Inspiring Women: Meet the Woman Behind Those Delicious Jam-Filled Tarts at Starbucks raitube
You know when you're paying for your coffee at the Starbucks counter and something delicious catches your eye? Chances are you've spotted Megpies with their festive pink logo and chances are you're not leaving without one of these "pockets of joy" to go with your morning coffee.
The delicious hand pies (think fancy, all-natural Pop-Tarts) are utterly delicious, the perfect amount of flaky, and come in flavors like strawberry, chocolate, mixed berry and more. And best yet? They were created by a woman named Meghan Ritchie who started off selling them on her Brooklyn stoop in 2012. Four years later, Starbucks began stocking them at locations all across the country and in Canada too. It was quite the leap from when she used to deliver Megpies locally on her bike on her way to her day job. Can you imagine?
Meghan shared the Megpies stories with us and gave us her advice for anyone else looking to make their dreams come true — in or out of the kitchen.
Livingly: Tell us a little about Megpies and how you got your start.
Meghan Ritchie: Megpies started as an opportunity for me to enjoy hobby baking and meet our neighbors. I would bake a variety of things each week and set up shop on our front stoop. Any profit would stay in a little cigar box and pay for the next round of baking groceries. I reached out to a few small cafés in our neighborhood and began selling scones via bicycle delivery each morning. Once I began working at a jam company in early 2012 I had the opportunity to develop a product using the jam to sell at Smorgasburg (A New York food fair). The market was wonderful for exposure and press and I was able to gain a number of café accounts as well as local Whole Foods stores.
What makes Megpies special?
The special secret to the tarts is the balance of salt and sweet. The crust is a bit salty which plays well with the sweet icing and the jammy filling. The salt and of course the butter is what gives them that decadent taste.
From your stoop to Starbucks — how did you manage to grow your business in such a meaningful way?
We were very lucky to meet someone who eventually joined Starbucks and helped usher in a program to work with smaller companies to expand their snack offerings while also helping smaller producers grow and scale. We count our lucky stars pretty regularly that we were able to scale to this level but continuing to grow meaningfully and increase business is a never-ending learning experience. It’s a wild ride.
What are three things that got you where you are today?
Necessity is the mother of invention. There were a number of years that were solely guided by necessity. If I don’t get another account or I can’t finish this prep in time for tomorrow I can’t personally pay my rent. If I can’t find a new space to bake we can’t grow etc. It’s a motivating factor for sure.
Passion. I think it goes without saying that you have to have a passion for your business in order to stick with it through the tough times but the passion of my partner Paul is really what kept me moving forward in business and personally. He was a helpful boyfriend at the start, lending a hand when needed. When he developed a passion for the product and the company that kept me motivated and he grew the wholesale business immensely throughout NY with that passion.
Support. We had a number of other business owners mentor us and help us with questions and issues that they had tackled already. If we hadn’t had a community to reach out to we would have wasted so much time, money and energy. It is also so great to have a group of people to talk to who are going through similar things.
Where do you see yourself and your business going from here?
We have been working on growing our wholesale accounts regionally in grocery and specialty stores while continuing to manage our local accounts and Starbucks. We also just opened our online shop which was a long time in the making. We have always wanted to be able to work directly with our customers and offer all of our flavors and gift box options in one place. We are so happy to finally be open for business on our site! Beyond business growth we have a lot of big projects in the works and new products we’ve been working on. It’s a busy time.
Can you give us an example of a time you felt like throwing in the towel but pushed forward?
We felt like throwing in the towel a number of times. One of the most difficult times we faced was when we were figuring out how to scale up from our own small kitchen space to either a co-manufacturer or renting a larger space with large scale equipment. We found a seemingly perfect space within driving distance and started working with the owner to scale up the recipe to the equipment batch sizes. Our dough is especially susceptible to climate (humidity, rainy days etc.) overworking in equipment and temperature. We tested and tested and tested but could not get the tarts to work on the equipment. The last time we tested we had a conversation with the person who owned the bakery and it was clear we were not going to be able to figure this out together.
It was so heartbreaking because we not only invested so much time in working on the recipe there but we didn’t have another option lined up. We eventually found a great place to work and learned how to scale our dough properly and it all worked out in the end but that was definitely a time when no solutions were presenting themselves and we were exhausted by the process.
What advice do you have for other women who are looking to pursue their entrepreneurial goals?
Just Start. I’ve had a number of ideas for businesses over time but they were all paralyzed in the planning stage. Worrying about making a product or site or business plan perfect before starting wastes valuable time you could be focusing on testing your product. Customer feedback is one of the greatest ways to improve. Get your idea out there and start listening to your customers.
If you hadn't started Megpies, what would you be doing instead?
I have NO IDEA what I would be doing instead if Megpies hadn’t become a business. If I’m lucky enough to explore another career in the future I would love to own a bed and breakfast on a working farm. Apparently, I really love to work so even my dream jobs are labor intensive.
What is the best part of your day?
I wake up early and have about 2 hours to myself each morning before any emails start coming in and before the neighborhood is waking up. I really love that time to think about the day ahead and gather my thoughts – or just zone out for a bit too.
At Livingly our motto is "live life beautifully." What does living beautifully mean to you?
Oh, boy. I think I will always be working to live more mindfully and kindly. I can’t think of anything more beautiful than being kind and trying to stay in the present moment. I am in no way close to being able to live this way consistently but there’s a beauty to trying too, right?!
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