Interview with business owner Stephanie Gatewood

There are many ways to earn an income from home. And many of us will have multiple streams of income. Stephanie is one of those women. She has had several businesses over the years, and shared with me the benefit of her experience. This extremely capable woman is my hero and role model!

1. Tell me about your yourself.

Business owner Stephanie Gatewood is a capable woman entrepreneur. I’m Stephanie Gatewood, co-owner of Foodservice Consultants Studio (FCS).

I live just outside of Richmond, Virginia, with my husband of 18 years, my 11-year-old son Alex, my 9-year-old daughter Claire, and our rescue pup Tally. Fun fact: My kids have a peanut allergy. So because I felt so overwhelmed when I was first learning how to manage food allergies, I wrote a book.  To help other parents, I wrote When Peanuts are Poison. Before working for myself, I was a project manager at a Fortune 200 firm in the finance industry.

2. What is your business?

My main business is Foodservice Consultants Studio, Inc. We design commercial kitchens, mostly for K-12 schools, universities, businesses, and the military. We are hired as part of the architectural team, and the architect on a project will outsource the kitchen to us to design.

I’ve also had a food allergy blog and a pet sitting business. And my husband and I co-own another business together. And I’ve just started a new blog, Cozy and Calm, for women who want more time freedom.

3. How long have you been working with your business/direct sales company?

My dad, who retired a few years ago, founded FCS in 2000. I joined the company in late 2005 as a means to escape my corporate career. I assumed the job would be temporary, but I ended up becoming an owner and have been here for over 12 years! We are a self-managed company, meaning we don’t have a hierarchy or even job titles. On our corporate meeting minutes my title is listed as Vice President/Secretary/Treasurer though. My day-to-day responsibilities include all aspects of managing the business: marketing, human resources, and financial management.

4. Why did you want to work from home/work for yourself? What is your “why”?

My reason for wanting to work from home was because I wanted time freedom. I wanted to be available for my kids when they needed me or wanted me to attend their special events. And I wanted the freedom to plan and execute my own schedule and goals. For example, we homeschooled for two years. I don’t think I would have been able to keep my sanity while managing the house, homeschooling, and working if I had a traditional job that required me to commute to an office. I find a lot of satisfaction in the little perks too, like being able to grocery shop during less crowded times or take a leisurely walk or see a movie while everyone else is at work.

5. Why did you start this business?

Although I didn’t start FCS, I’m the one who did the analysis and presentation to the other owners to convince them we should not renew the lease on the central office in 2013. Instead we should have everyone work from home. I showed that our conservative savings would be about 30% in operational expenses, not to mention the benefits the employees and owners would realize by not having to commute to work. It was a easier than I thought it would be to sell them on the idea, but I made sure to speak to the different needs of each owner. Two of the other owners are very logical and financially driven, and I knew the other two wanted a better work/life balance. I also was sure to outline the risks and obstacles and present viable solutions to each.

Did you look into any other business ideas? Have you tried any others before this one?

I’ve done a few other things, either passion projects or to bring in additional income outside of my job at FCS. Some things have stuck and others I’ve abandoned. My husband and I also co-own a business. He’s an editor and I draw a small salary as the company’s bookkeeper.

I ran a profitable pet sitting business for a while but grew tired of having to leave the house late at night to let out dogs. I also ran a food allergy blog off and on for years but was unable to figure out how to monetize it. And I just recently started writing for a new blog that I launched in March called Cozy and Calm. It’s geared toward women who want more time freedom.

6. How many hours do you work every day or week? What kinds of things do you do to make money?

I work about 20 hours per week on FCS and just an hour or so each month on my husband’s business. I’ve committed about 10 hours a week to work on my blog, though in reality I’m probably spending much more than that since the blog is new and there’s a lot to do to get it up and running. I enjoy what I do, so as long as I have plenty of time for myself and my family, I’m fine if work fills my remaining hours.

7. How long did it take to see your first sale? How long did it take to make a profit?

FCS and the editing business are like a traditional job in that we trade our time for dollars, so the more we work, the more we can make. FCS’s profits are tied to the building industry, as well as to how much the federal, state, and localities have to spend on renovations and new construction. So our revenue and profit are cyclical. Some years are great, and other years we’re less busy and don’t make as much.

With blogging, there’s a ton of upfront work for which I don’t get paid. But the hope is that my content is valuable enough to readers that I will begin earning some income down the road.

With pet sitting, I got my first client within a week and was making money quickly.

8. How do you help your customer? Why would they buy from you or work with you?

At FCS, we help customers by ensuring their kitchen is arranged efficiently for workers as food moves through the system, flexible so they can change their menus as needed, and safe for their employees and the people who are consuming the meals that come out of the kitchen.

As an editor, my husband helps independent authors refine and polish their work so that readers are satisfied and not distracted by plot inconsistencies or grammatical errors.

And as a blogger, I help readers attain more inner harmony and time freedom by getting their home and finances in order. Then they can focus on being a better mom to their children, working from home, and taking good care of themselves.

9. What do you like best about your business?

I’m a helper my nature and gain the greatest satisfaction from helping other people, whether it’s giving them a new perspective, alleviating stress, or helping them solve a problem.

At my corporate job I managed a small marketing team, but I spent the entirety of my days answering email or sitting in meetings, rather than interacting and helping my team solve problems. I felt like an absentee manager and that I wasn’t having an impact, which is why I was so unsatisfied there.

At FCS, even though I spend a lot of time managing the financials and not interacting with the rest of my team, I know I’m alleviating stress and allowing them to focus on projects. They never have to worry about whether employees will be paid on time, clients are invoiced correctly, taxes are paid, etc.

10. How would someone start a business or like yours or with your team?

There are so many ways to make money from home or a home-based business now. Although it’s hard work and may not give someone the time freedom that other avenues will, I think the easiest way to make decent money relatively quickly, out of the things I tried, was with pet sitting.

(A) The key to my success was by narrowly defining the perfect target market. I didn’t want to drive all over the city, which takes a lot of gas, but more importantly, wastes tons of time. So I honed in on one upper-middle class neighborhood that has about 375 homes and where the sidewalks are packed with people walking their dogs on the weekend. I could have more than quadrupled my potential client base if I was willing to drive another 10 minutes in each direction.

(B) In a single weekend I was able to research what other local pet sitters charge, using sites like Rover.com, and set up a simple website and email address. I purchased pet sitting insurance, and canvased the neighborhood with flyers advertising my dog walking and pet sitting services. Also, I was in a Facebook group and NextDoor.com for the neighborhood, and people are always asking for recommendations for pet sitters. I was referred to Square for payment processing by my hair dresser, which gave me three months of free processing. And I was delighted with the service because Square made it easy for clients to pay using a credit card, plus I didn’t have to run to the bank to deposit checks. I was up and running my business quickly and got my first client within a week.

(C) Once I got clients, I did my best to delight them and treat their pets like my own. I left notes and sent photos via text to show that their pet was happy while they were away.

11. What do you do to help your customers succeed?

Understanding your customer and how you can help solve their problem or fulfill a need is the key to success. Always keep your customer in your mind and ask them how you can improve.

12. What kinds of expectations should someone new to online business, working from home, or working for yourself have?

It’s important to understand that some business opportunities require a lot of upfront work without pay. But many times those are the opportunities that pay the biggest dividend if you can do the work once and get paid over and over (e.g., blogging, MLM, selling e-books or courses).

Other opportunities are more traditional where you trade your time directly for dollars. Both can be lucrative and offer you the lifestyle you’re seeking. You just need to decide which model appeals to you and your circumstances.

For example, if you have little savings and rely on your income from a traditional job, you can’t just quit and expect to immediately replace your income by blogging. But you could continue to work at your traditional job while having a side gig, like MLM or blogging. On the other hand, if you really just want to be at home and make money, you could do something like telephone or online customer service for Amazon and earn a steady paycheck from home immediately.

Whatever you choose, you shouldn’t go into it thinking you’re going to get rich quick or make a good income without doing the hard work. You won’t get paid for cleaning your own house or watching TV all day.

Having at least a small dedicated work space is a must as well. You may not need a separate room with a door unless you have young children and will be on the phone with clients as part of your job. I have my home office located just inside my front door in my living room. Even though it can be noisy when the kids are home, I can step into another room to take the infrequent phone calls I get. And being that close to the rest of the family and living areas means it’s really easy for me to jump on the computer to respond to an important email or to keep an eye on the kids while they play outside.

13. Anything else you would like someone to know about you or your business?

Resources, both technological and human, abound. If there’s something you need but don’t know how to do, you can probably find the answer or an expert within minutes on the internet or social media. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to do everything yourself. Don’t be afraid to pay for someone else’s expertise, because in the long run it can save you time, money, and frustration. And don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help from people who know more than you do! There are many of us out there who want to help other people live the lives that we are. Just be sure to pay it forward later!

My other piece of advice would be to prepare yourself for hard work. Being able to work from home and be in control of your own time while making a comfortable income is a huge benefit that most people don’t get to experience during their working years. But it’s still work and requires consistent effort. Planning but then actually taking action toward your goals is key. If you want it, go for it.

14. How can someone connect with you?

They can get in touch with me via email, and I’m on the web at Food Services Studio and Cozy and Calm.

Stephanie's main business Food Service Consultants business logoStephanie Gatewood's blog Cozy and Calm is helping women find time freedom.

 

 

Thanks Stephanie! If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please contact me!

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Interview with Business Owner Stephanie Gatewood

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