On this week’s podcast, Marcus sits down and talks with Meredith Simmerman of Reney’s Honey Butter. A Mississippi girl grown up to be a therapist can be thanked for your new favorite topping to all breads, desserts, and more. You’re going to want to listen how overnight Meredith went from zero people showing up to her tasting party to over $1000 in sales the next morning!
Meredith: Hey, my name is Meredith Simmerman. I'm the owner of Reney's Honey Butter.
Marcus: Awesome. Well, it is so good to have you on the podcast.
Meredith: I'm excited to be here.
Marcus: Your name proceeds you. The quality of your product is definitely something that we've heard about. I will admit, I have not tried it yet. But I am very excited to get my hands on some of your honey butter and give it a shot.
Meredith: Yes, I'll definitely be bringing you some.
Marcus: Well, normally on this podcast, we like to get a little bit of backstory about the person that owns the business. Why don't you tell us where you're from, maybe where you went to high school and college if you went to college? Are you married, kids? All that stuff.
Meredith: All the good stuff.
Meredith: I grew up in Pascagoula. That's where I went to high school, and then I went to Mississippi State. Go Bulldogs. My degree there was in communication and public relations. Then after we lost our home in Hurricane Katrina, my whole family relocated here to Mobile. And then once I graduated from college, I started working here and then decided to sell everything I own and move to California. So, I lived out there for three years and then came back here. And then as-
Marcus: Hold on.
Meredith: Yes, it's lots of things.
Marcus: It just didn't jive with you or what?
Meredith: My mom had cancer, so I moved home.
Marcus: Oh, gosh. Moved be with family.
Meredith: Yes. Family is important to me.
Marcus: Yeah, absolutely.
Meredith: Right. So, then I moved here again and started getting my masters in counseling. Finished that I graduated from Liberty University. That's just three years later and I'm a therapist. But about one year ago is when I started this Reney's Honey Butter business.
Marcus: Nice. One of the things that we've realized because we're well over 100 episodes in now, it's hard to believe. But one of the things that we've realized is that sometimes there's no connection between what somebody studies and what they actually end up doing. So, how did you end up like this?
Meredith: Well, it was never my plan to start a business. Last Easter after we'd all gone to church and eaten a really big lunch, I decided to go out and pick blackberries. I ended up picking blackberries for hours, I had way more than I knew what to do with. So, I started getting creative. I was making all the muffins that you can imagine, I was making blackberry barbecue sauce, blackberry cream cheese, and then I made this blackberry honey butter.
Marcus: Oh, my gosh. That cream cheese sounds delicious.
Meredith: Yes. It was all delicious. And I was giving it all out. Because there was just so much blackberry stuff.
Marcus: Then I need to become better friends.
Meredith: We do. We need to be friends.
Meredith: When I gave it out to people, they said, "Meredith, you should sell this." So, the thought just got put into my head. Well, I had a tasting party. I created a Facebook event tasting party and invited people. And then the day of the tasting party, zero people came.
Marcus: Oh, my gosh.
Meredith: I was like, "Okay, whatever." That night, my sister posted on social media that I had some jars of honey butter for sale. Within 24 hours, I'd sold $1,000 worth of butter and the people who own Old Shell Market-
Marcus: Hold on.
Marcus: Holy crap.
Meredith: I know. I was like, "What is happening right now?"
Marcus: People like butter. I got to say.
Meredith: Yes. Well, then the people who own Old Shell Market who I'd never met before messaged on Facebook saying, "Hey, we want to put this butter in our store." So, from zero people-
Marcus: They never tasted it.
Marcus: You literally didn't even really have a product at that point, let's be honest.
Meredith: I know. I was shocked at what was going on, so I just ran with it. And now here I am a little over a year later.
Marcus: That is so cool. The general idea when you're wanting to start a business is if you can find one customer, then you know you have an idea that maybe there's something to it. Some of my questions is, when you go back to that first sale, what was that like? But you put a post on Facebook and immediately sold $1,000 worth of stuff and actually had somebody immediately wanting to place it in a retail establishment with the opportunity to sell even more. That's insane. Those stories are just so few and far between. That's really cool.
Meredith: That is how it's been. Doors have just opened for me. I randomly met a lady who owns 13 Piggly Wiggly's, and I didn't know that at the time that I met her. I was just sharing my story. She said, "Well, I want to get you in my stores." So, that door opened. It's just been like that for every place that I've been able to get into.
Marcus: Yeah. You mentioned that you're a counselor. Are you still practicing?
Meredith: Yes. I do still do counseling.
Marcus: Is that just because you really enjoy it? Because obviously, there's something here.
Meredith: Yes. I love people. Even that's the heart behind my honey butter business' connection. I want people to give it as a gift or bring people over and have breakfast together, or make dinner with my honey butter. I will bet to be the heart behind my business, and that is who I am. I'm a connector. I love relationships and empowering people.
Marcus: Yeah, we have that in common. I'm very much of the same mindset, which is part of the reason why we do this podcast, is just sharing the story of business owner so other people can know who you are. Right?
Marcus: Okay. So, we got a little bit ahead of ourselves because I also like to ask about your first job. If you go back to, and I'm talking like you flip burgers or you had a ... What, is it? A lifeguard position or something along those lines. What was your first job, and were there any lessons that you still remember from that?
Meredith: Very first job was at a local drugstore in Pascagoula called Sav-Rex. It was a drugstore slash gift shop slash soda fountain, and it had been there for years. So, everyone came there to hang out. That's where I originally worked.
Marcus: Did you work in one area of that? Because it'd be really kind of interesting if you were in the soda fountain side of things.
Meredith: I was not. I just worked at the front register. I just learned more about myself, building confidence in your first job.
Marcus: Knowing that you have what it takes in order to exist in-
Meredith: Yeah. And being willing to receive feedback from other people and learn and grow so that you can be your best self.
Marcus: Yeah, that's really cool. Now, if you were talking to someone that wanted to get started on running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?
Meredith: Just to go for it, to not let fear drive you. Because it is about connection. So, going to events, meeting people, taking the risk.
Marcus: You put yourself out there a lot.
Meredith: Put yourself out there.
Meredith: Yeah. Get to know people. But don't let fear keep you from doing it. Because if I would have done that, I wouldn't be here today.
Marcus: Right. And if you don't want to, you don't have to get into it. But how have you worked past that? I think I've mentioned it before. I would consider myself an introvert. The true definition of an introvert, someone who recharges themselves by going and being alone or being quiet, versus somebody who needs to be around people in order to be recharged, which would be classic definition of an extrovert, right? So, I'm an introvert, but I'm a high functioning introvert and that I have extroverted tendencies. That's how I normally describe it. But it's something that you have to kind of move past as you move into being a business owner and being active in the business community and going out.
Marcus: Even the act of sales, I don't like to view sales in the stereotypical used car salesman. Like, "Just sign here," kind of thing. It's more about just knowing people and getting to know people and helping to educate a market and stuff like that. But when you think about fear and moving past fear. The reason why I'm really curious about this is because of your counseling background. How have you moved past that? What does that look like, and how have you moved past it?
Meredith: It looks like a lot of self-talk. So, talking to yourself, building your courage up and then when that door opens for fear, rejecting it. Saying, "Nope, I'm not going to listen to that voice." I experienced that a good bit like. If someone comes and is trying my product and they think it's too expensive or I don't want to buy that, that's not my favorite flavor. The voice of fear, of rejection, of I'm not good enough, or I shouldn't have taken that risk will come up. So, I just have to-
Marcus: You mentioned Liberty and knowing Liberty's background, obviously, I know that you're a Christian. And so, oftentimes hearing that, that voice of doubt, that voice of negativity, it's not coming from the right place. Yeah, just knowing that and rebuking it and moving on. That's really cool.
Marcus: Well, I have to ask, tell us about how is the product made and that kind of stuff? Obviously, are you doing all that manufacturing yourself or do you have a team of people or do you-
Meredith: It is still just me.
Meredith: Yes. I do it all. I work in a commercial kitchen that are I rent space in, and all the magic happens in a mixer. That is the only thing I need is a mixer. It all goes in there.
Marcus: Nice. I would imagine you're using quite large equipment too. So. it's not like the kitchen aid that you have on your counter at home.
Meredith: Right. Large mixer.
Marcus: Very cool.
Meredith: And then I have different flavors at different times of the year, too.
Marcus: So, it's just honey butter. You're still doing the blackberry thing and you're doing some other stuff?
Meredith: Mh-hmm (affirmative).
Marcus: Gosh. Okay.
Marcus: I'm hungry. And I just had breakfast.
Meredith: In the summer, I have blackberry, honey butter, strawberry, blueberry, and then cinnamon. In the fall, I have peach, pumpkin, and toffee honey butter. In the winter, I have gingerbread, apple pie, and peppermint. So, I change it up all the time, which keeps me on my toes as well.
Marcus: Yeah, that's really cool. Now, is there anything that you're currently working on in the business whether it be expanding distribution or sales or processes? What are you working on?
Meredith: Well, my goal for the year is to be in 10 stores by the end of the year. Right now, I'm in six. So, working to increase that and grow.
Marcus: Another four. Yeah. If you're out there and you're listening to this, Cheese Cottage, or Noble South, or Vons or any of those guys, drop her a line. I know she'd love to partner with you.
Marcus: Now, what does a typical day look like for you?
Meredith: I don't really think there is a typical day. With counseling, they're never typically. So, I could have five sessions and then I'd go to the kitchen in the evening. Or have one session and work on stuff on the computer. Create. It just depends on people, and people are not consistent.
Marcus: That is the one thing that we've noticed over the period of doing this podcast. When it comes to one of the most difficult things that entrepreneurs deal with, or business owners deal with, it's people.
Meredith: It's people.
Marcus: Now, you're talking about it in a different context. But still, the same context is that people tend to be difficult, whether it's finding the right people are motivating your people, or somebody is leaving, or somebody needs to leave or all of those things. That is a common thread. So, if you're listening to this and you're a business owner, know that you're not alone in that.
Marcus: Who's the one person that motivates you from the business world?
Meredith: In the business world, there is a lady, Christie Wright. She wrote a book called Business Boutique. I think she still works with Dave Ramsey. But I've read her book and listened to her podcasts, and she motivates me to continue to be willing to learn and grow and challenge myself and take the risks. So, I love her.
Marcus: Yeah. Do you remember the name of the book and the podcast?
Meredith: Business Boutique.
Marcus: I'm sorry, you did say that. Business Boutique.
Marcus: The podcast is also Business Boutique?
Meredith: Mh-hmm (affirma tive).
Marcus: Okay. Very good.
Meredith: And it's really geared towards women in business.
Marcus: Whatever. I'm still going to check it out.
Meredith: That is what she felt like her calling was, to empower women in their businesses.
Marcus: I recognize the need for that voice. Because there're certainly things that women deal with that are unique to women. Just like minorities, they deal with different things and men deal different issues as well. So, are there any books, podcasts, people, or organizations besides the one that you just mentioned that have been helpful in moving you forward? That's books, podcasts, people, or organizations.
Meredith: Lots of things. There are a lot of people here that I've met as I've journeyed who have been very helpful to me. Other people who've run small businesses that I've met just as I've done events who pour into me, giving me feedback, giving me some extra skills or inside info. So, I don't want to name drop. But people like Tony Salster, or Heather at Market at The Pillars.
Marcus: Tony is actually in my Emerging Leaders class. And Heather has been on the podcast and was a client at one point in time. We'd like to winter back.
Marcus: Yeah wonderful people. But, yeah, go ahead. Who else?
Meredith: All amazing people. Lots of books out there. the StoryBrand book.
Marcus: Very good, Donald Miller.
Meredith: Let me think. Those are the ones that are at the top of my head right now.
Marcus: Yeah. Now, the StoryBrand one is really interesting, because he's really well-known for Blue Like Jazz and some other books that he wrote back when he was the ... I would say he was almost one of the figureheads for the postmodern movement in Christianity, right? And the whole you know, it's okay to question because questioning helps you solidify your belief system. And so, it was really interesting for me to see him kind of pivot, because he is such an amazing storyteller. That's why people loved his writing. And so, now he's pivoted to helping other people figure out what their story is.
Marcus: His podcast is phenomenal. I don't know if you've ever listened to that.
Meredith: Yes, it is.
Marcus: I was having a conversation with a friend, Austin, he's the boyfriend of [Varduey 00:16:36], which is our designer. He was talking about the podcast. I'll be honest, I don't know that I knew that there was an actual podcast. I've just been kind of diving into those because there's just ... Every podcast, there are some that are really good and then there are some where it's kind of like, eh, but that one usually is pretty consistent in how good it is?
Meredith: Yeah. And then it kind of combines my love for counseling and the brain with business. He talks about how the brain responds really well when you tell things in story version. That's just really neat to me.
Marcus: As marketers, it's something that we love too. Because if you've got a good story, even if it's something that is ... I don't know. It's interesting to me, because I think a lot of business owners don't realize how good a story they have. It's not until they actually ... Last night I went to emerging leaders, I'll say that, but I won't say who it was. There was a person there that actually said something and immediately, the instructor was like, "That's your elevator pitch." And she had been struggling up until that point, because, it's a difficult thing when you first sit down and you have to come up with an elevator pitch for those people that haven't done it before, tried to succinctly tell people in 30 seconds or less what it is that you do, right?
Marcus: When she said what she said, it was immediately like, that's it. That's your elevator pitch. Even if you don't drop, because she kind of dropped the name of the company that they had done something really awesome for, he said, "Even if you don't say the name but you just tell the story, that's it." It was just cool because it was a story, and that's going to resonate with people much more than just like, "I'm the largest producer of XYZ widgets, and we have distribution in XYZ states." It's like, let it go. Small businesses, it's important for us to lean on that story.
Marcus: What's the most important thing that you've learned about running a business?
Meredith: That you need other people? Yeah, you can't do it all by yourself. I am still one man, one woman.
Marcus: One woman.
Meredith: Yes. One-woman show, but I ask for help when I needed it. I ask for help with taxes from my accountant. I to ask for help with logo stuff or website stuff. So, know that I cannot do it all, even though that would be awesome if I could. That I need other people.
Marcus: No, it's cool. It is a difficult thing because you'd like to think that you could do it all yourself.
Meredith: That's kind of the American way. Be independent. Do it all. Make your stuff happen. But-
Marcus: You just end up burying yourself in things that you don't like doing. It's much better to find people that actually like doing the things that you don't like doing. Like, I don't like editing audio. That's why Jared's here.
Marcus: Yey, Jared. What do you like to do to unwind?
Meredith: I love food. So, a small little part of my story, I have lots of little pieces. I did go to culinary school.
Marcus: What? Really?
Marcus: Which one?
Meredith: At the University For Women. It's in Columbus, Mississippi.
Marcus: I don't know how old you are, but you appear young. So, it's amazing what you've done.
Meredith: I'm over 30.
Marcus: Oh, wow. Very good. Yeah. So, it's a lot of schooling. You've got a master's degree in counseling, and went to culinary school.
Meredith: I love learning. I have a high value for learning. Especially as I get older, I realized the value of that wisdom and knowledge.
Marcus: It's very cool.
Meredith: So, I love food. Anytime I can try something new or go somewhere new-
Marcus: I'm going to put you on the spot then. Where do you like to eat in Mobile?
Meredith: That depends on the day.
Marcus: What's your craving. Yeah, I know. Yeah. But any spots that you that really stand out for you?
Meredith: We mentioned the Cheese Cottage earlier. Love cheese. They modeled that after the Houston Dairymaids, which I went out there as well on my search for cheese, because I love that. So, that's a fun place to go here in Mobile.
Marcus: Very cool. Yeah, I also love food. So, food is good.
Meredith: Yes, it is.
Marcus: Do you cook a lot too at home?
Meredith: I used to. It's just me. Not married. Don't have any kids.
Marcus: Very good.
Meredith: So, I do like to cook but don't usually have a ton of people to do that for.
Marcus: Yeah. Well, it's interesting because I didn't go to culinary school. but I do like to cook and I find that that's almost a way that I unwind. So, going home and ... I used to have a lot more time to do it. But instead of going to Publix, which is still a very nice grocery store, going to Fresh Market or Whole Foods and getting new ingredients and a new recipe and stuff like that and kind of experimenting with some stuff. At one point in time I was doing Blue Apron, and I liked it and my family didn't like it so much, but I liked it. Because it was always something new and you never really knew what you were going to get, but it was kind of interesting to try new things.
Meredith: Yes, I agree.
Marcus: When we go on vacation, oftentimes it's all about where we're going to eat. It's amazing that I'm not like 500 pounds. I just got back from New Orleans, I spent a night there and I wish I could remember the name of the place that I went. But it was this small little café that the people that I was meeting with actually found and introduced me to. They hadn't beef short ribs that were just like ... They were so good, and the desserts were phenomenal. They have a rustic bread that was just absolutely tasty. We could talk for 30 minutes just about-
Meredith: About food.
Marcus: Yeah, about food. But let's not do that.
Meredith: That's one thing that I want to do, is start to make recipe cards for my honey butter. Because when people think honey butter, they just think bread. But I want people to think outside the box because, I made pork chops with my blackberry honey butter. You could do chicken and waffles with it. Lots of different things outside of the bread and butter.
Marcus: Right. Yeah, that's really good. Tell people where they can find you.
Meredith: Well, you can always go to my website reyneyshoneybutter.com, and then I'm in six locations. So, Old Shell Market, Domke Market, Crimson Blue Boutique, the Piggly Wiggly and Fairhope, there's June Christine boutique which is in Pascagoula, and then Sylvia's Biscuits and Poboys.
Marcus: Very good. Facebook page as well, I would imagine?
Meredith: Yeah. Facebook, Instagram, website. We can ship all over the United States.
Marcus: Yeah. No, that's very good. Well I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
Meredith: Well, I love you all's heart to show Mobile about small business owners and to introduce them. So, I feel honored to be here.
Marcus: Well, we appreciate you coming. It is actually an honor to showcase the business owners that we have. We have kind of a unique ecosystem here, and that there are a tremendous amount of small business owners. It's just really cool to be able to provide a platform for people to know about people like you.
Meredith: It's really cool. Yeah, well, thank you so much.
Marcus: Absolutely. Well, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's been great talking with you.
Meredith: Thank you.