Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mary Ann Valente, Owner of Valente Inc, located in Charlottesville, VA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Valente is a boutique specialty pasta company located in the piedmont of Virginia. The company was founded by my mother 40 years ago. My mother learned to make pasta from my grandmother, who immigrated to the US from Italy in the early 1900s. Our handcrafted pasta can be found in specialty food stores, farm markets, gourmet food stores, olive oil shops, grocery stores, and Amazon. We have several brands. Our products may also be purchased directly from our website.

Tell us about yourself

My mother founded our company. I love to cook, though after returning from culinary school in France, I knew I didn't want to spend the rest of my life with my head in a 500-degree oven. I was fortunate my mother gave me a job, and I flourished. I love what I do. It's challenging, especially the last 3 years. It's rewarding and unique. My mother started with nothing and created something that is meaningful. Over the years, we've provided jobs to people from every known background - refugees, immigrants, high school students, and people re-entering the workforce. It's been a diverse and wonderful group to spend my days with. I've enriched their lives, and they've enriched mine. My motivation is that I know that I am making peoples' lives easier with our pasta and complimentary recipes. I come to work with the hope of creating something that makes another person's day better. As a small business, we can experiment with new flavors and packaging ideas, change direction and meet the needs of our customers on short notice. It's great not being bogged down in bureaucracy.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I think the hardest thing about business is never giving up. Over the last 3 years, COVID struck, and I had to keep my team safe. As an essential business, we had to come to work every day. During OVID, my mother passed away from cancer, so I lost my best friend, greatest cheerleader, and business partner all at once. I'm really proud that we were able to continue this business going despite major challenges... and that it's still going strong.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

I think the hardest thing about business is never giving up. I believe in what I'm doing, but constantly pushing myself to be better. I think being resilient has served me well.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Know your numbers, and stick to them.
  2. Be flexible. Learn to pivot when necessary.
  3. Make sure you know how committed you are to your business.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I love what I do. I could not imagine doing anything else, and that may drive me. My mother always thought you had to have enough stake in your business you could not afford to fail.

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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