I have a hard time resisting delicious baked goods so it was years ago at one of my favorite coffee shops (Toby’s as mentioned in this post) that I first bit into what I would best describe as an adult pop tart. I’d later learn that there was a woman with my same name behind the delicious square treats and their actual name is Megpies.
For 2016’s last Witty Conversation With installment, I’m excited to share Meghan Ritchie’s story about how she and her boyfriend would go on to bring their Megpies to people around the country. Her hard work and commitment to delivering something that can serve as a pick me up in someone’s day is something to inspire you in 2017!
Tell us about yourself in 3 sentences.
I have a deep love of organization, learning new skills and late 70’s soft rock. I find the best part of owning a business has been the fact that my days are 90% organizing and learning new skills – with the radio turned up! I live in Brooklyn with my boyfriend/business partner Paul and our dog Lola.
How was the idea of Megpies born? What was your job prior to Megpies?
Megpies started as a once weekly bake sale on our stoop in Brooklyn. I loved to bake and it was a wonderful way to meet people in the neighborhood. I also loved gaining a following of people who looked forward to bake sale days and a chance to get a treat on the way to work or school that they couldn’t get anywhere else.
I was waiting tables, producing live theater and doing prep work (zesting fruit, juicing citrus and chopping fruit) at a jam company. I continued waiting tables and working at the jam company until Megpies was 2 years old. Then I babysat for a long time while running Megpies.
What’s been the most challenging thing about running your own company? What’s been the most rewarding?
For me, I have found that one of the most challenging things about running Megpies has been the stress associated with learning something for the first time or coming up against problems or challenges that I haven’t learned yet. Coincidentally, it’s also what I like most about running the business. I love to bake but I find that I get a lot more satisfaction from solving a problem, fixing an issue or learning a new skill. It can be stressful, but it’s ultimately rewarding to expand our knowledge of how to grow Megpies.
You were delivering the pies to local coffee shops and bakeries initially – how did you figure out the logistics of doing so? It sounds overwhelming!
It was a pretty organic process when we started. I worked at the jam company from 9am until 3pm and prepped dough for the Megpies in their industrial kitchen after work. I’d then bike the dough back to my apartment and make Megpies all afternoon and freeze them. I was also making scones at the time. In the mornings I’d wake up at 5 and bake the scones and bake and ice the tarts and give them time to cool and pack them up and bike them to the cafes. I chose to present the tarts and scones to cafes that were accessible along my commute to the jam kitchen. So I’d make the deliveries on my way to work and start all over again. When we moved the baking to a restaurant kitchen I needed all the hours I could get to do the prep and baking so my boyfriend Paul helped by taking over deliveries for me. I just prepped and baked and commuted to work. He expanded the shops we were delivering to and we started to grow from there. It seemed a bit overwhelming at the time but now that I am coordinating distribution from two facilities to 7,500+ stores and distributors we can look back and remember those times fondly.
You’re now available in Starbucks – tell us about how that came to be.
We met up with a friend of Paul’s who had seen our video and early Facebook page and wanted to bring us on to QVC. We met with her and an associate of hers who helped companies prepare for a major launch on QVC. We weren’t ready to do QVC at the time due to a lack of ample production capabilities but it was an informative meeting and we discussed scaling up our production and what that would entail.
About 6 months later we received a call from the associate. He had started to work for Starbucks and was looking for local brands powered by passionate entrepreneurs to bring new products to Starbucks. It was a long road of meetings, months apart and eventual testing in 30 NYC area stores for a year before we were properly scaled up and could support a major national launch. Our launch was in July 2016 and it’s been going great so far. Starbucks is easy to work with and very supportive of small businesses. It’s been a good opportunity for us to grow enough so that we can now focus on our local clients and regional growth with a lot more support.
What does a “typical” day look like for you?
My days now are very different from the days of baking at 2am. I work mainly from my computer handling logistics and shipments and production plans. I also handle the customer service – anyone who emails with feedback or a comment gets a reply directly from me. We don’t have any employees on the business side of things, so I handle almost all the administrative tasks and Paul handles almost all of the client care and sales. We also have a lot of testing and R&D to do and designing gift boxes and planning for the future etc. so the days are pretty packed with multiple projects. I love organizing chaos, so although it is much different from anything I dreamed I would be doing, I think it is perfect for me now.
What inspires your flavors?
Our original flavors were developed to highlight the jam from my jam company employer, so at first it was just fruit flavors. Once we started expanding sales to Whole Foods and more cafes, we added Cinnamon + Brown Sugar by request. We ended up with a line-up of pretty classic flavors that remind people of the toaster pastries they grew up with: Strawberry, Blueberry, Cinnamon + Brown Sugar with a couple other options thrown in. We also love to do seasonal flavors. My very favorite was a concord grape tart in the fall. We’re working on a lot of interesting fillings now and I can’t wait to get them out to customers, but the time it takes to develop everything takes so much longer than the days of making a few tarts for a stoop bake sale.
Which flavor is your personal favorite?
Chocolate is my favorite without question. I like to eat the chocolate ones straight from the freezer. Paul’s favorite is the Blueberry Tart.
3 apps you swear by (and why!)?
Instagram – Who doesn’t at this point. Map My Run – I have anxiety about picking a watch or tracking bracelet. There are too many to compare so I just stick with this app for runs and work outs! And finally our bank’s app. We need to wire funds when we place POs and manage cash flow constantly so the app is used with a lot of frequency.
Favorite spots to eat & drink in New York?
When we were baking in a small kitchen on the Lower East Side we treated ourselves to lunch at Bob White Counter once a week. The fried chicken sandwiches there are amazing. We’re also big fans of Olmsted in Prospect Heights for a special night out.
What’s a piece of advice you’d give your younger self?
Take your time. Every job (no matter how big or small) will teach you something you need to learn in order to run a business, so don’t worry if you aren’t where you think you “should” be.
What’s a piece of advice you’d give someone looking to start their own business or follow a dream for a new career?
Start! Even if it is not perfect or you don’t know what you are doing yet, just start and figure it out as you go along. Also, ask for advice, help or answers to your questions openly and without embarrassment. I find that many people are willing to help if you ask for advice. If you show you are willing to learn something, people will do what they can to aid you in learning! Often though, the embarrassment of not knowing how to do things stops people from asking questions. I used to not know what ROI stood for but as soon as it entered the vocabulary of people we were talking with I was quick to say; “Can you tell me what ROI stands for, I’m new to this” People will tell you and help you! (It’s Return on Investment in case anyone is new to this too ;).)
What’s next for Megpies?
We’re working on expanding the regional and local distribution so customers can find our tarts in many different locations — we’re also finalizing our own e-commerce shop. These are two major projects that I cannot wait to launch! It has been a long road for both of them.
p.p.s. Have someone you think would make a great feature for this Witty Conversation With series? Email me your ideas for 2017!
[Photography courtesy of Megpies]