Boss Lady - Sharon Woodson
I grew up in Northwest Arkansas in a tiny town with a large family. My sisters and I all love to bake and learned everything we know from our southern grandmother who lived right next door. I have lived in Little Rock for five years with my sweet husband and am a step-mama to our seven-year-old, Bella. She’s fairly certain we are adding a pet hamster named Marshmallow to our family this fall; we are still in negotiations.
- Give us your elevator pitch. I am passionate about giving back to the community which has blessed me beyond my dreams. Food Insecurity has always been a cause close to my heart and I have always wanted Honey Pies to be in the business of helping our neighbors; I am grateful for the opportunity to partner directly with the Arkansas Foodbank through Honey Pies' "One Cup, One Meal" initiative where one meal is donated to the Arkansas Foodbank for each cup of coffee served. Since the program's inception, Honey Pies has donated over 4,200 meals to Arkansans in need throughout Central and Southern Arkansas.
- What is your business? Honey Pies is a gourmet bakery and coffee shop located off North Bowman Road in Little Rock. Our daily offerings include gourmet coffee, nine flavors of scratch made pies in both individual portions and family size, brownies, cookies, crème brulee, as well as rotating sweet treats and breakfast goodies. We recently began creating the most adorable gourmet box lunches you have ever seen.
- When did you start your business? After years of gently encouraging me, Lance finally convinced me it was the “right time” to start living the dream when our daughter began Kindergarten. Honey Pies started in our home during the fall of 2015 and rapidly grew into our brick and mortar location which opened in August of 2016.
What inspired you to make the leap? I always say Honey Pies wouldn’t exist without my sweet hubby, Lance. Prior to my Honey Pies adventure, I had been telecommuting. I was desperate for a change after spending two years working from home staring at my laptop with zero social interaction in a brand-new city. We decided the best solution would be a job where I could make new friends and provide the scheduling flexibility our family required.
- What helps you get started each morning? Coffee, diet coke, 10 mile jog, meditation?? This bakery runs on lots of love and tons of caffeine! When we started Honey Pies, I imagined the largest perk would be enjoying sweet treats every single day. I was wrong! It is without a doubt the coffee program sustaining each one of us. Our bakers are a bit spoiled by our barista team, who have memorized each of our favorite drinks. Last Thanksgiving, one of our baristas even came in around midnight to check on our baking staff and provide that much needed jolt of caffeine during their overnight baking shift.
- Tell us about a day in the life of running your business. Weekday mornings start between 5:30-6:30 with a brief review of social media accounts, e-mails, employee message boards. Like so many of us, 6:30-8:00 is spent wrestling sleepy kids, packing snacks, and delivering kids to school. When I arrive at the bakery, my team has opened the bakery and is baking and stocking the daily inventory. I check with my team leaders for front of house and back of house and assist as backup when necessary. Mostly, they keep the wheels moving and I function as CFO, COO, CEO, etc. I try to plan myself two scheduled “baking shifts” each week, but most of my days are dedicated to typical administration (networking, running payroll, making last minute trips to Sam’s Club, paying bills, studying reports, forecasting sales, & creating production schedules). My bakery day ends at 2:30 when it is time to shuttle Bella after school. After the afternoon drive, I spend time organizing our family’s afternoon activities and planning dinner. When I am lucky, I spend my evenings researching new products I think y’all are going to love, or planning for an upcoming holiday in the shop. I can spend hours reviewing Pinterest boards filled with fun and exciting recipes.
What keeps you motivated? My team keeps me motivated. We have a rocking awesome group of super talented bakers and baristas. My motivation is to work hard every day towards the growth of Honey Pies, so that we can provide everything my team needs to meet their individual career goals. The most important job I have is to keep Honey Pies thriving for my team.
- Describe your dream day. Honey Pies takes over the world with delicious pie!
- What is your greatest strength/super power? Saying “yes”, then figuring out later how to accomplish the task at hand.
- Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat? Facebook. Wait, if I pick Instagram, do I get Facebook as a bonus because it cross-posts?
- What do you do in your free time? (ha! What is free time?!) We travel to visit family at every opportunity, even if it gets squeezed into a single day round-trip. When we have a free day, we’re zipping off visiting my family in NWA at “The Mountain” or Lance’s family, outside the Ouachitas, at “The Ranch”. We love relaxing in the country, catching up with friends and family, and especially enjoy letting Bella be spoiled by her grandparents.
If an investor gave you 1 million dollars to use toward your business, how would you spend it? Pay off debt, invest in employee specific education opportunities, & grow the empire! Wait. Will 1 million dollars purchase a helicopter and pilot? Cause I could get so much more done if I could eliminate driving from my task list.
- What’s the biggest risk you ever took; how did it go? Taking over a two-suite, three-year lease rather than giving up on the bakery. The initial plan was to sublet a small suite and share an existing kitchen. Before we even opened the doors, it became clear Honey Pies would need to take over the entire lease rather than sub-let the smaller space. Over the course of one weekend, we agreed to take on a lease that was five times what we had anticipated spending. It has taken more than a year to slowly remodel the additional space, but we will have it open by the fall. Because of that decision, we had to rapidly grow Honey Pies beyond the comfort of our capabilities. My initial dream is now unrecognizable compared to the behemoth that Little Rock is asking Honey Pies to become and I wouldn’t change a single thing about our decision.
- Name something you hate doing but have to do for the good of your business. How do you make it tolerable? Accepting money for my service. Isn’t that silly? It was extremely difficult for me to turn my hobby into a business in which I charged money for my baked goods. In the early days, I cannot tell you how many times my sweet husband had to gently reminded me that I needed to charge money for my pies rather than give them away at the events I was working. It is still hard for me today; I remind myself that Honey Pies brings joy to our family of customers and they are all rooting for our success. My team depends on Honey Pies to support their household and I must continue to uphold my duty as an employer by continuing to provide for them.
How do you handle discouragement? The best thing that helps me get out of a “funk” is focusing on positive things and take inventory of what is going well rather than the current problem. I find myself asking a lot: “Will this matter in one day, one week, one year, or five years?”. Most often, when I look at hurdles I have overcome in the past, everything falls into perspective.
- Which iconic person inspires you? Dolly Parton! She is such a phenomenal philanthropist. My favorite is her Imagination Library which donates and distributes 10 million books a year to increase literacy in four countries.
- Do you have a favorite, inspiring quote? The background on my phone is always a quote rather than a picture. My current background is: “The harder you work, the luckier you get”.
- If you could choose anyone to pick as a mentor, who would you choose? My team is purposefully created to be my mentor and they’re fabulous! Investing in employees who know more than I know is one of the best things I have done for Honey Pies. During our first year, I made it my goal to hire a team who could teach me how to shape a business they would want to work for. Without any professional baking or barista experience, I have depended on my team to educate me along the way. We are growing together.
Who are you in your next life? Ohhhhh FUN! A forensic scientist, an astronaut, or a meteorologist!
- Any secrets on how you balance the ins and outs of running a small business? There is so much I have learned over the past year. Balance doesn’t exist quite yet, but I feel it coming closer with each month. I understand that I’m not physically able to give 100% of myself to everything all at one time. My current goal is allocating dedicated work time and family time in my schedule; when I am “on the clock” for either of those things, I make every attempt to give that one thing 100% of my attention.
What’s the best advice you have for other women wanting to be entrepreneurs? Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help, stay humble, and prepare to make mistakes. We women are notorious for trying to do everything alone and feel driven to prove ourselves. Find the strong women in your life and absorb every ounce of wisdom they offer. I have found inspiration in financial advisors, doctors, marketing managers, small business owners, chefs, and many other professions. These knowledgeable women are already in our lives and they want to see you become successful; take advantage of every single opportunity to learn everything you’re able. Outside of your immediate circle, search for women-led podcasts and listen to these experts during your commute.
at 315 North Bowman Road, #14, Little Rock, AR 72211
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