Age: 27, 27 //
Position: Owner / Chief Taste Tester (Cody), Owner / Head Baker (Lauren) //
Majors: Business Management (Cody), Political Science (Lauren)
Why Georgia College?
L: We started off at separate schools and then we transferred into Georgia College our junior year. Cody and I had been dating since we were 16, went to separate colleges and then decided we wanted to go to the same school. Georgia College just happened to be the school we both agreed on and loved. Luckily we both applied and got in!
Lauren, your major, political science, is a little different from what you do now. How did you guys come together and decide to open a business?
L: I’ve always really enjoyed baking. It was something I always thought was fun to do. It was never anything except pies though. Cody, being very business-minded, finally was like, “This is getting pretty expensive. You’re baking lots of pies and just giving them away.” He encouraged me to try and do a farmers market. So, I started selling them at farmers markets. And again, I have no business background whatsoever, so Cody was able to finally say “Let’s sit down and see if you’re actually making any money and how things are going.” I remember being so excited and calling my mom saying “Mom! My business is in the black! I’m doing awesome!” …It was only about $13.
Cody then was able to step in and say “This is taking up a lot of our time. Let’s go fulltime in this.” He had the background both professionally and through Georgia College studying business to be able to make my hobby into something that was viable and that can support us.
Can you take me through how you started the business?
C: It started organically. Lauren started doing farmers markets and then it spread from there. We’ve got a new brewery in our town that has become really popular. We reached out to them and they let us sell pies there. It was just one Friday a month, but it gave us an opportunity to get out and meet with people and sell pie. We started there and then we started getting involved with the city of Woodstock and the events they had. Realistically, in my mind, to turn it into a business, we couldn’t just go out and sell one day a week, we had to make enough pies to make it worth it to be staying up until 2 a.m. baking pies for the weekend. That was where it started, but then it was a lot of research in terms of getting the business license, food license, the space itself…
L: …the business plan. It took us probably six months just to get our business plan together and put together what our idea was, and finding an actual way to implement that plan. Getting funding took a while as well.
C: It did. We got denied by four banks before we got the loan itself. We worked with the SBA (Small Business Association) and they helped us get our loan. He told me to reach out to banks and, if all else fails, he had this one bank that “approves just about anybody.” Well, all else failed, and that bank denied us as well. Our dreams almost came to a halt really quickly, but then we tried again, and the fifth bank was the one who actually loaned to us.
L: The first one is so devastating. I remember being so upset and saying, “Well obviously this isn’t going to happen.” Cody, again, coming from a business background, wasn’t emotional about it. He would say “OK, let’s move on, let’s try again.”
C: It was fuel to the fire.
L: Eventually, the bank that ended up giving us a loan was a bank out of Jasper, Georgia, which is ironic because the first market I ever did was in Jasper. They have a really sweet, smaller community farmers market and they were the only market that would accept me to begin with. None of the other markets would. They did. And then a year later a bank in Jasper was the only bank that would accept us.
What’s it like owning and running a business together?
Both, at the same time: Hard.
C: Hard and a lot of work. It was different before because we worked standard jobs. We were gone 8-10 hours a day and then we spent time together at home at night and on the weekends. Well now it’s the complete opposite. We’re together about 12-15 hours a day, so by the time we get home at night I’ll say “You do your thing and I’ll do mine.” (both laugh) There are a lot of advantages because we’ve found what works best for each of us, divide and conquer. If it’s in the kitchen or social media-related, Lauren is the one who answers for that. If it’s taxes or business-related, that’s me.
L: It’s given us an opportunity to really explore what we’re best at as individuals. You can show you worst side to your spouse. If I show my worst side, Cody is not only my business partner but he’s married to me – so he’s kind of stuck. But it has allowed us to really figure out what works and what doesn’t work and we’ve been able to not only grow as individuals, but as a couple and in our marriage. We’ve been able to grow as business professionals.
Favorite part of running the pie shop?
L: When we opened, I thought my favorite part would be baking pies. Before we opened, I had only had the opportunity to bake a handful of pies at one time. As we’ve grown, we’re baking hundreds of pies at a time some days and that can get exhausting. I’m in a new season now where I’m not baking as much, I’m baking about once or twice a week, and so I think my favorite part has shifted. What I’m really enjoying now is getting the opportunity to work with individuals that are excited about what I’m excited about. At first I had a hard time letting go, but now that we’ve got a team that just get us and get that the customer is so important to us and that we want to create an experience for them when they come in our store. They get that the pie is incredibly important. Our staff is so invested and every single one of them treats the store like it's their store. They’re embracing what our vision is. I love being able to work with a team and hopefully inspire a team to continue to create the best product and service that we can.
C: Mine is from a lot more of a prideful sense. We haven’t taken a paycheck from someone outside of our own work in almost two years. For me, now it’s the point that our success is only driven by the effort we put into it. Starting a business from the ground up, it could have gone either way. The fact that we are able to employ ourselves, plus 10 other people, based on something that we created. I enjoy the business side of it, I enjoy the numbers side, but the fact that we’ve created something that’s been able to change our lives is my favorite part.
L: I think it’s about the process. I think a lot of people think making pies is scary. I didn’t grow up in a family that made pies, so I had no idea that people thought it was scary. I just thought, “This will be fun. This will be easy.” I love being able to create things that not everybody is able to make (at least they think they can’t make it, but they can). It’s not a tough process, but it’s mental. You have to be able to say “I can do this.” I enjoy going through and making the pies, having to wait for it to rest and then the next day rolling it out. Instead of just putting flour, sugar, butter together and baking it.
C: It changes because we introduce so many new pies each season. Before we opened, my favorite pie was peanut butter cream, a really rich pie with an Oreo-Reese’s crust and a peanut butter whipped filling. But now, we just started doing a new pie called Sugar and Oats and I think that’s my current favorite.
L: It’s got a nice sweet and salty flavor. I like a lot of the fruit pies. I’m really excited for June, which is peach season. It’s so Georgia – I love peach pie.
Any businesses you look up to?
C: One thing I’m always doing is hunting other businesses and models just to kind of see what they’re doing. Right now we control our website and I’m always looking around. Things are constantly innovating and changing.
I couldn’t say one specifically, but there are a lot of people that I’m following. There’s a really neat business in Atlanta called Brother Moto.
L: They do a great job creating an experience and a feeling. You can look at their website and it makes you want to do what they’re doing. We really strive for that. We know that pie isn’t a commodity that people have to purchase, so we want to be able to create that feeling, that experience.
C: Pie is nostalgic. One of the things that we try hard to do is represent that in an online sense. We can control what happens in our store, because people can walk in an experience that at-home feeling and the smell and the hospitality, but how do we convey that same message online?
Any advice for current/future students interested in starting their own business?
C: I was hired as a project manager at a small company and got the feel of how a small business works. Everybody wears a lot of hats. My advice would be that if they can get some sort of an internship in a field they think they want to go into, you get a feel of what’s it’s actually like working in a business. Real world experience, via internships.
L: Mine would be to put in the work prior to opening something. Don’t just constantly talk about doing it, put in the work and that’s really going to help propel you forward.
I had never written a business plan, I was a political science major, so having Cody around, I was able to physically put pen to paper and he was then able to direct me, which I found helpful because I was able to find my vision and it put my goals in motion. I wasn’t just saying I was going to do something; I was working towards doing it. With that you’re set up for success and able to move forward, without jumping in completely blind.
C: You have to be confident enough to take that step. We didn’t take that step without putting the work and effort in first.