Entrepreneur Spotlight: Saidah Farrell, Marshmallow of the Month Club
Business growth looks different for every entrepreneur. For some, it could mean product diversification or entering new markets, for others it could mean opening a storefront or upgrading technology.
For Saidah Farrell, owner of Marshmallow of the Month Club, growing her company that creates subscription boxes of artisan marshmallows, freshly baked graham crackers and chef-inspired sipping cocoas, meant the ability to expand her operations and hire employees.
“For four years, I’d been doing every marshmallow, every graham cracker all by myself,” Farrell recalled. “So last year was all about education – learning how to grow my business.”
She started the first iteration of the Marshmallow of the Month Club back in 2013 and in the years since, learned a lot from trial and error, one-off trainings and her peers. This time though, she needed something different.
“I’m not interested in a cookie-cutter course. I didn’t want to just watch a video; I really wanted a personalized, hands-on experience.”
After attending a JumpStart pitch competition and connecting with a mentor, Farrell applied for and was accepted into the Small Business Impact Program last summer. Farrell says that’s where she found what she was looking for: a customized approach.
“Whether we were working on value proposition or financial planning, we weren’t using a template,” she explains. “It was your value proposition; the class was looking at your finances.”
For the 12-week accelerator, alongside seven other like-minded entrepreneurs, Farrell sharpened her business skills through hands-on education. Every Impact Program ends with a pitch competition where participants present their businesses to a panel of judges. For Saidah’s graduating class, their finale event was co-hosted by the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“Just being at the Browns’ stadium felt really special,” Farrell says of her experience. That sentiment was ultimately the goal of the organizations’ collaboration: to create elevated events that would inspire local entrepreneurs to take their businesses to new heights.
Farrell Shines at the Small Business Showcase
At the pitch competition, Farrell and her classmates put what they learned to the test and took to the stage for the chance to take home up to $10,000 in grant capital.
“After we finished our presentations, there was an intermission and people were coming up to me saying, ‘you’ve got this, you’ve got this.’”
The judges agreed and Farrell was announced as the grand prize winner. Not only did she walk away from the Impact Program with a newfound knowledge of practical business strategies, industry-specific mentoring and $10K, but the limelight also led to a critical connection: the Cleveland Browns later reached out to purchase holiday gifts from the Marshmallow of the Month Club for their corporate partners.
Farrell says she used the prize money to hire seasonal staff and move production from her house to a commercial kitchen, where she was able to prepare and package 210 gift boxes for the Browns, her largest order to date.
To pull off the special requests and personalized touches for the Browns, Farrell tapped into the entrepreneurial network, reconnecting with artists and suppliers across the city.
“It was cool to be able to source all the different pieces and parts from other local businesses and coordinate a super customized box that was really well-made,” Farrell says.
Inside each tailor-made box, the team requested that Farrell enclose an insert that they were printing and would be sending over.
“I thought it was going to be a Christmas card,” she says. “And when I finally received them, it was a very humbling moment because the insert was actually about me – with my picture, introducing my company to all of the executives that they were sending the boxes to.”
JumpStart provides startups and small businesses with the capital, services and connections they need to grow. It is the combination of these resources that allows entrepreneurs like Farrell to gain traction and take their businesses to new heights.