Kristie Brewer loved math and when she decided to start a small business in 2014, she started to crunch the numbers. After a lot of research she and her husband decided to open a restaurant, Artisan Grill in Highland.
Her goal was to operate a profitable business within the first three years of opening her doors. There were several shifts during the first year, and she had to change her menu four times to meet the needs of the community. The business struggled at times, but met its five year projected goals in year three, she said during the accelHERate event held Thursday (March 5) at the Ozarka College campus in Ash Flat.
“We were humble enough to listen … listen to your customers,” she said.
The event is part of a program through the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC). The center holds these events to encourage women entrepreneurship, business consultant Sidney Rebstock said. About 40% of businesses in the U.S. are owned by women.
There are a lot of tools that potential female entrepreneurs are unaware of, she said. A lot of market research has already been done and the ASBTDC does a lot of training workshops and classes, she said.
“We do a lot of one-on-one confidential counseling,” she said.
Hazelle Whited, team leader for Sharp County Economic Development Research Team and Director of Marketing at Tri-County Farm and Ranch Supply told attendees she and her former husband owned a successful commercial plumbing business in Arizona when the economy crashed in 2008.
At first, only the residential sector was hit hard, but Whited admitted they made a big mistake and misread what was happening in the market. Those residential plumbers started bidding on commercial jobs and it forced them out of business.
“I didn’t read the writing on the wall,” she admitted.
The couple and their children relocated to Arkansas where she worked a number of jobs, as the economy slowly recovered. It took awhile but she is now the team leader for the economic development research team in Sharp County and is the director of marketing at Tri-County Farm and Ranch Supply.
She imparted several bits of advice.
“Don’t become a self full-filling prophecy … look for unique opportunities to network,” she said. “Look for opportunities to get involved and build strong relationships. Embrace failure. Just dust yourself off and try again.”
Brewer said that’s a concept she understands well. A former educator with degrees in math and education, she tried several different concepts within her restaurant with varying degrees of success. At one point, she was training a lot of new people to cook to keep up with demand, but it caused the quality of her products to suffer.
When she started her business, she decided she wanted to limit her labor costs. The national average is 33% and she decided to keep it around 20%. By keeping her labor costs low, it enabled her business to operate “lean” and it could adapt easier to changing conditions, she said. Investing more money in a business can be good, but an owner has to be very aware of the return on investment for those dollars, she added.
Artisan has done so well that they’ve moved out of their leased building in Highland and built a new restaurant in Ash Flat. The move meant they had to take on some debt, but it’s worth it to be in their own building, she said.
Advice for a prospective business owner?
“Know your budget and get a mentor,” she said.