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Grow Your Business: Live Q&A with the Founders of Harlem Biscuit Company

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Hello Sellers — On April 6th, Melvin “Boots” Johnson and Warren Satchell, co-owners of Harlem Biscuit Company in New York City, hosted a Q&A on the topic of resiliency.

 

In March of 2020, Chef Melvin “Boots” Johnson couldn’t get unemployment benefits. “So I took my skills and just said, ‘Alright, I’m going to do something,’” he says. “And I started cooking fried chicken and biscuits, right out my garage.” His leap of faith turned into a leap of certainty. “Next thing you know I have 30 orders from moms that are just excited to not be cooking on a Friday night.”

 

That was the first unofficial day of Harlem Biscuit Company and since then they’ve sold over 7,000 biscuit sandwiches. Boots teamed up with his business partner Warren Satchell and together they are rapidly building their business, looking for a permanent brick-and-mortar location, and tackling any challenges that come their way. 

 

Boots and Warren talked about starting a new business, taking risks, connecting with the community, and managing quick growth. Read more about Harlem Biscuit Company, and other resilient business owners like them, in Square’s Stronger Than Before whitepaper.

 

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Tom [he/him/his]
Seller Community Manager | Square, Inc.
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Message 1 of 56
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55 REPLIES 55
Super Seller

This is an incredible story! Congrats on the successes so far, and best of luck moving forward!

 

It always feels to me that making something is the easy part, the hard part is doing it and running a business by the book, and that's something that a lot of folks don't talk about to new sellers.


What were the biggest challenges in going from cooking to being an actual business? 

What were the legal/regulatory hurdles you had to jump through?

Would you do it all again and recommend that path to others?

 

Thanks so much and congrats!
Pesso

Pesso
Pesso's Ices & Ice Cream
Square Super Seller - I'm here to help!
Message 2 of 56
3,630 Views

Do it again, ABSOLUTELY! 

What starting something tells you about yourself is whether or not you have the will to do it again! 

Warren J. Satchell
Message 3 of 56
1,459 Views

Ive been an Executive Chef for over 25 years. Ive had a couple of restaurants with other partners before. But wrong partners. This one is different. Warren likes sports. Never do business with a man that doesn’t like sports. LOL

Melvin L. Johnson
Message 4 of 56
1,400 Views

Please help! I just recently started selling my handmade wreaths, centerpieces and jewelry. I have and etsy with 0 sales so far as well as facebook pages to try and help get my stuff online. I've sold a but locally but I want to expand. There is so much information and options that I jsut dont know where to even begin or what to do to get started so that my products are being put online and promoted. I did order a card reader but that's as far as I've gotten. Please any advice or help at all will be greatly appreciated! 

Jennifer 

Message 5 of 56
389 Views

Jennifer, have you used Instagram, and Tiktok to promote your items?

 

Try getting into farmers' markets that allow crafters. It is an affordable way to start your business.

 

René

Life is too short to eat boring cheese.
Message 6 of 56
248 Views

How can I get people to buy from my clothing business?

Message 7 of 56
345 Views
Beta Member

Boots! Love the biscuits, man. Keep going!

-dan (super nice)

Message 8 of 56
3,620 Views

Love your Doughnuts bro!!!

Melvin L. Johnson
Message 9 of 56
1,472 Views

Dan... HUGE FAN! Folks check him out at SuperNice Bakery, 156 E 117th Street. 

Warren J. Satchell
Message 10 of 56
1,469 Views

A question for Harlem Biscuit:  I own a brick and mortar store and I have an online presence.  I read that you're seeking a brick and mortar.  How much value do you place on having an actual storefront vs. making online/delivery your primary interaction with customers (particularly if you'd like to go national)? 

Message 11 of 56
3,371 Views

Thank you @eatwell.  We still believe that there’s value to being a digital girl in an analog world, Alexa please play Erykah Badu. If we were solely focused on being a fast-casual operation with delivery as our main source of revenue then a brick n mortar potentially wouldn’t matter. But we’ve identified our long term roadmap and having our own brick n mortar storefront will help us get there.  We’re thinking beyond being just a brick n mortar. We’ve got our sights on catering, being on grocery store shelves and in freezers and ultimately so much more. 

Warren J. Satchell
Message 12 of 56
1,454 Views

So looking forward to this conversation!

Melvin L. Johnson
Message 13 of 56
3,328 Views

Another question around brick and mortar - what are you hoping it will unlock that selling online cannot? Also, any consideration for nationwide shipping? 

Message 14 of 56
3,121 Views

A brick n mortar store would allow us to unlock our brand as we have many grand ideas around what the fullest expression of the brand could look like. We need a space  but most importantly a kitchen that's customized to us. 

Warren J. Satchell
Message 15 of 56
1,468 Views

What, in your opinion, is a good frequency to introduce/run limited time promos for? We try to run for one weekend (Friday - Saturday) per month.

 

Should they run longer? How often should we have a new promo (once per month, every other month, etc.)?

Thanks,

Heidi — owner of Andys Beef Jerky

Message 16 of 56
2,545 Views

Heidi… Is there some data that currently exists in your analytics that can help you determine what your promotional frequency should be?  If not, start testing. Test once a month, Test a weekend. Test until you some data that will help you formulate a strategy. We aren’t a promotional brand and there’s nothing today that tells us we need to be.  

 

Warren J. Satchell
Message 17 of 56
1,458 Views
Super Seller

Hi Guys, 

What a great story - I too was made redundant and started my flower business way back in 1996 and still trading   It was the kick in the butt I needed to make that first step - so well done!

 

Are you looking for Bricks and Mortar premises so you get a work / life balance ? 

Do you outsource your deliveries with a third party or own delivery?

I see you have your own livery caps/ Do you have your own branded bags packaging or would you say that the two of you are the brand or what makes HBC what is it?

 

Thanks 

Michael / Twig

 

Message 18 of 56
2,506 Views

Brick N Mortar unfortunately doesn’t lead to work/life balance. What leads to work/life balance is having a trusted team of individuals around you who understand the brand, the vision, your standards and the will to exceed customer expectations every single time. Deliveries are outsourced, all 3rd party. That’s the only way we would have been able to scale this quickly. 
Warren J. Satchell
Message 19 of 56
1,454 Views

Thank you. So for branded bags, we are in the process of ordering our own branded items, (deli wraps, coffee cups, sandwich bags etc.) Right now we are using a stamp to label our bags. 

Delivery: We use our website, Grubhub, UberEats, Door dash. They have doubled our business using these platforms 

 

Melvin L. Johnson
Message 20 of 56
1,452 Views

My question is: what advice do you have about maximizing loyalty enrollment?

Message 21 of 56
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