Bethany Perkins was at a career crossroads when a meal sparked an idea.
While at a friend’s house for dinner in Park City, Utah in early 2010, Perkins noticed that different types of oils and vinegars were being used in the food.
“I am a foodie and I admit, a wine snob, and I appreciate high-quality food and ingredients,” she said.
Before returning to Raleigh, Perkins bought a variety of oils and vinegars from a gourmet food shop. And by the time she was home, she had decided on her new career: owner of Midtown Olive Oil, a store in Raleigh’s North Hills that offers quality olive oils, vinegars, gourmet food items and a tasting room.
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In 2006, Perkins left a sales position of 10 years at what was then BellSouth to be a stay-at-home mom. Four years later, however, she decided to re-enter the workforce, and sought a part-time job.
She found few opportunities.
“In fall of 2010, I opened this store,” said Perkins, 42, of the 1,000-square-foot space on Lassiter Mill Road.
To get started, Perkins and her husband, Ed, vice president of sales for Jones and Frank, a Raleigh commercial construction company, needed funding.
Because they had never owned a business before, they couldn’t find a bank willing to fund their startup costs, so they used some of their savings. She said similar businesses should expect to invest anywhere from $25,000 to $60,000.
In 2011, the shop had generated enough revenue to open a second location in Greensboro, near where Perkins had grown up. They opened at third store in New Bern in 2013. Because of his construction background, Ed Perkins was able to find and hire his own subcontractors as a way to save on startup costs at the second and third stores.
Bethany Perkins contracts with Veronica Foods, a 100-year-old company headquartered near San Francisco, to exclusively supply the olive oils and basalmic vinegars for all three shops.
Veronica Foods also offers a free, five-day training program, so before opening the North Hills store, the couple traveled to the corporate office to learn everything they could about olive oil and basalmic vinegar, including how to bottle it, market it and sell it in retail shops.
Perkins employs a store manager at each of her shops, and has a total of 15 to 20 part-time employees.
The shop stocks glass bottles in three sizes and fills them to order. Perkins also sells online and ships products to across the country.
Olive oils range from about $11 to $30 for organic and flavored oils to $50 for a large bottle of gourmet white truffle olive oil. Basalmic vinegars are about $10.50 to $27.50.
Perkins said she works up to 70 hours a week, including during the busy holiday season.
“It’s hard work but it is less stressful than my corporate job,” she said.
Reach Teri Saylor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweet her @terisaylor.
Advice from Bethany Perkins
▪ Do your research. Make sure you are educated about the products you are selling.
▪ Go with the best furnishings and products you can afford and don't cut corners.
▪ Make sure your employees are well-trained and well-informed on your products and customer service.
Location is very important. Go to where your potential clients are.