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How Speakcheesy Founder Hillery Sawyer Achieved Her Gourmet Food Truck Dream with a PayPal Loan



Transcript


Many entrepreneurs and small business owners watching know just how challenging it can be to start, secure financing, and grow your business—especially through a pandemic. It’s easy to quit and give up, but you can also turn things around. Hillery Sawyer, Owner of Speakcheesy, a gourmet grilled cheese food truck, has had quite the entrepreneurial journey thus far. From once operating off the previous day’s sales, to securing a PayPal small business loan, and overcoming a pandemic pivot, Hillery’s story of persistence is one everyone needs to hear.


Transcription:


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Hillery, thank you so much for joining us on the show.


Hillery Sawyer:

Thank you so much, John. Happy to be here.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah, fantastic. So tell us about Speakcheesy? I love the name.


Hillery Sawyer:

Yeah.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

And I love the concept and of course, who doesn’t like grilled cheese sandwiches.


Hillery Sawyer:

Right.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Right? So.


Hillery Sawyer:

So we categorize Speakcheesy as a funky rolling gourmet grilled cheesery.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay.


Hillery Sawyer:

So we have 36 different types of gourmet grilled cheese.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Wow, that’s a lot of different grilled cheeses.


Hillery Sawyer:

Yes, a lot.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

I know of maybe one or two, with tomato or without tomato. How did you want it? But you take it on from there. Right?


Hillery Sawyer:

Right. So we make cheese blends.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay.


Hillery Sawyer:

So everything is grated and blended together. We even make our own spices to go into the cheese.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Wow.


Hillery Sawyer:

So we call it edge to edge flavor.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay.


Hillery Sawyer:

We sous vide the cheese.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay.


Hillery Sawyer:

Before it hits the bread.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Wow.


Hillery Sawyer:

And that keeps the moisture and the fat in the cheese, and then it makes for that perfect stretch.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Wow.


Hillery Sawyer:

So we’re a little bit of cheese nerds about it.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

That’s pretty cool. So take us back. How did the whole idea come about? We talked a little bit before we got recording today, but I think it’s a great story that our viewers would love to hear.


Hillery Sawyer:

Sure. Yeah, so I started Speakcheesy in 2014 with my two best friends.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay.


Hillery Sawyer:

I was turning 27, newly moved back to my hometown and they wanted to do something special for my birthday. So they asked me what they could make me for dinner. And I was like, “I want you to make me the best grilled cheese you can make me.” Because grilled cheese is my favorite food.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Sure.


Hillery Sawyer:

And so it was sitting around that dinner table that we got to talking about how there was a need in our community for a late night food truck. Our beautiful downtown has so many great spots for hanging out and even a beer garden and a brewery and all of that stuff.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

And that’s in Rome, Georgia?


Hillery Sawyer:

That’s in Rome, Georgia.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay. Yep.


Hillery Sawyer:

And, gorgeous downtown. But there wasn’t a food truck and there wasn’t anywhere for folks to eat after 11:00 PM or even after 10.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay. Sure, sure. And if you’ve been out drinking, you’ve been to the beer garden.


Hillery Sawyer:

Exactly.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Everyone knows, you want that cheese or something cheesy, right?


Hillery Sawyer:

Right. Carbs and fat. That’s what you need.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.


Hillery Sawyer:

And so yeah, we thought this was a great creative opportunity for us to have a lot of fun because grilled cheese is so versatile.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah.


Hillery Sawyer:

Sure. And it was an idea we just couldn’t get past.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah. You had to develop it.


Hillery Sawyer:

It was just, yeah, we had to.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

It was just where the need exists, the solution must be found.


Hillery Sawyer:

It was so neat.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah.


Hillery Sawyer:

So we didn’t have the name Speakcheesy right away.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay.


Hillery Sawyer:

Originally we were call it, Say Cheese. Two of us were marketers and one of us was a recent culinary arts grad.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay.


Hillery Sawyer:

So we wanted to build the marketing right into the business.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah.


Hillery Sawyer:

So that folks would be interested in taking pictures and sharing their cheese pools with everyone.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Sure, sure.


Hillery Sawyer:

So yeah, it took us about two weeks to come up with a name. And as soon as we did, we’re like, “We’re getting the LLC now.”


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Right.


Hillery Sawyer:

We didn’t have any money, no business know how, we didn’t know if we needed lawyers or anything like that.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Sure.


Hillery Sawyer:

No one in my family had started a business like that.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Right.


Hillery Sawyer:

And neither of the other two ladies as well.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Right.


Hillery Sawyer:

So we figured it out, figured out what we needed to do, and filed it ourselves and then started down the path of building the awareness. So we took to the streets.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay.


Hillery Sawyer:

And started making a grilled cheese pop up.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay. Okay. So it might be just something on the street corner, or?


Hillery Sawyer:

That’s right.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Something like that, right?


Hillery Sawyer:

Yeah.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

That all of a sudden people are.


Hillery Sawyer:

A little speakeasy of grilled cheese right around the corner.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Right.


Hillery Sawyer:

Yeah. We would just set up under an awning. We partnered with the local Maker Space there.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay.


Hillery Sawyer:

They gave us kitchen space and we would carry the grilled cheeses down flights of stairs out front and spread them out on a table, put out a bunch of mason jars. We already came up with all of our branding by then.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay.


Hillery Sawyer:

So it was really cute. We created a little place where you could take your mugshot with the grilled cheese.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

That’s great.


Hillery Sawyer:

And all kinds of 1920s flare.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Oh, cool. Yeah.


Hillery Sawyer:

For you to pose with your grilled cheese.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah. You’re kind of looking back or counting on your marketing expertise, right?


Hillery Sawyer:

That’s right. Yeah.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah. Pretty cool.


Hillery Sawyer:

And we really were just seeing if folks were interested. And it took off.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah.


Hillery Sawyer:

And we ended up doing that for about six months and the demand kept growing.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay, okay.


Hillery Sawyer:

And then soon people wanted us at events and stuff like that.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Oh, that’s neat.


Hillery Sawyer:

And we were like, we really have to figure out how to get a truck.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah. Right, right.


Hillery Sawyer:

Yeah.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

So how do you go from that to saying, alright we want to jump right in and get a truck and take this business to the next level?


Hillery Sawyer:

Yeah.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Trucks are not cheap.


Hillery Sawyer:

No, they’re not. And when you start looking out there at the food truck world, there is no MVP or minimal viable product that you can see. You can’t go to a website and be like, this is how to food truck, it doesn’t exist.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Right.


Hillery Sawyer:

There’s no food truck bible, in a sense.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay. Okay.


Hillery Sawyer:

So we didn’t know how much we needed.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah.


Hillery Sawyer:

Or we had literally zero credit between us.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah.


Hillery Sawyer:

Most of us were fresh out of college or ruined our credit in college, or had tons of student debt.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Sure.


Hillery Sawyer:

So we had to be creative about how to do that.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Right.


Hillery Sawyer:

So this whole agile from our marketing background of taking the most basic form of getting started and then bootstrapping from there.


Jim Fitzpatrick:

Okay.


Hillery Sawyer:

So what did we need to get started with? So we started with the tent, right?