Small business owners often dream of a major media appearance or some other kind of “big break” that puts their business on the map. That kind of success can bring rapid growth and disrupt routine business operations, however. If you’re not prepared to deal with a sudden influx of demand, you risk alienating customers and halting growth.
See how four Clover merchants learned how to handle fame and turned their “big break” moments into operational successes that have boosted business and helped them thrive.
When the cookie dough business of Angelo Lonardo’s family, Out the Dough, was featured on Good Morning America’s “Deals and Steals” segment, the COVID-19 pandemic had recently disrupted business-as-usual for small businesses everywhere.
“When Covid hit, we really had to grow our eCommerce site and push people to purchase online, so we could afford to stay open,” Lonardo remembers. “So, we quickly shifted to doing a lot more shipping.”
Following that GMA appearance, Out the Dough’s sales shot through the roof. Luckily, Clover Online Ordering was already up and running, which helped them manage and fulfill the sudden demand that came with their newfound popularity.
“We sold over 5,200 packages of cookie dough that shipped to all 50 states. And we really grew–our online sales went up about 400% in the span of one year,” shares Lonardo. “GMA really helped get our name out there a little bit more on the national level.”
With many storefronts shuttered, it was an ideal time to show support for small businesses — and Out the Dough was ready to meet the moment.
“Once Clover launched online ordering, that really helped us process orders quickly,” Lonardo says. “Having an option for our guests to order online has been a huge help for us as small business owners and for our business as a whole!”
The culinary brainchild of Patricia “Big Mama” Barron was many years in the making. In 2007 when she opened her now-famed soul food restaurant Big Mama’s Kitchen in a former Omaha, NE, school cafeteria, she’d been running a part-time catering business out of her home kitchen for over 30 years.
The excitement around her grand opening was soon followed by some harsh realities.
“Big Mama’s was hard to find,” current owner and daughter of Big Mama, Gladys Harrison, shares. “We were in the middle of a residential neighborhood with no other businesses around it. Plus, we opened during a financial crisis here in the U.S.”
Already a hit among locals, a few of Big Mama’s customers wrote into the Food Network. Not long after, Guy Fieri came to Omaha to film an episode of “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” in the restaurant.
“My mom was the first person to say, had we not been on the show, we would have closed by the end of the year,” Harrison recalls. “They did such a good job in two minutes, capturing the essence of my mother and our restaurant, it has brought people literally from all over the world.”
Big Mama’s decision to open in a former school now seemed fortuitous. With a large commercial kitchen, the business had plenty of room to scale up with its growing fan base. Big Mama ultimately passed in 2018, leaving the restaurant to her daughters. The same year, “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” came back to do a follow-up visit as “one of Guy’s favorite restaurants from the show.”
“Our appearance on that show allowed Big Mama the platform to fulfill her dream of feeding people from all over the world,” says Harrison. “Now, we continue to carry on her legacy of bringing people together with a good, home-cooked meal.”
Pastry chef, Andrew Han, opened Kouign Cafe in Vancouver’s Chinatown neighborhood in the fall of 2020. The social-media-savvy entrepreneur offers delectable sweet and savory treats inspired by his childhood in Chinatown.
“I spent a long time looking for a location, and that location had to be in Chinatown,” shares Han. “That’s where a lot of my flavor memories come from, grocery shopping in Chinatown with my mom.”
Since launching Kouign Cafe, Han’s career has taken off in unexpected ways. He served as a chef judge on Food Network Canada’s Wall of Bakers, and co-host of CTV’s Cross Country Cake Off.
With a busy taping schedule and a steadily growing business–Kouign Cafe now offers catering–managing day-to-day operations at Kouign Cafe is a different kind of challenge. For help, Han looks to Clover.
“With Clover, there are so many things I can take care of in one place–reporting, taxes, scheduling, payroll,” Han lists. “It makes things a lot easier for me to streamline all the administrative tasks and manage them from one dashboard.”
More importantly, though, Han stresses the importance of self care to his followers online.
“Don’t push yourself too hard, and don’t ignore your feelings for the sake of the job,” stresses Han. “Find tools and resources to support yourself and also the mental health of others around you.”
Courtney Cowan’s cookie business began as a side hustle during her years as a television producer. Since opening Milk Jar Cookies in 2013—a brick-and-mortar on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles—Cowan has grown the business beyond her wildest dreams.
She now ships cookies nationwide, has been featured on “The Today Show,” has a best-selling cookbook, and a partnership with Williams-Sonoma. Even Oprah is a fan, dubbing Milk Jar Cookies the “best in California.”
“When people get our cookies in their hands, we tend to get them as repeat customers,” Cowan explains, “They definitely enjoy our treats, and the way we package our cookies makes them really beautiful gifts.”
Prioritizing the customer experience—from the locally-sourced ingredients to easy delivery and gifting options—has led to steady growth year over year.
“We’ve grown completely organically with no marketing budget, primarily just word of mouth,” Cowan shares.
“We do a lot of person-to-person gift giving,” she continues, “but also corporate gifting is something that has grown organically. Companies reach out because they know they can trust us to represent them well because of the quality of our product and packaging. So, we do a lot of business to consumer, business to client, and business to business.”
Even when your cookies come personally recommended by Oprah, maintaining quality standards and attention to detail is key to keeping customers happy.
It’s those customers Cowan credits with her success. “It’s been a really good balance of individuals and businesses that have helped us grow.”
Read more stories about how Clover is helping businesses meet growing demand, improve operations, and keep their customers happy.
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