Updated: May 18, 2021
Hi friends! Welcome to the Episode 4 of 5 Questions with The Loveliest. An Honest Discussion with my friend Amy Foster a mom, and owner of Naturally Soergels.
An Honest Discussion with my friend Amy Foster a mom, gluten-free obsessed, and owner of Naturally Soergels.
FUN FACT: My first job was at Soergels at age 15 in the bakery. Also, Amy and I went to the same high school together too.
I love Amy's journey of growing up in the family business but setting out to do her own thing, only to find out in 2007 she was diagnosed with celiac disease, and her life completely changed. She started navigating what this path would look like and along the way her path brought her to Naturally Soergels! She had an opportunity to create a space that she needed, as well as so many other Pittsburghers @naturallysoergelsIf you haven’t stopped into her physical location in Wexford, you need to! She has so many amazing products that are organic, natural, gluten-free and allergen-free food stores.
I hope you find something in her story that resonates with your today!
When you were a little girl what did you want to be when you grew up? I didn't ever have a set path but I always interested in health, medicine, and how the body works.
What was your first paying job? ( like when you were a teenager..) Soergel's! :-)
Did you go to college? What Did you study and what were you wanting to be? I did! I went to Johns Hopkins University and studied public health. I did my graduate work at Pitt and got a Master in Public Health in Epidemiology. I still wanted to be in the health field, but was enjoying learning about nutrition, community health, and how foods impacted your health.
What made you want to start your own business? I was diagnosed with celiac disease at the end of college and was going right into graduate school. I still didn't understand the depth of need in our area for people to be able to find foods that they could eat. So many people (adults and children) struggle with food sensitivities or allergies that it became clear that I needed to help bridge the gap. When I opened Naturally Soergel's there wasn't much available that was easy to get and tasted good.
What did your life look like at the time (kids, single, married)? I was single but I met my now-husband the day I opened Naturally Soergel's. He has celiac disease too and he came in on the first day and we hit it off! We've been together ever since.
Once you decided to make your dream a reality what did the path look like to start your own business? Were you scared? Did you dive in or take baby steps? I was so excited that I didn't have time to be scared. It was exciting to renovate a shed on the farm into a fully functioning store. I spent about 6 months product planning and then dove right in!
How did you learn how to open or start your business? What were some of the curveballs along the way? Were you always good at it? I have a wonderful family who helped me along the way. Because this store is on the same property as my parents' business, they were very helpful when we were opening Naturally Soergel's. There were certainly construction curveballs and regulation issues that we had to get ironed out before opening. I have learned a lot along the way!
What are some of the early memories of total flops or failures? The first time a freezer case went down I was minutes from going out of town. The freezer got stuck in a defrost cycle and actually got HOT and all of my product was destroyed. I had to rely on my wonderful employees to help navigate the issue, throw away all of the product (none of it could be saved) and clean the cases. It was a total disaster!
What was a BIG win early on? My first full year being business and needing to put two additions on because the need for more products kept growing and growing. I loved that we had to add on!
What’s a mistake you made that in the long run was a blessing because it led you to something bigger and better? Hiring the right people for the job. We have a great staff who care VERY deeply about the store, the products and the community/customers. I have learned how to curate a helpful staff over the years.
When did you figure out how to stop listening to others and fully invest in your dreams? To be honest, I didn't really listen to others. I didn't have time for that. I had one person in my life at the time who didn't really support me or what I was doing but I had to let that relationship go and move forward. Haven't looked back since!
How do you support other business entrepreneurs in your industry and in general? I love to do interviews about my story, my path and the ups and downs. I have spoken at national conventions, been on a board of advisors for the industry and try to stay up to date as much as possible.
"Don't wait. In a year from now, you would have wished you started. There's always time and there's always time to go back to what you were doing if it doesn't work out."
Lots of my followers want to know how do you know if an idea is the RIGHT idea? OR when to take the leap? NOW! Don't wait. In a year from now, you would have wished you started. There's always time and there's always time to go back to what you were doing if it doesn't work out.
What advice would you give your younger-self? Lighten up! Don't take it so seriously, have fun and take a REAL lunch break. I ALWAYS worked through lunch and I regret it all the time. I have a great opportunity to eat outside and in a beautiful setting but I didn't take advantage of it.
What’s the future of your business look like? Good question! I have three small children now and they are my priority. I want to keep Naturally Soergel's going in the capacity it is in now and am starting to get an online store open!
"You have to spend money to make money. Not to be wasteful or making poor decisions with your money but know that sometimes you may have to spend/lose a little money to make the business move forward."
How do you balance the financial risk for new opportunities with financial security? You have to spend money to make money. Not to be wasteful or making poor decisions with your money but know that sometimes you may have to spend/lose a little money to make the business move forward.
Where can people find you and support you? www.soergels.com
2573 Brandt School Road Wexford PA, 15090
Anything else you'd want to add to help women on their journey? Take it one step at a time. Take it one issue/hurdle at a time and solve each problem as them come up. Celebrate ALL the wins - the big, the small, the seemingly insignificant. Be patient with yourself and let your family/friends know you need their support if you don't have it. You got this!