Inspired by Grit and Greenlights: Your small business stories

While all businesses are unique, many experiences ring true for owners everywhere. From team empowerment to COVID struggles, we received an outpouring of responses to the powerful stories highlighted in our video series Grit and Greenlights: Small Business Stories with Matthew McConaughey.   

With special thanks to all who submitted, we’re honored to share your stories and insights. 

On what it takes 

Running a business “demands grace and grit,” says Bisous Sweet Confections owner Karen Collins. 

“To start a company and navigate through the storms, the draughts, the highs and lows, to go through this on repeat, day after day, and still want to return to work each morning, that is the truth of owning a company.” 

On the passion for starting a business

Susi and Rob Brucato left careers in the finance industry to follow their passion and launch Scentcerely Yours, a create-your-own signature candle and scent company in Geneva, Vermont. 

“Our dream was to start our own business and use our experience and knowledge to create a culture, environment, and experience that both employees and customers wanted to be a part of,” Rob said. “The idea for our business came from our passion to shop together as a couple. When we brought the items home and displayed them in our house, oftentimes we felt that it wasn’t exactly what we wanted and it didn’t look or seem to fit the way we expected.”

The lack of customizable home decor gave way to the “Greenlight moment” that sparked their idea. 

“While some people make candles out of their homes, why not create a business where you can make candles and other home fragrance products in a fun, relaxing environment with a unique, one-of-a-kind experience?” Rob said. “We spent countless hours researching distributors and suppliers, and we made candles in our basement. Through all of this, our passion and excitement for our unique business opportunity became even stronger.”

On COVID struggles

Rob and Susie shared their experiences with pivoting Scentcerely Yours to make it work in the middle of a pandemic. 

“When COVID hit, it had a devastating effect on the economy and all facets of the business,” Rob said. “We had to close our doors for almost three months, relegating our business to e-commerce and online orders only.  We took this opportunity to revamp and improve our online experience. Immediately after we rolled out our new and improved website, we saw a significant increase in our online business.”

Rob added that refocusing their energy towards helping other businesses was another successful move. 

“We focused our time on our wholesale business by reaching out to our business partners to see how we could help them,” he said. “Realizing that all businesses were facing the same challenges we were, we presented the idea to these businesses to create a custom scent for their brand that they could sell online to generate sales while their businesses were shut down. 

“Many of our partners appreciated us proactively reaching out to them to think creatively about how we could help them.  We were able to win some new business during this time as well as strengthen our relationships with some of our current wholesale customers.”

On building a team

Persnickety Prints founder Chari Pack not only wants to give families a great way to preserve their memories through photos, but she also believes her low turnover rate is due to treating her employees like family members of her own. 

“We really focus on culture and building a family and a purpose,” she said. “We’re printing people’s photographs and shipping them all over the world, and it’s an emotional job. It really gives our younger employees a sense of purpose that they’re doing something good in the world.” 

Chari noted that listening to your team goes a long way, and she does so through anonymous surveys about their values. 

“I really feel like learning what each employee values and trying to deliver that value to them in the workplace is important. I have supervisors over their own teams and I ask them to really understand their employees, what they value, and how we can deliver a sense of satisfaction and fulfill their needs.”

On standing out

When Square Pie Guys co-owners Marc Schechter and Danny Stoller set out to provide pizza to the residents of San Francisco, they knew they needed a unique spin to stand out among other restaurants in a competitive market. 

“Most of the successful pizza businesses in San Francisco do a very similar style of pizza, which is the style that I was initially trained on,” Danny said. “But I’m a pizza nerd and I follow the trends and saw that the pan square pizza was really going to take off. It’s good to be the first to market in a major metro, and our strategic move has worked well.” 

On how to treat customers 

Jesse Morse of K Safety, a first-aid and safety business in Cedar City Utah, shared owner Kerry Gunter’s dedication to being honest and fair with his customers.

“Kerry is a firm believer in treating every customer like family. When we get a price break from vendors, he gives that break to our customers,” Jesse said. “He believes in being honest and fair, knows them all by name, and genuinely cares about them and their families.”

Do you have a Main Street story you want to share? Send it over to for the chance to have it featured on our blog. 

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