag to share here, but it's all dwarfed by the sudden force restructuring of literally every aspect of my business. But nothing I did would have mattered if not for the support of loyal customers. The people who ordered online in 2020 and the people who eagerly emerged from the woodwork in 2021 when all the outdoor events reopened. Those folks were a lifeline to small businesses like mine.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Prioritizing is the bedrock challenge for all solopreneurs. We wear ALL the hats. Do I spend today making spices or bookkeeping? Working on my website or reaching out to new wholesale leads? It's a never-ending challenge to know that every hour you spend doing one thing is an hour you won't spend in another area. Sometimes your business strategy makes these decisions clear, but many times it comes down to trusting your gut about how to best allocate your time.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Focus on the process, not the outcome. When you're focused on the end result, it's easy to get tripped up or get burned out. So often, it's best to just set a goal and then direct your focus on putting one foot in front of the other. This is an antidote to burnout AND releases you from all that unnecessary stress that comes when things don't go the way you planned.
- When things go wrong, or you screw up, take what you can learn and flush the rest! Self-compassion is important here. It's a waste of energy to berate yourself when these things happen, and they will happen. Don't waste time rewriting the past in your mind. Just pluck out whatever wisdom nuggets you can and forget the rest.
- Remember your WHY on a daily basis. It's so easy to get lost in the weeds when you run a small business and lose sight of why you chose this path, especially when the going gets tough. Consciously reminding yourself why you chose this path is a muscle you can strengthen. When you get in the habit of remembering your fundamental motivations, you'll notice gratitude replacing resentment when you face challenges running your business. Your WHY is so, so important - it's grounding and helps ward off burnout.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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