Sunday Morning Pancake Mix
Tell us about your business.Five years ago my husband decided that pancakes were going to be his "dad thing" and I decided that if we were going to do it every Sunday it needed to be healthy. After lots of experimentation, we found that the only way to get the flavor and texture that we wanted was to mill and mix our own nine grains. When my mom friends tried our pancakes at a brunch, they insisted we start selling it. The business also came about as a transition plan for me, from staying home with our two boys (now 6 & 3) to finding meaningful work that fit our family's lifestyle. In 2013 I ran a small Kickstarter campaign to fund my start up, sold my mix in mason jars at farmers' markets, went organic, switched to my lovely 2# American made fabric bags and got into a handful of local shops just in time for the holiday season. 2014 brought about the release of my six-grain gluten free version, tremendous sales growth, fabulous press, a recipe blog and, just recently, deals with two major grocers.
Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.Most days, my workspace is simply our home kitchen, the hub of our family life and my creative outlet. On milling days however, it quickly transitions into a certified domestic kitchen, licensed and inspected by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. From the closet under the stairs, out rolls a utility cart loaded with bags of organic grain and a small electric mill. A long table and 22qt flour buckets complete the scene and a time-consuming, but peaceful small-batch process is soon underway. The best thing about my workspace is that when I am running on fumes and my stirring arm is aching, I am still in my own kitchen, my happy place. It is in these moments that my thoughts easily drift to my kids and then to the hundreds of other kids that love these pancakes and the families that depend on and appreciate the care I put in to sourcing and crafting them.
What inspires you?First and foremost, my customers are my inspiration. Seeing a child smile when they taste a sample and a parent smile when they read my ingredient list, warms my heart. They are the reason I keep evolving with things like my gluten-free version and a new recipe blog, for all they uses they have come up with for SMPM. The women of my family are also a deep inspiration for me, in that they have never given up their homes. One grandma is still gardening, canning and baking bread. My other grandma, mom and sisters sew and craft. For a long time I didn't know how rare this was and I now appreciate the influence they have had on me, the one they never thought would be "domesticated". I also find inspiration from families all over the country who are taking back their homes and kitchens, claiming that which is counter-cultural, a thoughtful family life. Specifically, I am inspired by the East Nashville MOMS club, 100 Days of Real Food and the Stay at Home Money Manager.
What makes your business stand out?Sunday Morning Pancake Mix stands out because it is a healthy alternative for families. It redeems pancakes for folks who want to have the fun family tradition of lazy weekend breakfasts, but not feel guilty afterwards. The fact that I mill and mix everything myself in small batches makes me stand out. The care and quality I put into my product comes out in its taste, texture and complexity. Even though I am not a certified organic producer, I am using certified organic ingredients because it is the right thing to do and I think my customers value that. SMPM also stand out because our packaging is thoughtfully styled. A local letterpress company designed the logo and we use American made cotton bags. The packaging is based on my personal aesthetic; the bags are what I want sitting on the counter in my own kitchen and something I am proud to give as a gift. Sunday Morning Pancake Mix stands out because everyone loves pancakes!
What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?Find what you love, vet your idea with those around you, save up for awhile so there isn't an immediate financial pressure to succeed and then get out of your own way. I don't know if I would call this advice, but I can tell you what worked for me. I was very fortunate to have my husband's small business income to fall back on if things didn't work out, but it still felt like a tremendous risk to get this rolling. While Kickstarter was obviously great for start-up funding, it also gave me an extra community to draw creative energy from. The best thing I did was jump in with both feet without thinking too much. Now however, I am growing thoughtfully in a way that works for my business and my family. Also, I try to spend my time doing what is the most important aspect of my business, not necessarily what I love the most or am the best at. I picked this up from a local business owner recently and it has really clarified my to-do list priorities.
What does American Made mean to you?American Made means a homegrown business that stems from a great idea and a need in a community. Our recipe was developed for our family and then drawn out by neighbors. American Made isn't forced and isn't trying to make a quick buck. It is adding value to a system, like I am with local, organic agricultural products. Three of my nine grains are from a sweet couple at Windy Acres Farm, 45min down the road. American Made means business owners that are directly engaged with their customers and giving back to their communities. Farmers' markets are the most joy-filled part of my job because I get to tell folks about my product and get to know my regulars. I am also deeply engaged in my community, volunteering my time and product for various church, school, neighborhood and non-profit functions. My dad's family business, a wholesale perennial nursery in Nebraska, constantly models for me; he and his brothers are volunteer firemen and ridiculously active community members.
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