What a ride, indeed.
There were frantic phone calls, text messages, anger, frustration, pacing, sweaty palms, all of it. February 3, 2011 was not just another day for us at Eat It and Like It. There had been some anticipation, earlier versions of the website and hours upon hours upon hours of discussion about what this new “thing” in Savannah and the South would be. Sure, it was a blog that allowed me to enjoy a hobby and share it with you, but it was also the birth of what we hopped would be a growing small business. At the end of the day, Eat It and Like It was created to have some fun, but also with the potential to be a small business. How fast it would grow depended on, frankly, you and your support.
At that time you may recall (February 2011) I was still one of the weeknight anchors for the 10pm news here in Savannah. I had enjoyed a close to 20 year career in television news. I wasn’t going anywhere. News was where I wanted to be. This food stuff was just some fun on the side. Get to know some chefs, learn how to cook a few things, pick up some tips and move on. Maybe pick up a few bucks through web advertising, but really nothing dramatic. Eight months later we launched our television show and the rest is history being written as we speak. I don’t want to overstate that and make it sound more imposing than it really is, but this has been a life changing experience.
Four and a half years ago (Summer of 2010) a friend of mine, Senea Crystal, suggested I take a run at becoming “Savannah’s Anthony Bourdain” (her words not mine). There was a lot of food in this city and the South really that doesn’t get the publicity that the fried chicken lines do. That set us out on a journey to find the best and most creative foods we can find in the South. Sure, sometimes we sit down with the greasiest burger we can find, or more recently Fried Chicken on our show, but in the big picture we are trying to push the envelope to share a different kind of Southern cuisine with you. There are amazing talents in this area that choose to be here. Not because they aren’t good enough to do their thing in a New York or New Orleans, or Chicago. We are the beneficiaries of that and I am having a blast sharing as much of that as possible with you every week.
During these four years, Senea Crystal and I have left our careers behind to grow this thing as much and as quickly as possible. It hasn’t always been easy. She gave up her career in Marketing and Business, I gave up my spot on the 10:00pm news. No regrets. Here we are, sitting on Savananh/Hilton Head Island’s #1 local television show. We’ve been nominated for EMMY Awards three times and are trying every single day to be better. Where this will take us? We have no idea, but we are enjoying the ride. We couldn’t do it without you and your support. Thank you for watching. Thank you for telling your friends and thank you for taking the time to pop in here to this website.
Before I go, I wanted to use this opportunity to share some things with you that I never thought I’d be in a position to. I get asked all the time by people about the trials and tribulations of starting a small business. There are plenty. Business can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be unbelievably ugly. So, I will leave you now with (in honor of our 4th anniversary at Eat It and Like It) 4 things I’ve learned about running a small business. Ultimately, if anyone is thinking about it, and some of you are, then this is something you should keep in mind.
1. There is a big difference between enjoying cooking for friends and parties, and owning a restaurant. Not only do I mean that literally, but I also mean it figuratively. Owning your own business takes 24/7 commitment. 50% effort will get you 100% failure. You need to be willing to do the dirty work when everyone else is enjoying their weekend at the beach, in front of the TV, or at a ball game. It can be the lonliest of experiences. But that’s why it’s so rewarding when you succeed.
2. Nothing is free. So true, so true, so true. Common sense, no? Of course it is, but that doesn’t stop people from thinking they will get help from unlikely places. More times than not, the only person you can rely on is yourself to see things through. I had the advantage in Savannah of already being a recognizable face from the news when I started knocking on doors looking for sponsors. That didn’t stop people from slamming doors in my face, being rude, or completely dismissing my “little food thing” idea.
3. Believe in yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are opening a bakery or a car dealership. You have to believe in what you are doing, or why do it? You have to know your vision, your concept, and your plan better than anyone and be prepared to answer any question about your “baby” at any given time. And finally…
4. If your idea is good enough? Someone at some point will try to steal it. Do your thing to the best of your ability and success will follow. In the meantime, know your stuff. CYA, FBI, CIA, IOU. You get the picture.
See you on TV.