For Episode 81 of Amplify Your Business, we’re diving into how a passion-first approach can build you a business in even the most uncertain times. Join Diana Harrison and host Lance Johnson as they weave a story of how a love of socialization and food came together to produce one of Edmonton’s most creative (and flavourful) enterprises. Diana teaches us not only how to create a stunning and diverse charcuterie board, but how to approach the challenges of trailblazing a new business.
(0:43) Tell me about the background of the Art of Charcuterie?
It started with a love of socializing, getting together, and my career as an event planner at Studio 96 in Edmonton. I used to make platters for potlucks, and had once created this “masterpiece of charcuterie.” It was almost like painting a picture with food. I realized then, at 52 years old, that this was my new business!
I started by learning more about becoming a licensed food handler, acquiring a kitchen space, and eventually launching an instagram account to begin promoting creations. Using previous contacts, I would show up to events with food creations—something no one else was doing at the time. Of course, there was also a lot to learn about sourcing products, promoting, and creating a business.
After having used Meuwley’s meat exclusively, I joined their team as a charcuterie board designer, seeing as they no longer had the time to create them and they enjoyed my overall vision. Of course, shortly after, the COVID-19 Pandemic hit and cancelled most of the events which at the time were the bulk of my business.
(3:21) When COVID hit, many restaurants pivoted to charcuterie boards. Was there an attempt to tap into the at-home sales, like other businesses had?
The day before COVID hit, I had just had my first exhibition with the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. The experience of making charcuterie boxes was helpful. During the initial closures, I began researching suppliers for boxes and had plenty of time to play and experiment.
After settling on a product, I sent my demo boxes over to Meuwley’s. As soon as they saw what I had made, they brought me on board under my own brand name. They were very collaborative and allowed me to launch my brand while leasing space for free from them. The experience showed just how much a larger business can help a smaller business with collaborative marketing and mentoring.
People have always sent flowers, but now they can send something more nourishing. It’s a new experience for the city.
(6:30) Are you seeking out new engagements, or do they tend to happen organically?
It happens organically. I’m a heart-forward person, so I’m always looking to connect with local people. We can help each other out, support each other, and organically help each other grow. Unfortunately, with the current climate, I can’t look too far ahead. An ongoing business plan is a check-in with your current strategy—looking for the pulse of the trends while staying true to what you do and who you are.
To grow slowly in these times is good, because you work everything out for the next big step. I have enjoyed learning as I go, taking everything in, and preparing for those big changes.
(8:45) Earlier you said “I had no idea what I was getting into,” and I feel that’s true for many entrepreneurs. Many have said, “had I known all of the complexity involved, I wouldn’t have done it at all.” What are your thoughts on that?
There are so many by-laws, and so much accounting—things I’m not personally strong in. It’s important to get on top of these challenges as your business grows. Had I known the complexity, I likely would have stayed small. But, knowing what I know now, it’s all about having a good team around you when you begin to feel overwhelmed.
To see how Diana builds her stunning charcuterie boards, jump ahead to 10:20!
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(27:05) I love your business approach—“I’m going to do my own thing, and if I do it well, my audience will be there.”
I really believe in that approach. There is always going to be someone better than you. Don’t focus on that—stay true to what you know and focus on that. Learn from others, keep an eye open, but don’t let comparison hurt you inside.
(29:35) If you could go back in time to when you were starting, is there anything you would have done differently knowing what you do now?
I would have gotten the accounting set up ahead of time. I could have spent more time learning about demographics, as it is a very important part of a small business. I would also get 2-step authentication on Instagram, as we were recently hacked.
(30:31) I would love to have you walk us through how that happened and how you got it fixed?
Instagram is my interface to the business. I got an email saying I was “awarded a blue badge,” so I clicked. Next thing I knew, I was locked out and my Instagram stories were asking for money to be directed to a new address. I spent hours trying to fix it, but it was a loss—even the recovery email was changed. Luckily, A friend reached out to me and referred me to someone who had recently gone through the experience and could help.
First, you make a Facebook Business page, then launch an ad so it’s active. Next, you can find a form for getting a live chat going with Meta support. Once you get the live chat going, they are much more able to help.
The day after the live chat, my password and email were reset and I had control of the account again. Alternatively, I’m told, you can pay a hacker directly to get your account back—something I was prepared to do, to be honest! Now, I’m documenting the process I followed so I can pay it forward and help others in a similar place.
(30:25) In closing, is there anything else you would have done differently?
I think I’ve made lovely mistakes. There’s not been anything big I would have done differently. Mostly just research demographics, take your time, and believe in what you’re doing. Focus on your passion and step into it.
In the end, I’m so happy for reviews and to hear people had a great experience. That’s why I do it.
Thank you Diana for joining us, and thank you for watching!
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