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Using Pies as the Vessel for Important Conversations When you create a business for the community, it's the community that can make you successful-even when you open during a pandemic.

By Emily Washcovick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Mixed Fillings Pie Shop

Behind the Review host and Yelp's Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week's episode of the podcast.

When you create a business for the community, it's the community that can make you successful, even when you open during a global pandemic. Natasha Burton, founder and owner of Mixed Fillings Pie Shop in Jacksonville, Florida, prides herself on customer service and believes that because she relates to those in her community, she has found success during such an incredibly challenging time—even with such a niche business.

Before diving into how Natasha has found success and why her business is so beloved, it's important to note that this is not just any pie shop—it's a speakeasy. Mixed Fillings Pie Shop started as an online business that quickly transitioned into a brick and mortar in April of 2020, right in the heart of the pandemic. When many businesses were struggling to stay afloat, Natasha hit the ground running with grassroots marketing to find customers. "I walked house to house for the first three blocks of my neighborhood, and I put flyers at people's doors. I went to businesses and spoke to the owners. I went to doctors' offices."

But it's not just about finding the customers. It's about delivering on the product and the customer experience. First up, the product. Our Yelp reviewer, Natalia G.—who is always on the hunt for the next best meal she's ever had—was impressed. "The Costanza is the best peach pie I've ever had. The Blurred Limes is also amazing. That pretzel crust is genius. And we also enjoyed that oatmeal-style crust of the apple pie, warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. A true classic."

The pies clearly speak for themselves, but it's not just the flavors. It's the quirky and memorable names that Natasha has chosen, which brings us to the next point: the customer service. Natasha is her own brand. As Natalia notes, "She calls everybody cutie pies, and she's talking to her audience. She's having a conversation with you the entire time. So it just keeps me coming back, and it's a relationship that she's building."

Natasha knows that a relatable, accessible, and enjoyable customer experience is critical to finding success. In this episode, learn more about how to achieve this and other key business concepts like:

  • Provide access to the business owner. When possible, try to be accessible to your customers. It goes a long way in building a lasting relationship. It adds a dimension to your business and gives your customers a VIP feel.
  • Create opportunities for meaningful conversations. Natasha doesn't just see Mixed Fillings as a way to sell pies. She sees the pie as the vessel to start a conversation and do something more—it's about helping her community overcome the pandemic, racism, injustice, and inequality. And those conversations start over pie.
  • It's more than just you. By starting her own business, Natasha was able to prioritize her family—something that was incredibly important to her. Not only can she physically be there for her kids, but she can also set an example for them. And that example is set for her community as well. She says her business is an opportunity to "show people that look like me that no matter what type of adversity you are facing, no matter what you think you're born into, you can overcome, and you can make something successful—something that you can take back to the community and show people how to do it. And, with that, you can make people's lives better."
  • Know when to hire help. Sometimes you can do it on your own, and sometimes you can't. Mixed Fillings Pie Shop grew much faster than expected. Within a few weeks, Natasha's husband had to quit his job to help with the business. From there, the two of them ran the show, but eventually even that got too much, and they brought on employees to help. Be careful of taking on too much. There is a fine line between working hard and being underwater. Know when to delegate, and it will benefit both you and your customers.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Natasha and Natalia, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

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