If you’re not into celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by imbibing Shamrock Shakes or sticky sweet green cocktails, then treat yourself to a new concoction this year: beer biscuits inspired by Irish soda bread.
The festive biscuits are being cooked up at Field & Clover, a handmade biscuit company launched by entrepreneur Annie Etheridge in 2014. The Southern Virginia native — who happens to be able to trace her ancestry back to the seventeenth century union of Englishman John Rolfe and Pocahontas — launched the New York-based business after years of yearning for authentic Southern biscuits, which she failed to find in the Big Apple.
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“Growing up in the South, biscuits were really a staple on the dinner table every day, and there’s a certain kind of comfort that comes from biscuits,” say Etheridge.
When Etheridge decided to leave her previous career, she knew she had an authentic family recipe for layered, rich biscuits passed down for generations going for her.
But that didn’t make starting a business easy. Given New York’s prohibitively expensive rents, she knew she couldn’t open a brick-and-mortar store, so she began by renting space at a commercial kitchen in Harlem’s La Marqueta marketplace and working with The Harlem Business Alliance and New Business Solutions to develop a realistic business plan.
Today she makes up to 1000 biscuits a day, and sells them online and at local markets.
Etheridge is also part of The Samuel Adams' Brewing the American Dream program, the beer company's program for up-and-coming food and beverage businesses. The brewer provides recipients with mentorship and small business loan granted in partnership with the nonprofit microlender Accion.
Hence Etheridge’s St. Patrick's Day Boston Larger Biscuit — which melds caraway seeds, Irish cheddar and beer — was born. The entrepreneur gave us some tips on building up a small business from stratch.
Develop a solid business plan
Etheridge mapped out the potential growth of her business before taking the leap. She says, “Having a good business plan is really, really important, specifically for your financial projections. You don’t want to jump into something without having a map. You can always go off road, but having that plan is really important.”
Do your research
Etheridge knew her biscuits were delicious, but she didn’t know if they sell. The only way to find out? Market research. “To me it was really valuable, because I wanted to know, are there other companies that are doing biscuits? Are there companies that focus on one product? Looking at the competition and at their financials is really important,” advises the entrepreneur.
Know your customer
Etheridge tested her product in outdoor markets like Smorgasburg and the Hester Street Market, which was crucial to giving her the confidence to take the next steps. “I’m bringing a southern speciality to the northeastern market, and I need to know if people are going to buy it.”
Spoiler: people loved them.
In general, entrepreneurs should know about the myriad partnerships that are out there to help them grow their business. “One of the things I’m looking forward to is not only did they help me obtain a small loan, but I’m going to be able to work with them [Samuel Adams] in terms of a mentorship. I think that’s something that’s really important to reiterate: finding these partnerships and using the resources that are available in New York City, and really taking advantage of that. “
Gone are the days of not knowing or caring about what we’re putting in our bodies, and that awareness influences how business is done. “Particularly in the food sector, make sure you have a great product and that the quality is there. People now are really concerned about the quality of the food they eat, and they want to know where the ingredients come from and how it's made,” notes Etheridge.
Of course, quality is a matter of taste, too.
Says Etheridge, “I never met anyone who didn’t love biscuits."