At First Mid, we are proud to support women-owned businesses. We have many commercial clients throughout our locations in Illinois, Missouri, and Texas, who are either fully women-owned or partially women-owned. In honor of Women’s History Month, we are highlighting women-owned businesses who have worked with First Mid to inspire other women who may dream of becoming entrepreneurs or growing their businesses.
Sara’s Boxes and Boards is a small business located in O’Fallon, Missouri, and is owned by Sara Chinnock. Sara is from Alabama and is proud of her theme “Midwest Flavor and Southern Flair”. According to her website, she provides crowd-pleasing gifts and treats inspired by southern hospitality. She provides charcuterie boards and boxes for special occasions and events — whether they be big or small, or anywhere in between. She also offers catering and gifting options and is working on creating tackle boxes for children and adults to bring along on road trips. Her goal is to bring people together and gather around her charcuterie boards and provide sustenance to fill everyone’s stomachs while they are having a good time in the company of others.
Sara was asked a series of questions about her business journey and her experience working with First Mid commercial lender Mike Self in St. Peters.
How did you start your career as an entrepreneur? Is this your first business?
I am a teacher by training and after graduate school, I started my first job in the Fort Zumwalt School District. After 13 years of being a teacher, I went to work for a cochlear implant company. After COVID-19, I realized my daughters were growing up and I wanted to be home with them. I had sold products from multi-level marketing companies in the past, but I had always wanted to run my own business and have my own storefront. Sara’s Boxes and Boards is a business I built from the ground up.
Were there any outside sources that were helpful for you (i.e. Courses, Training Programs, Mentors)?
Mentors, Google, and learning through experience on the job are how I developed into where I am today. I had a business coach for three years who helped me make the move from the Corporate world to becoming a solo entrepreneur. I now have a mentor who is also an entrepreneur. He asks me hard questions that make me think and push my business forward.
How did you grow your company into what it is today? Were there specific foundation blocks that you think helped you find success?
Networking is how I grew my company. I would meet new people, then ask them to have coffee to get to know them more and share my story. I am also a member of Little Black Book: Women in Business. Once I left Corporate America, I got more involved with the organization and started meeting new people. These women are my tribe and supporters. During my first year, I tried a variety of different avenues to sell my product — vendor events, farmers markets, etc. After that year, I sat down and decided what worked for me and which direction I wanted to take my company.
Did you make any mistakes along the way, and if so, how did you work past them?
Absolutely! I have tried many things that didn’t work such as partnering with other people. I worked past the mistakes by sitting down and getting myself refocused.
Has your business had any hard times? If so, how did you persevere through those times?
Having a brick-and-mortar business is exciting, but there are expenses that require a steady income. Many people only need charcuterie during holidays or special events. I am working on attaining more corporate clients so the work is more consistent throughout the year and I don’t experience as much downtime.
What advice did you receive that you think helped you succeed?
If the activity you are being asked to do/participate in does not benefit your overarching goal, then say “no”. This philosophy has been great for me to keep myself focused. My goal is always to work toward bringing people together and have an experience that will create memories for years to come.
What advice would you give other women who are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur?
Do it! Start with a business plan and have an overarching goal that you are always working toward. Set short-term and long-term goals. Celebrate your wins! Find a mentor and meet with them regularly. Ask as many questions as possible. You won’t know the answer unless you ask the question. Do your research or jump right in and learn from experience, whichever works best for you.
What are tips you have for other female entrepreneurs to help them grow their business?
Network and find people that cheer you on.
What are some of the challenges you face when it comes to being innovative in your industry?
If it isn’t popular, it is more difficult to get people to jump on board. As the popularity of charcuterie has gained momentum over the last several years, my business has grown.
What are the next steps for your business?
I plan to continue to provide gifting options for corporations in St. Louis and the surrounding areas. I will get in front of the key stakeholders and share why my charcuterie and other gifting options are the perfect fit for their company, as well as share what sets me apart from other charcuterie businesses.
How has First Mid made an impact on your business?
My commercial lender, Mike Self, and the First Mid staff in St. Peters have been extremely supportive. They have been excited for me since day one, even though they didn’t initially understand the concept of my business. They are easy to work with and always a phone call away.
How was your experience with your First Mid commercial lender?
Mike is fantastic! I feel his excitement for my business, and I know he wants me to be successful.
If you dream of starting your own business or expanding a business, click here to learn more about our Commercial Loans. Your dreams can come true, and our commercial lenders are here to help.
*This Q&A was edited for clarity and length.