Tamara R. Brown, owner of NADIA’s Gourmet Grapes™ and Entrepreneurship the Movement™, is no stranger to hard work. After working in Corporate America for over 20 years, she decided to follow her dream of becoming her own boss. Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Tamara believes in giving back to her community by being present IN the community where she operates her specialty fruit boutique. She is driven by her passion for entrepreneurship and uses that energy to educate young people and other aspiring entrepreneurs. Read our interview with the lovely Tamara below…
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I knew that I had a gift brewing down inside of me but was using it only as a hobby for a long time, a non-paid hobby might I mention. It wasn’t until I was sitting in church one evening and the sermon spoke about dreams and stepping out in faith. It was at the moment that I decided to take the leap and start my own business.
Tell us about your business.
NADIA’s Gourmet Grapes™ is a specialty fruit boutique located on the south side of Chicago. Our delicacies are made up of scrumptious green grapes, dipped in either a hand mixed white confection, premium chocolates, or homemade caramel, then topped with delicious, unique flavors. We consider our product to be gourmet because of the quality ingredients we use in addition to the special presentation we add to our couture custom grapes.
Since its inception, we’ve dipped over 200,000 grapes and added more than 30 different toppings to our menu. Customers are able to come into our store which is open 5 days a week and purchase snack size cups as well as pick up pre-ordered items. We also provide catering, fundraising opportunities, and wholesale partnering.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
We are currently partnering with Groupon where customers can purchase vouchers worth up to 40% off our gourmet grapes.
- Featured on Chicago’s ABC 7 “Chicago Proud” News Segment
- Featured restaurant in 2017 Chicago Black Restaurant Week
- Highlighted in “Black Owned Chicago” as one of Chicago’s favorite 50 Black Owned Businesses
- Featured on Xfinity’s “Community Connection” segment
- Featured in Gary Crusader
Where is your business based?
We are based on the south side Chicago, servicing Chicagoland and the surrounding suburbs.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
The first step I made was legitimizing my business. Sometimes we as small business owners get so caught up in trying to rush the process that we forget the important elements. Especially if you have a unique idea, it’s important that you secure your legal business identity. Once I had “LLC” behind my name, it was then that I began to market my business by creating a website, leveraging social media, and increasing customer awareness in various ways.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
I think the most effective ways are word of mouth and social media marketing. I’ve tried various marketing strategies but the more people talk about your business and share their experiences, others are more likely willing to try. Social media is free marketing and you just can’t get any better than that.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
One of my biggest challenges today is trying to get my product into retail stores. Although I have a brick and mortar store, I would like to expand my brand and expose my product to those who aren’t aware that we exist.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I’m in the process of networking with other small business owners to understand the process and how they were able to get into retailers. I’ve also done research and will start the vendor application process with hopes that it leads me in the right direction.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
When I decided to start a business, I developed and still practice the 3 Ps of entrepreneurship… Passion, Persistence, and Patience. I realized that I have to be passionate about my business, be persistent in reaching the goals that I set forth for my business, and be patient in knowing that success doesn’t happen overnight. My motivation is my eagerness to succeed.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
NADIA’s Gourmet Grapes™ provides a very unique customer experience. There are no other establishments who offer the products we offer at the level that we offer it. All of our products are of the highest quality. We care about our customers and we treat them the way we would like to be treated as a consumer. Presentation is very important to us, having a high level of professionalism, and a good work ethic goes a long way with a customer.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Never water yourself down because someone can’t handle your 100% proof.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
As stated previously, you have to be passionate, not just interested. Your dreams and goals should burn deep down inside of you. As an entrepreneur, you must be resilient. At times we get discouraged, lack motivation, and encounter a lot of “No’s” but we must be able to bounce back and stay the course. And lastly, you must be “overly” disciplined because the only person who holds you accountable is you!
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
The internet!!!! I say all the time that Google is free. It’s the best resource to guide anyone in the right direction for whatever business needs they have – from e-books, to videos, to on-line courses, to webinars, to infinity.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Facebook NADIA’s Gourmet Grapes
Hashtags #NADIAsGourmetGrapes #theREALGourmetGrapes #gourmetaddiction
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
“Destiny: Step Into Your Purpose” by Bishop T.D. Jakes.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
Since moving into a brick and mortar, I am learning more about business and city tax implications. As previously stated, I am currently trying to get my product into retail stores. As it relates to that, I would like to understand the UPC (bar coding) process better and begin to make progress on that.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
My mantra for 2017 is “Level Up” which entails taking my business and brand to the next level. Over the new few months, I plan to increase business sales by continuing to attract new customers and keep current customers coming back. UberEats and Groupon have helped out tremendously in this area. I am also working on a book that gives insight into my entrepreneurial journey thus far. My hope is that it provides guidance and information that is not readily available to aspiring entrepreneurs.