Pink House Alchemy / Women Owned
Alist Nation Magazine has made it a point to support Women Owned Businesses. In each issue you will get to know several women owned businesses. You get an exclusive interview with each of these inspiriting women and we help you connect with their businesses. It’s time to put our money where our mouths are and support local businesses that are owned and run by women. In the July 2021 issue we interview Emily Lawson, founder of Pink House Alchemy.
Emily Lawson, founder of Pink House Alchemy
Tell us a little about yourself and your childhood.
I was born and raised in Springfield Missouri, right in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. My mother’s family are generations deep in the hills of Missouri and my father’s family are dairy and cattle farmers. I grew up in the city and had a true kids on bikes childhood; come home when the street lights are on, swim in flood waters by drainage ditches and catch lighting bugs in jars for light. I spent a lot of time at my great grandparent’s farm which is where my whole love for food and cooking began. My Nana, who you will read about a lot if you follow Pink House, was an incredible cook, a woman of her time where out of necessity, everyone could cook everything from scratch. But there was something magical in the way nana cooked, her gardens we intense, everything you could think of grew there, she put herbs in everything, made lemonades out of left over jam pots and fed farm crews of 20-30 people hot lunch every single day where everything was piping hot, and her tables were always stunning, fresh flowers, clean linens all accomplished between her outdoor chores and while wearing heels! She took time to paint giant murals on her garage walls and hand embroider quit squares unlike anything I still have ever seen. It was through her that I marveled at what all was possible in a single day and my deep love and appreciation for where food comes from sparked in me a lifelong love.
When did you decide you wanted to start your own company?
I think the writing had been on the wall in a way since I began working at 16. I am passionate about learning and passionate about how things come together to make other things work. Problem solving continues to be where I thrive It was my senior year in college when I saw the opportunity for Pink House and I could plainly see at the time that it could be something great.
Was there a specific moment when you knew this was what you wanted to do?
Farmers Market 2012, I bought my first bundle of lavender from Ugly Bunny Farms. The connection to farmer and consumer was powerful, it was a clear path. I could showcase my love for the delicious and the hard working farmer at one time.
After you made the decisions, what steps did you take?
I was working with a local coffee roaster Arsaga's Coffee Roasters, and we began there, selling our syrups partnered with their coffee and lemonades. I was living in a 100 year old pink house at the time. Those were sticky months! Making syrups on the top of a 1940s gas stove packaging and hauling syrups all over the place was a fun and intense time of growth for us. Quickly it became obvious that we needed a production facility and in April of 2013, we moved into the University of Arkansas food innovation center and from there, stabilized the product, developed best practices and focused on consistency and quality.
How did you fund this project?
Pink House has always been a boot strapped company. I am a food and beverage consultant and spent the first 5-6 years of pink House's life opening bars and restaurants and cafes to support the manufacturing of the products. We also have a local lender as we have grown that assisted us in purchase order funding and a line of credit. being born. Those were definitely some stressful times.
What were the hardest hurdles?
There are so many hurdles when you own a small business. Work life balance, underfunded, growing too fast, all of these common issues are things that we deal with and have learned to meet head on. Find your system and stick to it.
What advise do you wish someone would have given you?
Just keep going. If you believe in what you are doing and you clearly have a vision for where you are headed. Just keep going. No matter what. And bit by bit you will get there.
Did you have a mentor?
I have never shied away from asking questions. I have leveraged every small business resource in my state and am now part of several entrepreneur groups. I try to attend online lectures on specific topics I am working on in my industry and I am always learning. I would love a mentor! If a fellow lady boss reads this and thinks, "I would love to chat with her," It would be great to meet more women like me that are further along in their careers.
At any point did you want to give up?
I always have a plan B, always. So no I have never wanted to give up.
What made you keep going?
I can see a path for Pink House, we have done so much in our short life as a business. We are a company of incredibly capable women, they inspire me every single day, it is for them that I keep pushing. Also I love what I do, even when its painful.
How long did it take to become profitable?
It took Pink House six years to turn solid profits. We have grown every year significantly, and our profit margin is now starting to grow along with us as we become more efficient and focused.
What was the best thing you did to grow your business?
Customer service. When you are a small company, every single customer, no matter how small, makes a huge impact over time. As we grew we had all sorts of bumps along the way; ship times were too long, we were understaffed, we grew out of our facility, hired new team members that made the product and throughout those changes, we asked for patience, we were painfully honest, we gave away more product that we could afford, we sent hand written cards and as we stabilized the kinds words continue to flow in "great job Pink House it seems like everything is going well" and we post those for the whole company to see. That is what has allowed us to grow and grow, word of mouth has been incredible.
Do you feel it was more difficult because you are a women?
Yes, specifically in the capital raising and banking world. We must look perfect on paper and out-perform our male counterparts to even be considered as successful or worthy that has been an eye opening lesson throughout my career.
Do you think social media is important?
Social media has been extremely important for us. My wife Kat Wilson is an incredible photographer and artist and we have benefited from her beautiful photography for years. We also really love to connect with our customers on social media, people can be so creative, it is a great feeling to see something someone created with your product.
What is the happiest memory from this journey?
My happiest memory so far has been either shaking mulberries out of trees for our thicket syrup, or our very first trips to tales of the cocktail as a team. Always moments when we are all together, that’s what makes things sweet.
Was there any life lessons you learned along the way?
I have learned to slow down, if something is feeling too intense or out of control I am able to just stop, a hard stop, that could mean calling for an all staff meeting in the middle of an insanely busy day or canceling a very busy day because my nine year old daughter needs me. These hard pauses allow us to put things into perspective. It gives my staff a moment to breath and rethink a process that may be burning people out, or in my personal life I am able to work a long Friday without feeling guilty because I took special time out for my family earlier in the week. So, long pauses for me has changed a lot in my life.
Please tell us if COVID-19 has affected your business? If so, do you have a plan in place to try and get back on track?
Covid was devastating, we shuttered our business in March after losing 80% of our business and I was seven months pregnant with my third child. I was so worried for my staff and how they would get by, I was scared for myself and our children. It was some of the most intense moments of my life. But we persevered. After shutting down, we put our heads together, and came up with a plan. We pivoted and leaned into our online community and they showed up in droves. Within a month we were able to bring everyone back to work safely and we hired a teacher and had Pink House Academy for everyone’s children that worked at Pink House including my own. That was a sweet time. We are now trending better than ever with a whole new sense of gratitude.
Our readers are here to support Women-Owned business so please share your website and social media handles so we all can stay connected and support one another.pinkhousealchemy.com or phfay.com Instagram @pink_house_alchemy