How this Brooklyn-Based Entrepreneur Started a Business on a Dare

Categories
Entrepreneurship Feature Food & Drink Life

Get you some friends like Tracey Solomon, friends who see your worth.

In October 2019, the CEO-founder, head chef, and candle chemist of Flatbush Granola, Tracey Solomon was dared by her best friend to make her hobby into a business venture. Tracey simply loved granola and would make it for her friends and consulting clients (her day job). When she was dared to come up with a 60-Day Plan, she was at first resistant. Then, lo and behold, by the next month, she was selling at a pop-up market in Brooklyn. So, how did this happen? We recently caught up with Tracey to learn just that.

Q: Why this Venture?

Tracey: The dare turned into the formation of Flatbush Granola which is now known for its interesting combination of spices and unique branding. As the name of the company suggests, it was born and bred in Flatbush, Brooklyn, a notoriously Caribbean neighbourhood. I was born in Winnipeg, Canada, and grew up in Ottawa, raised by two Trinidadian parents. The melting pot of both Trinidad & Tobago and Canada has directly informed how I perceive and experiment with flavours. My granola is known to have a unique blend of spices which my customers comment about, saying that they would have never thought of putting them together. Its uniqueness is not only in its blends. Flatbush Granola stands out at Brooklyn-based pop-up markets for its unique names and mason jar packaging.

Q: How were you able to create and execute a 60-Day Plan?

Tracey: I am an experienced entrepreneur with brands under my belt such as Kaiso (a liquor brand) and Afrotechture (a Black Artisan Store) so I was able to pull out old templates which broke down: branding and positioning, marketing, and product development. If you are starting for the first time, I recommend google as a great resource for a plethora of 60-day plans, where you can look for what works for you. After that, the next step is to select the best software to document your process. The first search to confirm whether you are able to accomplish your business plan in 60 days, is for the licensing and in my case, the health inspection requirements. This decides whether 60 days is enough to launch. Then there are other critical questions such as:

Q: How much branding do I need? Do I need a business card? A banner? A website?

Tracey: I was fortunate enough to have prior knowledge of my branding background, and I had the privilege of tapping into my branding network. I then outsourced talent through websites like Fiverr and Upwork for the building of Flatbush Granola’s online presence.

I think that it is important that you surround yourself with those who are like-minded in business. Having that kind of network and coming from an entrepreneurial family has helped me tremendously.

Tracey Solomon
Tracey & Katie Couric
Tracey Solomon of Flatbush Granola with Katie Couric

Q: What was your biggest challenge?

Tracey: The biggest challenge at the beginning, was Covid making an unwelcome appearance 3 months into the inception of Flatbush Granola. I had to move my business from pop-up markets to online, which I did not feel prepared for. But I then discovered the beauty of subscription boxes, an avenue I had not contemplated before. The online market was a blessing in disguise as I began getting bulk orders and had to graduate from my home kitchen to Cook Collective (a commercial kitchen).

I think that it is important that you surround yourself with those who are like-minded in business. Having that kind of network and coming from an entrepreneurial family has helped me tremendously. If you don’t have the community readily at hand, find them. There are associations out there.

Q: What makes Flatbush Granola’s product and branding unique?

Tracey: The names are inspired by the demographic of Brooklyn. There is for example ‘Fall Back’, an ode to the Fall season with its pumpkin spice blend and also a play on the Black American vernacular. I believe that you should talk through your experience, talk through your history, while still making it relevant to the product. Even the names of the candles are a shout-out to the neighborhoods of Brooklyn and their inhabitants with, Bed-Stuy Baddie, Fort Greene Fresh, Flatbush Posse, and Caribbean Queen. I believe in using your branding to share your point of view and reflect the world as you see it. Branding helps you make business sense of your passion.

Q: How did candles come into the mix?

Tracey: Well, I am ambitious by nature and I noticed how popular they were at pop-up markets and I became curious. Through the process of making them, I discovered not only that I could actually love making them more than granola, but that they both triggered the same sensory aromatic experience.

Q: What has being an entrepreneur taught you about business?

Tracey: Besides this business providing regular revenue and happy customers, I have also learnt more about the grit of being a business owner and confronting myself. I had to surrender to humility. People can gas you up your whole life but the only thing that matters is the customer and I am learning that. You can have a unique point of view and know the niche you fit into but at the end of the day if your customer is not sold on the idea then you very literally have not sold. You have to communicate aesthetically with your clientele before they take their first bite.

I also discovered more deeply the importance of self-reliance. Nobody is in a cape coming to save you. I had to find that inner reserve; to learn that nobody is going to do it for you, that they can do it with you but not for you. I am also working on trusting others for support, as that is the only way the business will grow and allow me to actually enjoy the fruits of my labour. It is a team sport and people can have your back if you allow them, once you (and they) remember that you are the captain of the ship.

Q: What has being an entrepreneur taught you about yourself?

Tracey: I have discovered that I am not only a thinker and a strategist but a creator and to me, that is beautiful. Through the process, I have found that there is creativity in me, that I can make things that people like, that have value in the marketplace, and that once I turn on this tap all my creative juices start flowing out of me. It is scary and exciting at the same time.

Q: What last piece of advice would you give novice entrepreneurs?

Tracey: Fall in love with the process. Be open to adjustments and to customer feedback but if you do not believe in the suggested change, stay true to your process. That way you will remain motivated and achieve your dreams.

I have been personally motivated by my interactions with Tracey and her products and I have been encouraged to maintain my Caribbean identity as I create my own space within this New York hustle, as a Trinidadian myself. Why fit in when we have so much to share with others about our culture, and have the ability to ‘big up’ fellow West Indians and those of the African Diaspora in the process?

Gabrielle Scott
Sapphire Productions

Gabrielle Scott is the founder of Sapphire Productions of Trinidad and Tobago. She is a writer, theatre-maker, teaching artist & creative mindfulness coach.