Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Michelle Sims, Co-Founder of Olive Oil Jone, located in New York, NY, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

We import huge barrels of early-harvest olive oil from Italy, Spain, and Portugal from small groves that we know well. We also sell splendid vinegars from Spain and Italy. We have customers in 42 states; we sell primarily online.

Tell us about yourself

We kept asking ourselves, 'what does no one else do? What lanes are empty?'. No one does what we do - we have this glorious olive oil that we protect like a baby from some of the most beautiful old groves in Europe. We keep it from light, from heat, and from outside air; we pump it into bottles only when someone places an order - it's a beautiful thing. We sell to a few shops that we know will take care of our oil the way we do - we're particular about that. We notice new stores spring up all the time, turning into enormous presences seemingly overnight. We're just so old school; we're hands-on, and we coddle our product and our customers.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

The wonderful relationships we've built with our growers and with our customers. We love our customers so much - we have friendly email exchanges all the time - it is so frigging satisfying to hear feedback from them about meals they've made or how happy they are with our oils. A lot of customers have favorite oils - that blow me away - it's really hard to distinguish one oil from another; it takes concentration and a good palate. Our customers are amazing. We love to educate, too. So composing emails that are fun and maybe funny and informative about how we do business is important. And we don't bombard folks with daily emails - so when we send one, maybe weekly, we can see that our audience opens them and responds to them.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Right now, there are strikes in France. Unions are striking against the proposed increase in retirement age and rights to a full pension. So our oils aren't getting picked up! Our oils are trucked from the groves to Le Havre, where they ship out, and everything is in a tangle over there. So we're waiting, waiting, hoping to hear about some movement. Olive trees are harvested once a year - there is a yearly harvest, so it's not like we get frequent shipments or that the trees are constantly producing. It's not like any other oil. And the stunning facts about the health benefits of olive oil keep coming; it's just so damn good and so good for you. Feels good to sell something so valuable to folks - it's kind of freeing - no downside. Another hard thing is fighting all the misinformation about olive oil - cold pressed? feh! mild? No! one for cooking and another for salads? Use it for everything!

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

Learn everything you can about what you want to sell or what you want to create. (In a previous career, Steven was a consultant. It was really shocking to see how many people put their life savings into businesses that they knew absolutely zero about.) Love what you're selling so you can be proud of it. Love your customers.

Where can people find you and your business?


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