atlanta's independent entrepreneur network
Christy Annis owns Peas for Prosperity, a pea-focused gift company.
LRBN: We’re in this (metaphorical) elevator together for 30 floors – Hi there, what do you do?
CA: I sell peas. That's my standard answer to everyone - it gets quite a shock. Basically I sell peas in fancy, eco-friendly gift bags, and I donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. Through my Peas to Paychecks program, I partner with different organizations around town to put people back to work by hiring them to process and produce my products.
CA: Well, here in the south we have a tradition - we eat BEP (black-eyed peas) on New Year's Day for good luck and prosperity in the coming year. People in the South are passionate about their peas - it's religion here! You simply HAVE to eat peas on New Year's Day.
CA: Well, people mostly eat peas in what I call “Peas Season” (over the holidays), but people do eat peas year round, and people should absolutely eat more peas all year. Peas are delicious, nutritious,
healthy, and fun to eat. What I have found is that people are passionate about peas, but they don't know how to cook them. People are scared of the pea. I'm here to change that. I even make brownies with peas!
LRBN: Woah, that's pretty intense! A little Jessica Seinfeld action, huh? How long did it take you to go from ideation to implementation?
CA: It took me about a month. I had the crazy idea a little over a year ago around Halloween. My first bags were ready around Dec 1st, so I put it all together in about a month. It was definitely a crazy month - everyone I told about the idea said, Hmmmm do you know how close it is to Christmas? You're crazy, you can't do that! But I didn't care. I wanted to do it, and I did it anyway.
LRBN: You recently got invited on to Tony Hsieh's (Zappos CEO) "Delivering Happiness" bus - how did you land that?
CA: I had a chance meeting with Jenn, Tony's partner in the Delivering Happiness book when I went to SXSW in Austin. I was in the airport flying back to Atlanta. I had a table in the airport with a plug, and she needed some juice. They had a bus in Austin that we kept seeing everywhere, and I wanted on that bus. We had a great chat, and she sent me a book. I saw on her Facebook page they were having a contest to win a seat on the bus. I was dying to win! I entered, but didn't win. I was shocked when I got an email one night from the winner asking me to join her on the bus. She said she read my entry on the blog and watched me on Facebook and Twitter for a few days. She asked me to be her bus mate. It was such an honor to be asked, and such an inspiration - she really took the meaning of the book and paid it forward.
LRBN: That's very cool. Any surprises to owning your own business (positive or otherwise)?
CA: Oh my gosh, how much time do you have? Wow, well, I never planned to have a business so I guess just having one has been a huge surprise. And I think the lack of a life has been a very tough adjustment. When you own your own business, your life is work - there really is no social life unless it somehow is tied to your business. There is no off-switch, no way to leave it at the office, which can be very hard. BUT when you love what you do, it doesn't feel like work. That's also why you have to love what you're doing
and be passionate about your business. If you don't love it, get out. I think the other surprise is how many hats I have to wear and how many new skills I have learned. When you're a one-woman show, you have to do everything. You end up figuring out how to do a lot of things.
LRBN: Okay, so most valuable new skill and biggest mistake made along the way?
CA: This is going to sound funny, but my most valuable new skill is probably my use of power tools! When I started I didn't know the different between a Phillips and flat head screwdriver - now I am greeted by name when I walk into Home Depot, and I have a whole collection of power tools.
Biggest mistake - trusting other people to handle a core aspect of my business. If it’s a core part of your business, don't trust anyone else. You have to do it yourself.
LRBN: How did you get the word out about your product and build up your customer base?
CA: Gosh, it's really been social media and networking. I wasn't in a position to afford much, so I networked to death, and it paid off.
LRBN: Any advice for enterprising indiepreneurs?
CA: Have passion for what you're doing, start working towards your goals - whether it's 10 minutes or an hour a week, or a day on the weekends - start doing something to launch your ideas. Don't worry about making something perfect, creating a business plan, or waiting for your friends or family to give you their blessing - just do something. If it's meant to be, it will be. Trust your crazy ideas.
LRBN: What’s next?
CA: I get docked for this sometimes, but I don't think about the future a lot. I didn't start Peas For Prosperity to start a business - it was an accident. My long-term goal is to stay out of a cubicle. Forever. I hope to introduce new black-eyed pea products to the market in 2011. I also have a line of handcrafted recycled jewelry. I am in a showroom in the Americas Mart and am looking forward to the Gift Mart in January. I hope to keep creating new products and ideas to raise money and employ more and more people in Atlanta, and possibly other cities. The black-eyed pea market is wide open, and a lot of people need jobs - hopefully we can continue to grow.
LRBN: Any parting words? (Please feel free to shamelessly promote yourself here if you so desire…)
CA: I wish everyone Luck and Prosperity in 2011. Check out www.peasforprosperity.com to get your holiday peas! I'm also selling complementary southern specialty food products and a line of second chance items form other people who have lost jobs and started selling products. Peace, luck & Peas!