Fighting the Big Guys, Holiday Edition

Dec 19, 2017 | Stephen Jackson

It’s the dark heart of the holidays and retail continues its race to the finish. More cash flows through both businesses small and large more than any period of the year, and if you’re prepared you stand to make a killing.

Especially if you’re in the pie business. However, how do you stand out against the big supermarkets whose standard-issue German chocolate cake is sufficiently tasty and sold at rock-bottom prices?

Elizabeth Simon is a San Francisco pie-making extraordinaire who seems to have cracked the code. She started Revenge Pies about two years ago after she baked a doughy middle finger into the top of a pie for a guy that stood her up for a date (for real). Since then, she’s gained a great deal of recognition as a bad-ass pie chef and has been operating a catering company and brick-and-mortar shop for the past year.

Revenge Pies
Revenge Pies’ Blueberry, Pecan, and Key Lime Pie

Despite the fact that Revenge Pies is a total hit in San Francisco, Simon reports that she, like any small business, is fighting to stay afloat. However, she remains agile — and says she’s better for it.

“The key is to stay flexible, do whatever it takes and stay positive in the face of spirit-crushing challenges,” Simon says. “In the end, you will only be remembered for how you responded to issues, not the issues themselves.”

Curious about how she competes against bigger holiday pastry-making competition and stays sane in the process, we reached out with a few tasty queries. Here’s what came back.

Stay Honest

Simon’s business story is pretty priceless, and she’s stayed true to her vibe and unique personality from the get-go — something difficult to replicate by a larger vendor.

“I’m devoted to staying honest no matter what. We have a genuine story, our pies are made in the cleanest way possible and I never lie to my customers about what we do or why we are doing it,” she says. “I firmly believe that is why we are successful, and it’s a very easy business motto to maintain.”

She also leans into the fact that pies are themselves a nostalgic product.

“Something as traditional as a homemade pie requires heart because everyone has those special memories attached to pie. We basically give you our version of your cherished memory with a guarantee that it will taste awesome. Either you like what we do or there is another pie company for your needs,” Simon says, adding that she’s always happy to recommend other businesses if her prices and capabilities aren’t the right fit.

Keep Your Eye on the Pies

Simon knows that the holidays can get pretty intense, so she prepares for the stress ahead of a big rush.

“If you get busy, there isn’t a day that passes that you won’t want to quit at least once. Especially during the holidays! The trick is to keep going if you are lucky enough to get the opportunity to continue working,” she says.

“When you are at your lowest, that’s when you get the phone call or email that changes your day. But you have to be in business to get business. So just keep going. After all, no matter who the competition is, they don’t do what you do, so don’t worry about beating the other guy at the game. Just do what you do in the best way possible.

If ever there were a “stress test” for a business, it’s churning out huge pie orders over the holidays. While Simon’s promotion of stick-to-it-iveness has been offered by many a seasoned business owner, her words might be a good mantra to keep in mind over the next few weeks, no matter what industry you’re in.

Go the Extra Mile (Literally)

One challenge small operations face when compared with bigger competition is the ability to overcome oversights and mishaps. However, these are inevitable during high-volume periods, and Simon says she’s had to do some fancy footwork to make things right.

“I’ve made mistakes and so will you! Just make sure you do everything in your power to deliver your product to the customer,” she says. “This past Thanksgiving, I made a few booking errors and had to deliver to homes on Thanksgiving and re-make pies. That commitment to excellence is what we need more of right now. Following through on your word is the most important value you can hold as a small business.”