It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday shopping rush. From Black Friday to Cyber Monday – retailers and consumers are inundated with big marketing promotions and sales. Often, consumers are concerned with getting the best deal from the retailers known for their special savings. Unfortunately, we’ve been skipping right over one of the most important days of the holiday shopping calendar: Small Business Saturday! With mega-retailers across the United States offering the best bang-for-your-buck, the local businesses that grow and sustain local commerce (and culture) can often get forgotten. That’s why we’re spotlighting the small businesses that make the holiday season even more special.
We’re headquartered in Sacramento, CA, City of Trees, and the Farm-to-Fork capital of the world! What does that mean for us? We’ve got small businesses that aren’t afraid to bring a little spice to their customers. We met up with one of our local small business owners, Heather Wong of Allspicery, to talk about what it means to be a small business.
Tell us a little about your business! The Allspicery is Sacramento’s first and only spice shop! We carry bulk spices, sugars, salts, chilies and teas from around the world. The goal was to introduce this farm-to-fork town to endless possibilities by carrying both kitchen staples as well as harder-to-find ingredients such as Aleppo pepper, black cardamom, and asafoetida. We are now starting to extend our reach more broadly, having launched our first online store just this week!
What got you so interested in Allspicery and the business that you’re in? I have always loved food – mainly eating! But also everything else related to it – cooking, travel, cultural rituals, etc. Food has such different meanings to people and cultures around the world and I am always eager to learn something new about it.
What makes being a small business owner special to you? As a small business owner, there is something so refreshing and gratifying about being able to identify a problem and solve it yourself. There are certainly days when I miss the predictability of corporate life, but autonomy has easily become one of my favorite parts of running a business.
What have been some of the highlights of running your business? I have loved getting to know our neighbors and becoming a part of the downtown Sacramento culture. People tend to shop for spices because they want to and not because they have to, so all that enthusiasm makes my job that much easier. Collaborating with local businesses has also been a hugely rewarding part of my work.
Sacramento benefits from an incredibly tight-night community of makers and small businesses, and I am continually amazed at how generous everyone is in sharing expertise, connections, and opportunities.
What have been some of the highlights of running your business? I have loved getting to know our neighbors and becoming a part of the downtown Sacramento culture. People tend to shop for spices because they want to and not because they have to, so all that enthusiasm makes my job that much easier. Collaborating with local businesses has also been a hugely rewarding part of my work. Sacramento benefits from an incredibly tight-night community of makers and small businesses, and I am continually amazed at how generous everyone is in sharing expertise, connections, and opportunities.
What resources were most invaluable to you when starting your business? Obviously the Downtown Sacramento Partnership’s prize package was a huge advantage when I won (!) the Calling All Dreamers competition in 2015. It was especially useful when it came time to establish a legal entity, flesh out store design and navigate the permitting process. Through the competition, I also found working with a SCORE mentor to be extremely helpful in helping to make my business plan airtight. Lastly, other business owners were a HUGE help, both in and outside of the Sacramento area! They were able to provide some very real talk about the challenges of starting a business, as well as insights about what did and didn’t work for them. Some of the most useful and practical guidance I received was from spice shop owners outside of the Sacramento area who I had cold-called.
From your perspective, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in entrepreneurial roles? Being taken seriously. I cannot tell you how many people have asked me to “talk to the manager” about various issues. There can also be a certain stigma associated with women who speak their minds, and I am continually striving to run my business in the most honest way that I can, even if that means making people uncomfortable – myself included.
From where do you draw inspiration? In terms of the shop, my inspiration is definitely our customers. We can usually tell what the culinary trends are based on the requests that come our way, and we try to tailor our inventory accordingly. In a more general sense, I derive inspiration from my kids! I hope that one day when they’re older they will be proud of what I have built. I especially hope to show them that it is possible to be a mom and partner and still set (and achieve) goals for yourself.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in starting and running your own business? I am a people-pleaser, and this job has given me the confidence to assert myself in ways that I did not previously. So my biggest lessons (it’s hard to pick just one!) have been to accept that I don’t have all the answers, to be open to opportunities that make sense for the business but also to be unafraid of saying “no” to those that do not.
POS Portal has the luck of working with many small businesses to provide more than just hardware. We provide communities with a unique opportunity to make connections with their retailers. Whether you like your holiday shopping spicy, or more on the mild side, you can always find a local business that’s ready to serve your community!