Meg Barnhart originally began her career in the hospitality industry which eventually led to trade show management. One of her early careers was working on the Fancy Food Show on behalf of the Specialty Food Association. After she had children, she began her own business but by 1998 with the birth of her third child, she decided to put a pause on her career to look after her 3 children who were under the age of 5 and her middle son, Doug, who was diagnosed as developmentally delayed. Meg spent the next several years helping him learn how to navigate Doug’s world which eventually led to the creation of the “zen of slow cooking.”
MoneyCentral Magazine recently caught up with Meg to talk about her entrepreneurial journey and here’s what went down:
Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?
I began my career in the hospitality industry which eventually led to trade show management. In fact, one of my early careers was working on the Fancy Food Show on behalf of the Specialty Food Association. After I had my children I began my own business but by 1998 with the birth of my third child, I decided to put a pause on my career for a couple of reasons. The first reason was the simple fact of having 3 children under the age of 5 and the second reason was my middle son, Doug, was diagnosed as developmentally delayed when he was thirteen months old.
I spent the next several years helping him learn how to navigate his world. In 2010, I started studying what life would look for him when he transitioned out of school and found that only 24.5% of adults with developmental challenges were employed. I couldn’t envision a world where he couldn’t shine his light and decided to create a business for him which eventually led to the creation of the zen of slow cooking.
Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?
My business partner, Jane McKay, and I began the business in 2012 with the intention of helping home cooks find success and a little Zen while creating employment for adults with employment barriers. We have stayed completely focused on both of those dreams and am happy to say that is the source of our success. I wasn’t sure we would come this far when we began, but keeping our intention pure has made the entire journey very rewarding.
What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?
We’re out in the markets all the time to build our retail channel. We are also working on a strategic plan to build a more robust presence online.
What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?
We haven’t done anything beyond Facebook ads. We focus on supporting non-profits with product donations to spread the word.
What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?
Aligning our energy with causes that we are passionate about. By simply staying true to our mission we meet all sorts of people who are interested in helping us grow.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
We spend a lot of time supporting other entrepreneurs and cultivating relationships with businesses that we admire. We feel passionate about conducting business and growing our brand in a meaningful way.
How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that is similar to your niche?
We’re building a “speed scratch” category (slow cooking using slow cookers or electric pressure cookers such as the Instant Pot) that doesn’t exist in B & M, so creating a “clean” product aligned with our mission helps us stand out. We also sought our Non-GMO certification so our consumers know that our Slow Cooker spice blends don’t contain any fillers. We also became a Certified B Corp to demonstrate our commitment to business being a force for good in the world.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
Determining the best path toward national distribution.
What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?
Design. We have very clean atheistic. We encourage other entrepreneurs to invest time in doing their own research before they employ a designer to bring their vision to life. We are fortunate after trial and error to have someone who is completely aligned with our mission.
What new business would you love to start?
I would love to create a business where I can help other people fund their dreams.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
At this point nothing. I needed to go through the hiccups of starting/failing with other start-ups, so that when I created the zen of slow cooking I had a clear vision of what I wanted to create.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?
To have faith. When you begin a business there are always ups/downs and it’s easy to get distracted, lose hope or feel overwhelmed. Stay positive!
Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?
I love “Let my People go Surfing”, Sacred Commerce and Mission in a Bottle. I also love Pema Chodron’s book Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
My parents, especially my mother, encouraged my brother, sister and I to be principled, bold, conduct yourself with integrity, stand up for your beliefs and be kind.
What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
Spend time asking yourself the “Why” you want to start your business. That question leads to many other ones which are really important in manifesting your dream.