“If you’re not growing, you’re dying” In the business world, “success” is often directly or indirectly tied to this idea of “more”. More sales, more profit, more growth, a bigger team, or more franchises. Translation? Success = more MONEY.
But what if “bigger” isn’t always better. In fact, what if small is actually the business model that keeps you thriving, happy, being creative, and having fun. Is that not success as well?
From stay at home mom to bakery owner with two brick-and-mortar stores in less than 2 years… In today’s interview with Sarah Blackburn, founder of Free Reign Bakery, get a behind the curtain look at how unexpected quick growth taught this entrepreneur what she did and didn’t want. And why she’s giving herself the permission to stay small.
WILDFLOWER SHOWNOTES : shannaskidmore.com/sarah-blackburn
Sarah Blackburn (00:00):
When everybody is giving me these ideas and saying, There's so much potential that your business has, you could expand to this market. And they're just telling you that there's so much untapped potential. And maybe there was for my business, but it also made it to where I did. I wasn't able to have that balance of being a mom and being a business owner. And like I said from the beginning, I have to always put my babies first. And I realized going and tapping into more potential for the business, I was giving up more space to be the mom that I wanted to be.
Shanna Skidmore (00:41):
You're listening to Consider the Wildflowers the podcast episode 15. Today is a special treat, no pun intended, because we have my sister-in-law, Sarah joining us. Sarah is the culinary master baking genius, no flower, no dairy ,allergen friendly founder of Free Reign Bakery. Kyle and I have had the privilege of sitting in her test kitchen before her bakery even came to be. And honestly, I do not say this just because Sarah is my sister-in-law, her baked goods are amazing. She has absolutely found her gift. It was around 2020 when I found out I was allergic to all forms of dairy. Were talking whey, cason and lactose and my mac and cheese loving world was turned upside down. So when Sarah went through a similar journey with gluten, in many ways, we walked the path together of understanding food and nutrition and health. A few years later, Sarah decided she wanted to open an allergen friendly bakery, and lucky for us, we became taste testers for cupcakes and brookies and my favorite, oatmeal cream pies. No professional bio today, but yes, she has in fact met the cake boss. So that's pretty cool. By the way, this likely goes without saying, but just in case ,neither Sarah or I have medical background or formal training in food allergies. So we both share our own experiences today with finding out we had food allergies, but we are both very much advocates for seeking professional help if you believe you could have a food allergy yourself. So let's dive in. Dairy free oatmeal cream pie in hand.
Hey, it's Shanna and this is Consider the Wildflowers, the podcast. For the past 15 plus years, I've had the honor to hear thousands of stories from entrepreneurs around the world. As a former Fortune 100 financial advisor, turned business consultant, I have a unique opportunity to see the real behind the highlight reel. I'm talking profit and loss statements, unpaid taxes, moments of burnout, and those of utter victory. Or as my husband says, the content everyone is wondering but not many are talking about. And now I'm bringing these private conversations to you. Hear the untold stories of how industry leaders, founders, and up and coming entrepreneurs got their start, the experiences that shaped them and the journey to building the brands they have today. Stories that will inspire and reignite encourage to redefine success and build a life and business on your own terms. Welcome Wildflower. I'm so glad you're here.
Hey Sarah. Oh my goodness, I'm so excited to have you on the podcast today sharing your story. Thanks for coming on.
Sarah Blackburn (03:08):
Thank you for having me, Shanna.
Shanna Skidmore (03:09):
This is gonna be so fun. Okay, so let's kick it back and just tell everybody, well first just tell everybody who you are and what your business is.
Sarah Blackburn (03:19):
Sure, yeah. My name is Sarah Blackburn. I own Free Reign Bakery. So we are a dedicated allergy friendly bakery. We're free from the top eight allergens and that's just our niche market that we focus on.
Shanna Skidmore (03:34):
Okay. And it's amazing and so delicious. And your oatmeal cream pies are things of that I dream about. So
Sarah Blackburn (03:40):
<laugh> <laugh>. Thank you.
Shanna Skidmore (03:42):
Okay, so take us back to life. What were you doing before you started the bakery?
Sarah Blackburn (03:48):
So I got my college degree in criminal justice and sociology and it was always my career plan to be a police officer. So while I was in college, I went through a police cadet program and I was working at the local police department for a couple years and then I got married and had kids. So became a stay at home mom and just kind of realized that life was taking me on a different path from there.
Shanna Skidmore (04:16):
Okay. Yes, I know, I love this. It's so funny now to see you walking in today with flour on your pants, thinking about your degree in criminal justice when we met. That's what you were doing. So that's so interesting. Okay, so walk us through, you're staying at home with the kids, Did you baking before? Did you try other types of businesses? Just how did you fall into this entrepreneur path?
Sarah Blackburn (04:40):
So I always loved baking as a hobby. My happy place I've always said was in the kitchen with Christian music playing and just baking all day. So when I became a stay at home mom, I that, I feel like that changes all of your passions and your goals. It just makes you take a big shift in life and just a clear look at your life and what you truly want to do. So I decided I want to take more independence in my life and be able to make my own choices, my own decisions with whatever career I was in. I didn't want to work for people. I didn't want my schedule to be dictated for me. I wanted to have the freedom so that I could have a career but also be a mom at the same time. So that's when I kind of realized that maybe I should start my own business because coincidentally, while I was in high school and college, I would always work for small business owners and I would always take on leadership roles and I would ask the owners, Can I take on more roles that you do within your business? Because I was always interested in that and that didn't really click for me until later on in life that hey, maybe that's something that I would really enjoy doing in life.
Shanna Skidmore (06:03):
Oh my gosh, Sarah, I just remembered how we actually knew each other before I ever started dating your brother.
Sarah Blackburn (06:09):
Shanna Skidmore (06:09):
Because of Smoothie King <laugh>. So I was addicted to Smoothie King when I was in college and Sarah worked there. Oh my goodness. That's so funny. I totally forgot that until just this second. So that's interesting. And your dad's an entrepreneur too, so you have that kind of entrepreneurial spirit in you. So did you start trying different types of businesses or just kind of walk us through how you found this business?
Sarah Blackburn (06:34):
So I never really looked at doing other businesses. Also throughout my childhood I had digestive issues and just really struggled with food intolerances. So that made me start converting recipes at home so that I would be able to eat it and not be sick from it. And so it just kind of clicked to me one day because I was looking through my emails and I saw a local bakery went up for sale and I was just like, you know what? I think that I would really enjoy doing that, but I would love to make it a bakery where people who have the same food allergies as myself could go and enjoy that product.
Shanna Skidmore (07:23):
Yeah, I love your story so much because I think it was around the same time, most people listening don't know that I have a dairy allergy and Sarah struggles a lot with gluten and I think we found that out about the same time we started doing testing and, if you don't mind sharing a little bit more of that journey of finding your own food allergies and intolerances and how you learn that about yourself.
Sarah Blackburn (07:47):
Sure, yeah, that's another reason why I also wanted to go into the bakery business. It because I felt like it would give me a platform to be able to share my story and give people some more information on that aspect of life. So I always went to countless doctor's appointments and tons of testing done, saw so many specialists and I unfortunately never got answers and it just became a very frustrating process for me. So by the time that I got to college I was kind of at my limit and I was like, let me take a break from going to the doctor and I'm just gonna start to research my symptoms and start to just really listen to my body versus listening to outside voices. And so through that research it just took me down a path of nutrition and realizing that all my symptoms were related to what I was eating. So I was able to do an elimination diet through that and really was able to just listen to my body and see what foods were upsetting me. And through that it just completely changed my health from there on.
Shanna Skidmore (08:58):
Yeah. So tell me what year were you kind of walking through figuring out this elimination diet and figuring out your food? Cause I think I was around the same time for me, I remember I was getting headaches every day. I had since I was a child and I remember going the doctor to tell me, Oh you just have anxiety. And I was like, Maybe that's true, but I think that's not the answer. Anyways, I went to a specific kind of doctor and got tested and they were like, Yeah, you're allergic to every form of dairy ever <laugh>,
Sarah Blackburn (09:25):
Shanna Skidmore (09:26):
And I was like, Oh that's so helpful. And my headaches in a way. So that was about 2015 for me, 2014, 2015. I think I was around the same time for you too, Sarah, that you really were really digging into this, if I'm remembering correctly.
Sarah Blackburn (09:38):
Yes, it's, gosh, it feels like a lifetime ago, but I feel like it was maybe around 2013 for me is when I did all of that.
Shanna Skidmore (09:47):
Okay. So walk us through at home with the kids. You see this bakery come up for sale and you think to yourself, I can do this. How did you get started mean? Did you think about opening up your own shop? Just walk us through those early days of beginning the bakery business and tell me what year that was.
Sarah Blackburn (10:08):
Yeah, so it was an interesting process from there on out. It was 2018 is when I established my business and I was like, You know what? Let's just go to the local farmer's market. I'll just bake some stuff out of the house and just get some feedback from the community and see how big this need is. Because I'm only one person. I didn't know how many people were struggling with food allergies to be honest. So I just started baking out of the house and then I would go to the farmer's market on Saturday. And honestly from there on out, it just snowballed from there because every single Saturday within, oh my goodness, one to two hours of a six hour market, we would sell out and people would buy our product and then they would run back cuz they had a taste and they're like, This is life changing, I just need to buy it all.
And so I was just like, wow, okay. So this is much bigger need than what I even knew. So I started working out of a commissary kitchen, it's like a commercial kitchen to get licensing and be able to wholesale our product. And it just kept picking up more and more. We started selling out of a local store that had different vendors set up within this one store and people would line up and until when we did our deliveries and it would sell out very quickly there. So I was like, Okay God, what do we do with this business because it's getting outta hand. And I was only one person. So I decided from there to go ahead and open a small storefront and I was like, if I'm gonna do this, it needs to be close to my house so that I can still be close to my babies if I need to. So I just found a really low expense storefront. It was literally a mile from my house, which was perfect. It was in a random small town which nobody understood, but I was like, listen, I still have to put my babies first. So I opened up the storefronts and opening day. I wasn't even able to do the ribbon cutting, I totally forgot to turn on the lights and there was just a line going down the street and my mind was blown. I was like, what is my life right now? So it was a little dysfunctional, but that's kind of how it all started.
Shanna Skidmore (12:40):
I mean that gives me chill bumps and I still am sad cuz we missed that. Cuz we had just, that was 2019, we had just moved to Minnesota. Yes, how sad. But yeah, I really do think God blessed it and you are, I tell you this every day, I'm like your biggest fan. It's so delicious. It is. So it is absolutely your gift.
Sarah Blackburn (12:59):
Shanna Skidmore (13:00):
So walk us back a little bit. How did you come up with your recipes? I mean, how did you come up with your name? I mean you really just created it from scratch, all of it. <laugh>.
Sarah Blackburn (13:11):
Yes. I honestly, I joke all the time because people are like, Well how did you know how to do this? I have no idea. Just honestly, I took it a day at a time. I would just start converting all the recipes that I loved growing up, all the sweets that I loved to eat and the recipes that my mom would make. I'd be like, just gimme the recipe. I am going to swap out the ingredients. I want to make it taste exactly the same but with healthier ingredients and not allergy components as well. So it just started from there and just testing a lot of recipes and I just wanted to make sure because everything that I was tasting that was available that was allergy friendly, it did not taste the same as your childhood comfort dessert. So I was like, it was my mission to make sure that it's still tasted just as good as those.
Shanna Skidmore (14:11):
And it sure does Sarah <laugh>. Oh good. Okay. So do you remember your first menu, what your offers were originally at the farmer's market and then when you originally opened your store, what were those first items that you were selling?
Sarah Blackburn (14:26):
So my goal was to take everyday desserts and kind of put a little spin on it to make it more fun because everything that would be available in other bakeries, it would be one or two items that were gluten free and it would just be a cookie or it would be just a basic brownie. And I just, I'm like a dessert's guru. So I just wanted a little pizazz whenever I would go on bakery. So I tried to make things really fun. So some of the first items that I put out, one item was our brookie. So it's a brownie, but it has a chocolate chip cookie baked on top and it's still one of our bestsellers, probably top three. And then also one item that we still make is our buntlette. So it's like a miniature swirled bunt cake. And it's just really appealing to the eye cuz it's a beautiful swirl and it just, it's so good cuz you've got the glaze on top. And of course we would do cupcakes because all kids who have allergies, they just want a good cupcake when they go to their friend's birthday party. So I just try to create really fun flavors and cupcakes just to give it a little pizazz.
Shanna Skidmore (15:41):
Yeah, I love that. Okay. And then how did you figure out your name, what you were gonna call it and your pricing? I mean did that stuff come easy to you? Was it hard?
Sarah Blackburn (15:50):
The name was probably the hardest. I mean that took weeks to figure out because I'm so indecisive and I just wanted it to really be perfect. So I wanted to create a name that just embodied everybody and anybody who can go into the bakery can get and choose any of the items. And it wasn't just, oh you can have this item or you can have this item. Cuz that's what all people with food allergies hate when they go into places. So I wanted to name it free reign. So it's like if you come into our bakery, you literally have free reign on your choices with your items. But with reign, I kind of did a fun spelling, it's R E I G N cuz that's the middle name of my daughter. I just wanted to somehow fit my kids into that as well to make it a little bit personal.
Shanna Skidmore (16:41):
I love that Sarah <laugh>, I love the name so much. It's so perfect. I mean I, I'm over here tearing up, just remembering we got the honor of walking through these stages with you and just remembering back to the photo shoot we did at my house with for your branding and all of that, It's such a fun journey. And talk me through, I know I asked you and then I interrupted you about pricing. Was that easy for you to figure out? How did you start learning that? All those things.
Sarah Blackburn (17:09):
So I'm very much a type A personality and I've always been one who loves to sit down and budget and punch numbers. So honestly the pricing was a really fun process for me. It was probably a little bit more difficult with not having a business education. So honestly it was a lot of evenings at Starbucks doing a lot of pricing research and trying to map out equations on the best way to incorporate all of the storefront expenses and the packaging and the ingredients. So it's so funny to look back at my papers, but I literally hand wrote all these math equations and it's just a paper of a ton of numbers is how I ended up doing pricing for my products. But honestly I feel like it worked really well. And so anybody who's like, I wanna start a business but I have to go to school and get my business degree, I giggle to myself cuz I'm like, if I can sit at Starbucks and come up with these handwritten equations, you can do it too. Don't let that hold you back.
Shanna Skidmore (18:19):
Yeah. Okay. So starting out, 20 9, start the storefront, you're doing wholesale or I don't know if you're doing wholesale yet, but you're doing the farmer's markets. What would you say you did really well in those early days and then what would you say maybe that didn't go like you expected?
Sarah Blackburn (18:36):
Sure. So I would say just creating the business model initially was just a really fun creative process for me. So that is probably what came most naturally and easily for me. I would say the hardest part was when I opened up the storefront and trying to figure out how to, I guess get the recipes to fit into a retail environment. It's really hard to explain, but figuring out how big you need the recipes to be, what products need to be sold hot right out of the oven. And just how some items need a little bit more, I guess, decoration to make it more appealing to a customer. So it's just that translation of just baking out of your home versus actually being at a storefront, figuring out the ovens and bake times will be different. That was just a really big learning process and trial by error.
Shanna Skidmore (19:42):
Yeah. Oh my goodness, all that sounds, I'm so impressed by you all the time. Cause I'm like, I could never do that, but it is your good. So walk us through a growth, kind of the growth of the company, open the storefront and just what happens next? What are you learning? You start hiring, Just walk us through what you were learning and how it went in the growth process.
Sarah Blackburn (20:02):
So I would say the growth process was really figuring out how to scale things to provide for the community as a whole and the need for people. There was a lot of requests for wholesaling from grocery stores for shipping throughout the US which that was a feat in and of itself. And then also just managing a team. I had never done that before. So I feel like there's just very multifaceted figuring out going from a farmer's market to having a storefront and then having a customer base. And this customer base has a lot of requests. So figuring out how to fit those requests into what I'm doing as well.
Shanna Skidmore (20:50):
In all this timeframe wise, this is two years. I mean 2018, you officially started 2019, you opened your storefront and within two years you're bringing on staff, you've got people lined up outside the door. I mean, I think most business owners think, Oh, we wanna grow really fast, but there's a lot that comes with growing fast. Would you agree? A lot of pressure.
Sarah Blackburn (21:14):
A hundred percent. It's like you have to figure out what pressure you wanna listen to and lean into and what you know have to remind yourself of what your vision is for the business as well. So it can be very challenging.
Shanna Skidmore (21:28):
Yeah, I love that you brought that up. I mean. What would you say for you in that growth season kept you kind of aligned? What are some times that specifically stick out that you're like, I got that right, we went in the right direction, or Hey, you know what, I didn't get that right. You had to learn the hard way.
Sarah Blackburn (21:47):
Sure. I would say I definitely know my learn the hard way situation. People would want us in different areas of Knoxville and more specifically in the more saturated west Knoxville area. And so I was like, okay, I have got to see how I can expand. And it just took me down this path of getting the idea of opening a second location. And I can honestly say that going through that it makes your workload twice as much. It gives you twice as much staff, twice as much demands and hindsight, I would have kept it quaint. I love having my one store and focusing on that. So that was a really hard lesson for me and just realizing that it's okay to not be everything for everybody in all those requests.
Shanna Skidmore (22:49):
That is so hard to learn and so true. Something I talk about with my clients and students all the time, but I feel like in the business world there's this sense and tell me if you felt this way too. Growth is what it's all about. Growing is I've always heard if you're not growing, you're dying. And I just think, not that you chose to expand for that, but you were getting all these requests you had, it felt like the audience to do that. It feels like we're supposed to grow this business that maybe we have to learn my story in this. I went in, I had a ton of employees and it felt overwhelming to me too. And so I got strategic about how can I serve well without having this giant team. And sometimes I think we have to walk down a path to realize, you know what, that's not the path I wanna be on. So do you feel like you felt that pressure too, I need to keep growing, I need to make it bigger. Would you say that that's true?
Sarah Blackburn (23:45):
Absolutely. I feel like I've always been a very big people pleaser. And so when everybody is giving me these ideas and saying, there's so much potential that your business has, you could expand to this market. And they're just telling you that there's so much untapped potential. And maybe there was for my business, but it also made it to where I did. I wasn't able to have that balance of being a mom and being a business owner. And like I said from the beginning, I have to always put my babies first. And I realized going and tapping into more potential for the business, I was giving up more space to be the mom that I wanted to be. So it was a hard lesson to learn, but I definitely feel like had I not gone down that path, I wouldn't have realized. And I always would have wondered. Yeah, so it's hard for balancing life, but it's just one of those roads you have to walk to realize.
Shanna Skidmore (24:52):
Sarah, I love that so much. Yeah, that was a hard journey for you. And a bad timing. <laugh> as well with the pandemic. I mean nobody saw that coming.
Sarah Blackburn (25:03):
Don't get me started. <laugh>.
Shanna Skidmore (25:06):
Oh, storefront. That's fine. Right. Second storefront during a pandemic, shut down. That's fine. Everything's fine everything's fine.
Sarah Blackburn (25:11):
Shanna Skidmore (25:12):
<laugh>. But I love what you said, you would've always wondered you <affirmative>. And this is, I know for me, taking time and stepping back for my business as well in 2020 allows me to know my vision now even better to know sure what I want the company look like, what type of mom I wanna be. So tell me about the business today. What looks the same? What looks different and your thoughts moving forward?
Sarah Blackburn (25:38):
Well, needless to say, I definitely went back to one store cuz I always say that is my happy place in life. I love a quaint team that feels like a family. And having more stores, you get away from that because you can't have those relationships with your employees. And then it's just so much more manageable. I feel like I got back when I went back to one store, I was able to go back to the space of being able to be creative with my product and doing seasonal launches with treat boxes for different seasons and being able to bring out new recipes and test more things and just to have fun with the business. When the workload got too large, it wasn't fun anymore, it was just all business and trying to keep my head above water and keeping the business going and managing the team and getting product out. But when I went back to one store, I can say that it just became fun again and I was like, this is where I need to be. And that's the lesson that I learned,
Shanna Skidmore (26:48):
Sarah. I think just gonna be so helpful and resonate with so many people listening because just to get to have fun again, I mean, how beautiful is that? And so very true. I think sometimes we grow this business we're excited about in the beginning and then we get into it and it's like we're just running it and managing it and the creativity goes out the window. But I do wanna kind of hit you with a hard question. So <laugh> going back,
Sarah Blackburn (27:13):
Bring it to me <laugh>,
Shanna Skidmore (27:15):
Let's talk about the money for a second. Going back to one store, getting smaller again, inevitably comes with less financial potential or less revenue potential, less scalability potential. So will you just talk through on the money side, are you setting different goals financially or are you accepting less? I'm happy at less. I know now I'm happy with less. Just talk through the mindset of that. Financially going back to a smaller business.
Sarah Blackburn (27:50):
So I always want my business to be profitable of course, but I also, I don't need the profit to be so outstanding to where I'm, I'm not able to enjoy the process of owning the business. So for me, when I had two storefronts, it was so much workload that I didn't feel like I got to sit down and truly look at the numbers and be able to even set goals for myself and everything just was moving and got lost and I just felt less control over the business overall. So going to one storefront, it's just so much more calm and I'm able to sit down and have clear numbers and be able to set goals and launches with different items to have goals for those launches as well. So yeah, it became a lot less stressful to create those goals.
Shanna Skidmore (28:57):
I just love that so much because something, I teach this to all my students, but it's like we can build a business model in so many different ways. And some people want that big empire, they wanna be franchising. And I know for a minute you've thought about that. Oh I want that. I wanna for sure this thing and make get big and huge and yes. And you learned what, that's not the right fit for me even. And in this season and maybe when your kiddos are bigger, it will be again. But it's like I always think people have to be given permission to run a business that looks successful to them. And it sounds like you have found that harmony for you in this season one store is the right fit. You're able to be the mom that you wanna be. Would you say that that's true for you?
Sarah Blackburn (29:40):
Absolutely. It's funny to me because I've had so many people approach me or franchising for building the business and selling it as a whole. And I was just like, at the time I'm like, Yeah, that sounds awesome. Let's do that. I wanna build an empire you just mentioned. And when I was on that path, I was just realizing maybe that's not ultimately what I want. Because if I'm building an empire and I'm delegating to having to delegate to other people to help run the business and I'm not able to do the creative side, or if I sell the business as a whole, then what will I have at the end of the day? Because I enjoy having a small store with a small team and being able to just have fun with the product. So it's just at the end of the day, you have to learn what is your end goal, What do you enjoy doing?
Shanna Skidmore (30:40):
Yeah, I love that it's permission to stay small. Cause for some people, again, the empire's what they want and there's nothing wrong with, I always just wanna say there's nothing wrong with what, you just have to find your vision and I love that for you, you had to give yourself permission to be like, this is what fits me. And I know I have wrestled without as well, that idea of I'm holding the business back. Have you ever felt that way? I'm definitely holding the business back. There's so much more potential. You could be doing so much more. And I've just really had to wrestle with I'm gonna serve the people I can serve at the capacity that I have.
Sarah Blackburn (31:16):
Absolutely. I've said that to myself. I don't know how many times through the process, so for sure.
Shanna Skidmore (31:23):
Yeah, I think just externally in the business world, I just think there truly is this idea of bigger is better and sometimes it's challenging to give ourselves permission to stay. You run a great business, a very successful, profitable business. So I hate even calling it small <laugh>. Okay. Through all this journey, what would you say I love hearing from all of our guests is the best thing that you have learned about money?
Sarah Blackburn (31:50):
Oh goodness, that's such a tough one. I would say just know how much your family needs and then don't try to push yourself outside of that and run for more. And it always be an endless game towards more, but focus on your happy place with money and just work towards that goal and take it one day at a time and create a budget every month within your business and say, this is how much I need the business to profit and this is how much I need our family to make at the end of the day to be comfortable. And if your business business isn't getting to those goals, just try to be creative with it and say, you know, what fun things can I do? What new products can I have? What fun launches or events can I do to just work towards that goal for that month? Just take it one month at a time and just build from there.
Shanna Skidmore (33:02):
Yeah. Oh, I love that so much. Yeah, that's, knowing those numbers is really freedom and I really like Sarah, how you said, if you're not hitting your goal, let's create a launch. Let's do something fun. Let's think of something creative to hit that number.
Sarah Blackburn (33:17):
Yes. I feel like most people feel like your income, your profit from the business is contingent on people coming to you, but you can also go to people, you can reach them in different ways. And since it's your business, you can do that in whatever way you want. So it's just get creative and find fun and new ways to create more profit.
Shanna Skidmore (33:46):
Yeah. Ooh, I love that. Okay. Speaking of, do you have any things that, do you see any shifts in the business coming in the future? Do you think that you will ever open another space? Do you think you'll focus more on wholesale? I would love to hear your thoughts on something I say a lot, even though I know for me, I don't want a huge team. That doesn't mean I have to sacrifice revenue, I just need to get more strategic in how we're scaling. So do you have any thoughts now that you're back to one store and you're able to get creative again of anything you guys might do in the future?
Sarah Blackburn (34:21):
Yes. So we have seen a huge shift in our just face to face sales and traffic coming into the store. And I hate to always blame something on COVID, but there's just been a huge shift on how people shop in person from then to now. So I would say that I'm just trying to shift the business in the way that we operate with the changing time. So instead of focusing more on the in-person sales and the foot traffic, we are definitely focusing more on wholesale and getting our product even in nearby cities and reaching out to stores because not only do we have desserts and baked product, but we also sell our allergy friendly baking mixes and our flour blend, which we create in-house. So just reaching out to retail stores and chiropractic offices and allergists and doctors alike and just asking them if they wanna offer our product in their stores. So it's not necessarily focusing on just drawing people into our store, but just getting our product in different areas so it reaches more people.
Shanna Skidmore (35:41):
It's like a blessing in disguise. Yeah.
Sarah Blackburn (35:44):
Shanna Skidmore (35:44):
Yeah. I told Sarah before this that we started recording, I was like, you people are going to wanna know how to get ahold of your goods from, We have people listening from all over the world and because y'all, I'm not saying this just because Sarah was my sister-in-law and I love her. They are delicious. I mean literally delicious. So they're. Your oatmeal cream pies are better than full gluten full sugar <laugh>.
Sarah Blackburn (36:11):
Shanna Skidmore (36:12):
They're delicious and they're dairy free. What a gift to me. So I love you for that. So don't worry everybody, we will list all the links of how you can get Sarah's product from Free Rain Bakery in the show notes. So make sure to check those out. Okay Sarah, I love it. This has been so wonderful. I always end our interviews with kind of a quick fire round. So these are just fun questions or the first one's kind of hard so
Sarah Blackburn (36:36):
Shanna Skidmore (36:37):
No pressure. So let's go into our quick fire. Okay, so first quick fire question. What is one thing you would be embarrassed if people knew?
Sarah Blackburn (36:45):
I feel like I've already mentioned that in our conversation, but I always hate telling people that I have zero business background and I have no culinary experience. When people are like, Oh, how did you get into this? What is your background? I'm just like, Yeah, I worked out at the police department. It just makes no sense and I feel like people are like, Does she really know what she's doing then with this? So I would say that's probably the one thing that I hate telling people when they ask me, Well how did you get into this?
Shanna Skidmore (37:17):
<laugh>? Yeah, self-taught can be the best taught sometimes. Yeah, <laugh> and hey, you have met the cake boss. So
Sarah Blackburn (37:23):
Sure have. He was great
Shanna Skidmore (37:26):
<laugh>. Okay, second. What is kind of a wish you could do over moment? Gosh,
Sarah Blackburn (37:32):
That's so hard. I don't wanna say going from one store to two because it was a learning process and it was a lesson that I had to learn, but I just wish that I would have taken it a little bit more gradual. I just feel like I just did so much overnight in building the business. So I wish that I, in hindsight, would just have slowed down a little bit. It
Shanna Skidmore (37:59):
That is a hard lesson to learn. Yes, I hired five employees within two months, so been there, done that <laugh>, they were all wonderful humans, but I probably should have done it one at a time looking back. Right, okay. Things we learn, you gotta do it. Okay, next one. What is a big win or a pinch me moment?
Sarah Blackburn (38:18):
I would say my biggest pinch me moment was when I first started out at the farmer's market because it seemed like overnight I had five different news anchors reach out to me for interviews. I was in the News Sentinel newspaper, I was contacted from Shark Tank cuz one of my customers had reached out to them about my product. So it was just like what is happening to my life right now? I never expected that. I just thought I would have fun at a Saturday farmer's market and it would be cute and it'd be fun. But just that, just getting that feedback from so many people reaching out to so many different outlets about how awesome my product was, I was absolutely pinching myself from that.
Shanna Skidmore (39:05):
That is so cool. I love hearing that story and it is a testament to how this is your gift, Sarah. I tell you that all the time. But this is absolutely your gift. It is so delicious and your work and products speak for itself, so for anyone listening, I do think doing great work is so, you know what I'm saying? I remember my first website, I was so embarrassed and my friend Meredith put it together and she's amazing. We did it at like midnight one night and I've never had business cards. These little things you would feel embarrassed about with your business, but like do great work and your clients and your customers will speak for you. So Yeah, that was a huge, I'm sure that was a huge pinch me moment. Okay. What is the best advice or really good advice that you have received?
Sarah Blackburn (39:53):
I would say, and I honestly, I feel like this probably came from you was pick your niche market and your niche product and just do that well. I will never forget some of our first conversations when I would come to you like, Shannon, how do I do this? How do I start a business and you stressed so much, pick just a few menu items and just do it well. And I've always held that close and I've always tried to focus on doing that. And I feel like even to other business owners who are starting up, I've even taken that advice to them and gave you credit for it because it really is so true. Just don't try to do it all and try to give so much product offered that everything gets lost in translation. Just focus on a few items and just do that really well and then people will come back.
Shanna Skidmore (40:53):
And I think that's so true and so hard to do, honestly to need to focus down. But I always tell my clients and students, once you're known for something, it's much easier to branch out than to get known for a lot of things all at once.
Sarah Blackburn (41:08):
Shanna Skidmore (41:09):
Yeah. Okay. You already kind of answered this, but if there's anything else you wanna share, I wanna make sure I ask, what are you working on now or is there one resource that you would love to share with the audience?
Sarah Blackburn (41:22):
What I'm working on now, it's kind of tricky what I'm working on now because my family actually moved an hour and a half away from where the storefront is. So curve ball <laugh>. It's just trying to navigate operating the store from a distance and then trying to figure out what do I want the business to look like with our family relocating, cuz it makes everything different, makes everything change about the business. So I'm just trying to narrow in on do I wanna move the business to where we're at? Do I wanna stay in the market that we're at? Cuz we already have so many customer base in Knoxville, so it's just hard to navigate. So right now I'm just trying to figure out what to do about a relocation and how to change the business along with that.
Shanna Skidmore (42:13):
Yeah, okay. Sarah, this has been so much fun. Yeah. I have gotten to watch so much of your journey and I am a huge cheerleader on the sidelines because I'm so like sister proud of you. But what would you tell yourself going, looking back on day one when you went to that first farmer's market, what would you tell yourself on day one of your business?
Sarah Blackburn (42:36):
I would tell myself, take it day by day, take it slow and you don't have to do all the things right from the beginning. Just focus on what I enjoyed doing with the business and just don't feel like I have to do it all.
Shanna Skidmore (42:57):
Such good feedback. Yeah. I like wanna take it in and just take a deep breath because it's so true. We feel like if we don't do it now, it's not gonna happen.
Sarah Blackburn (43:05):
Shanna Skidmore (43:06):
That's just not true, but hard. Yeah, for sure. Sarah, thank you so much for coming on. The podcast has been such a joy and thank you for sharing your story.
Sarah Blackburn (43:16):
Thank you for having me, Shanna. It was so great and you were the best. Thank you.
Shanna Skidmore (43:20):
<laugh> Back at you girl. H
ey Wildflower, you just finished another episode of Consider the Wildflowers the podcast. Head over to considerthewildflowerspodcast.com for show notes, resource links, and to learn how you can connect with Sarah and buy some yummy allergen friendly baking mixes. They're delicious. Final thoughts for today? One of my favorite all-time quotes from Miles Davis. It takes a long time to learn to play like yourself. As always, thank you for listening. I'll see you next time.