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Springfield Business Journal Executive Editor Christine Temple discusses small business ownership with Laura Deal, owner of gluten-free bakery The Sweet Deal LLC; Cheryl Knox, co-owner of children’s play space Nana’s Play Place LLC; and Amanda Smith, co-owner of pop culture marketplace Leveled Up Loot LLC.
Christine Temple: : I want to start with your origin stories because you’re all new to the area, at least in this iteration that you’re in today. Where did you get the idea for your businesses?
Amanda Smith: I’ve been reselling for a little over 15 years now. I had a son and I homeschooled him for a while and now he’s grown and I had time. We decided to take the next step and go brick and mortar.
Temple: You were selling at flea markets, trade shows and online?
Smith: Yes, I did lots of flea markets and online. I still do my online presence, but I’m really focused on this now.
Cheryl Knox: I was in education for a long time. I started off in physical education, so play has always been very important to me. As a mom for 30 years, we obviously took our kids to places to play just for family recreation. Now that I have young grandchildren, we’ve been trying to do the same thing and there just wasn’t places on the north side. I took a year off from education and finished my degree and just kind of wanted to recharge. Then as I was home, our family talked about it and we just thought this would be a great time to have something on the north side for families to have a choice.
Laura Deal: The Sweet Deal started because I have endometriosis, which is an autoimmune condition. Through doctors and finding out what helps with that condition, they really suggest going gluten free. That really cuts down on the inflammation and pain that you have. There’s a lot of people diagnosed with celiac or autoimmune conditions that the diet really does improve their quality of life significantly. I love baking and went to culinary school years ago and I started baking everything completely gluten free and selling at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks right here in Farmers Park. I did that for about a year and a half and saved up and I started the brick-and-mortar Sweet Deal in Nixa. I actually really didn’t expect how many people would actually need gluten free.
Temple: With less than a year in business in your brick and mortars, what are the biggest surprises?
Knox: One of my surprises was just the response that we’ve gotten. I wanted that, and I hoped for that, but it’s really been overwhelming in a positive way. Just like I said, people that are excited for our location, excited to have another choice. I didn’t expect how many people would just come right up and talk to you and say thanks for letting us have this.
Deal: I have lots of conversations with people coming in and asking specific questions about ingredients. What’s in here, what’s in that. They have to have a very specific diet and a lot of times they’ll come in and we’ll spend 10, 15 minutes talking about things about certain products that they can get on their own as well as what I provide.
Smith: I kind of feel like my business is a little different. I don’t necessarily fulfill a need, but it’s so much fun for people. I hear it all day long. There’s just a lot of passion behind a lot of people’s hobbies.
Temple: What about on the operations side, because you’re all first-time business owners, right? What have been the surprises in running a brick-and-mortar business and opening at this time?
Smith: I was surprised how fast my business took off. I also don’t have to deal with employees, I’m not to that stage yet. It’s just me and my husband and my son occasionally that run it. It kind of takes away from the stress of payroll and things like that.
Deal: In my business, it’s the ebb and flow, so making enough product in order to keep in stock at the bakery and what do you do with the leftovers and things like that. Also, my employees. I have a teenage employee that can only come in after school, but she’s wonderful. I had another one as well, but she started a little business of her own. I am actually looking to hire another person a little bit more full time. That is a bit of a challenge as well and trying to find the right fit that has the same mindset as you.
Knox: We’ve been really fortunate. I have four staff members plus myself. People are reaching out to me more on a regular basis wanting to know if we’re hiring. I think a lot of it is because three of my employees bring their young kids to work with them. A lot of the moms that come through see that and realize that’s a huge blessing.
Excerpts by Editorial Intern Presley Puig, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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