Regina McRae – Founder of Grandma’s Secrets

[quote style=”boxed”]”When you love what you do, you love those who enable you to do it, and you treat them accordingly.”[/quote]

Although founder and owner of Grandma’s Secrets, Regina McRae, had been baking since she was eight years old, the public did not get to enjoy her products until a Christmas party in 1994. The rest, you could say, is “her-story.” Starting with $10 and nine pies, Regina planned on delivering her products until she could open a bake shop.

After hearing clients extol the virtues of having products bought to their doorsteps, she realized she had found a niche and labeled herself New York’s only dessert delivery company. Seventeen years later, she is still the only one! Regina was named New York Daily News Critics’ Choice, New York Magazine’s Editor’s Pick, and Nickelodeon Parent’s Pick, and has been featured in Black Enterprise Magazine and “O” Magazine, to name a few. She was also featured on the Today Show, Good Day New York, MTV, and the Food Network, as a guest and as a Challenger. She is author of Taking the Cake: Your Ultimate Cake Guide and host of Business Matters, Where Your Small Business Matters, a weekly broadcast for small businesses.

What are you working on right now?

I have been surprised (shocked?) at the success of my little internet radio show. I am spending serious time growing and expanding its reach.

Where did the idea for Grandma’s Secrets come from?

This company was a serious accident. I like to say all the time that I didn’t go into business—I fell into business. Although I baked all of my life, only family and friends had tasted my desserts. After running my 1st NYC Marathon, I attended a Christmas party at the NY RoadRunners club. Each of us had to bring a dish, and I bought my (soon-to-be) famous sweet potato pies. History was made in the basement of that club!

What does your typical day look like?

I try to hit the gym or run a few miles everyday; I’ve gotta sweat off those cupcakes! I then spend a few hours checking email, promoting my radio show, promoting the company through various requests for interviews and designing a few cake by email. Then I’m ready to get down to business (the real business!). I then bake or decorate already finished products, and either deliver them or prepare them for delivery.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I am my own research and development department. (How would you like that job?) So I try out new recipes and eat quite a few. If I like something, I try it out on lots of others vying for that tester position.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Cupcakes have always been my favorite dessert. I call them bite-sized love. They seem to be all the rage nowadays, so I get lots of cupcake orders, which, of course, pleases me immensely.

What’s the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

All of my jobs were the worst, and what I learned was that I needed to be self-employed! I was a paralegal in another life, working in busy New York City law firms. I worked extremely long, hard hours, carried a lot of stress, and had to bury my creative spirit to fit into the corporate mold. I would polish up my resume to move on, not realizing I didn’t need to change jobs. Instead, I needed to change me.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would make sure I had enough money! I started with $10 and nine pies, literally! Remember what Kevin Costner said in Field of Dreams? If you build it, they will come. That was Hollywood. They don’t come; you have to go get them. And you need funds for that. So if I got the chance to do it again, I would seek investors, loans or lots of savings.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

When people share with me their desire to become self employed, I ask them what is it they love to do and what business they want to go into? When they say they are not sure, I tell them not to quit their day jobs. I explain that you have to have a passion for what you do, because that is the only thing that will sustain you in the dark times, the tough times, the I-don’t-know-if-I-can-take-this-anymore times. You have to love what you do so much that you are willing to do it for free, or even pay for the chance to do it. So what I do daily is live my passion, and I recommend others do the same!

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I experienced lots of failures, the most blaring of which was not having a network surrounding me where I could share information and get tough questions answered. I overcame this by starting my own radio show, Business Matters, Where Your Small Business Matters. Every week, lively and informative guests share their stories, struggles and triumphs, and give sound business advice to me and my listening audience.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Customer service is the key to success. I actually teach baking classes, renting the secrets. People have asked me if I am worried about sharing my recipes. I am not, because if someone can take them and develop a great business from them, then I taught a great class! I am not worried about losing customers, because mine are extremely loyal to me. I have had some for 15 or 16 years. Once they find me, they don’t let go because they become like family to me, and I go above and beyond for them. When you love what you do, you love those who enable you to do it, and you treat them accordingly.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I wish people would not be so mean to one another. It sounds like a cliché, but what the world needs is more love. And knowing that the change I want to see in the world begins with me, I go about it by giving as much love as possible.

Tell us a secret.

Fruit needs salt to bring out sweetness. Add a pinch to apples, blueberries or cherries to take your pie from bland to fantastic!

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  1. BlogTalkRadio, because they host my weekly show, and I get to reach out to thousands of small businesses, meet great guests and constantly improve my business skills.
  2. HARO is the best online tool for small businesses ever created! You get matched up with people who are looking for interviews, and get to promote your business, book or idea to them.
  3. If you are interested in being a guest on internet radio shows, this resource keeps you updated on current openings.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The book of your faith, whether it’s the Bible, Torah, Quran or some other title. You will need daily doses of inspiration to keep up with the demands of being a business owner!

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

I keep up with rolling pins, and they don’t Twitter! So I am sort of a dinosaur and don’t Twitter. However, I would suggest following leaders in the industry of your business.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I was able to take time away from the business recently and connect with girlfriends—my circle of sisters—at an outdoor music event. We laughed and giggled at nothing at all. We were just happy to be away from the pressures of our daily grinds for a few hours, to enjoy the great weather and great music.

Who is your hero?

My mother and grandmother are my heroes for giving me a moral compass and teaching me the value of hard work and perseverance through their examples, life lessons and great recipes!

If you look back on the past 17 years, from where you are in your life today, was the struggle and all the sacrifice worth it?

I couldn’t imagine my life any other way!

If you could choose another business to start, what would it be?

I would found a baking school, teach what they don’t teach in culinary arts institutes. None of them teach you to make a peach cobbler!


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