There are more than 30 million small businesses in operation in this country. Launching a business doesn’t come without risk, but as one South Carolina couple have found, you don’t need to have an MBA or a bulging bank account to grab your share of the American dream.
Finding the flavor
When Monique and Chevalo Wilsondebriano moved from the New York City area to Charleston, South Carolina in 2008, they had little idea that four years later they would launch the Charleston Gourmet Burger Company.
“Our business started in a backyard at a cookout,” says Chevalo. “We wanted to have special burgers for family and friends. We got herbs and spices from the area, onions and garlic and tomatoes — you know, fresh items. And we had this crazy idea to mix them in with our burger meat as we were forming the patties. Our family and friends liked it so much we didn’t even get to try one!”
“I kind of said — as a joke — that we should sell these,” laughs Monique. “But as we thought about it, we decided, hey, let’s give it try. And it kind of has taken off organically from there.”
We ended up getting entrance to the farmer’s market here in Charleston,” recounts Chevalo, “which is considered one of the top five farmer’s markets in the country. We would lug our grill there and we would make our special marinated burgers for five dollars a shot.”
The couple built the business one burger at a time. “If there was a flower show, we were there selling hamburgers,” says Monique. “If there was a concert, we were there serving food. We saved every penny and put it back into the business.”
They credit their success in part to savvy use of social media. Another way they promote themselves is through appearances on QVC. “We’ll go on twice a month selling our burgers. That definitely helps!”
Challenges and rewards
It hasn’t been easy.
“Neither one of us has a business degree. We’d never done anything like this and, no one in our family has ever done anything like this,” says Monique.
“The biggest challenge is always how to streamline and optimize our ads and social media,” adds Chevalo. “When our product started going into like Piggly Wiggly, Wal Mart, and Costco, we had to figure out how to make the ads work for the particular regions.”
When asked about their favorite part about running their own business, the couple is on the same wavelength. “Being able to inspire others to be successful,” Chevalo says immediately.
“I always tell the story about my grandmother,” says Monique. “She owned a hair salon for over 40 years, and I grew up watching her be her own boss. I never thought about my dream ‛job’, it’s always been my dream ‛business.’ And it happened! We meet so many people every single day who have just given up on their dream. Then they see Chevalo and I and they think, oh my God, these are real people, they’re just like us. Maybe I can start that business!”