By Jennifer Shelton
Director, WWU Small Business Development Center
Courtesy to the Bellingham Business Journal
Originally from Montana, Peg Cutting and her husband Doug fell in love with Blaine, Wash., when they came to Semiahmoo on vacation in 2000.
Within a year, they made the move to relocate from Seattle, where they were working at the time, to Blaine, where they could enjoy the beauty of nature surrounding the town and take advantage of the smaller schools and other benefits available for their children.
After her children graduated, Peg left her career as a retail manger and started in business in 2006, running an art studio and offering catering and culinary classes.
“Our business was new to the area, and this was a great way to meet people,” she said. “Cooking is an intimate experience. In fact, we notice a community is developing out of the folks that currently take our cooking classes.”
A unique aspect about Peg’s business is that she sources and stocks special ingredients that are typically hard to find. These ingredients make her food and culinary experience unique.
Her business focus has three elements: education, entertainment and eating.
Even during the economic downturn, demand for her services continued to grow.
In 2010, Peg was given the option to take over additional space so she could add retail items for sale. In order to complete this expansion, she needed financing.
Blaine has a unique financing opportunity for businesses with its Revolving Economic Development Loan Program, which is administered through Sterling Bank.
During her loan application process, Peg heard about the Small Business Development Center program, part of Western Washington University’s College
of Business & Economics, and made an appointment with the program’s directors.
“The SBDC is a great service I heard about through the RED loan program,” Peg said. “As part of the loan application process, my husband and I met with one of their business advisers to go over my business plan and financial forecast. It is no cost and completely confidential. The adviser went over the sales forecast assumptions with us and covered my background and plans for handling the business operations. I left feeling extremely confident that I could do this.”
During her first year in business, Peg exceeded sales forecasts and also encountered a challenge.
She needed a bigger space to be able to have her retail section and catering kitchen together rather than in two separate areas.
She found a great location on Peace Portal Drive with a water view from the kitchen and the retail area. The next hurdle to overcome was transitioning that raw space into a commercial kitchen, which was no easy task.
Once again, she turned to Blaine’s RED loan program to finance for this expansion. She was successful again at securing financing.
After three months of hard work coordinating construction, licenses, permits, moving, set up and marketing, she had a grand reopening on Mother’s Day 2011.
In their new space, Tabletop Gourmet Specialties offer retail kitchen and gift items, catering, personal chef services, pick-up meals, consulting and classes for couples, individuals, groups, parties and team-building groups. Peg’s business provides a resource for her community where people don’t have to drive far for special gifts or culinary experiences.
“Many people ask me how I knew I would be successful in Blaine,” Peg said. “I believe it is because I treat every aspect of doing what I love like a business. This means consistency, such as regular hours, professionalism, and having systemized approach to running the business.”
“Then they ask how I knew I’d be successful in business,” she continued. “Experience is the key. Testing and knowing your market is also very important. Just being good at something doesn’t translate to success. It takes a different set of skills to run and grow a business. That is one reason services such as WWU’s SBDC are valuable to help business owners develop and hone their business skills.”
Peg’s advice to small-business owners:
“Think outside the box. Change on a dime. Don’t be afraid of abandoning a strategy you wanted for one that might work better based on the current situation.”
Peg believes that you cannot instruct people on how to entertain with a book. Success in culinary arts and entertaining is accomplished by demonstrating combinations of food ingredients, experience, hard work and business knowledge.
Learn more about the Small Business Development Center at www.cbe.wwu.edu/sbdc.
Photo courtesy of the Small Business Development Center