by Kristine Dickson, Contributing Writer
Founder, Discovered Ideas Consulting | Business Development for Startups
From blueberries to strawberries to pies topped with whipped cream, NOLA Pie Guy (NPG) is festive for Red, White, and Blue all year round. If you’re looking for a way to be the best host or guest for this weekend’s Fourth of July festivities or any summer barbecues, you just may want to order a pie from one of NOLA’s most passionate bakers, The NOLA Pie Guy, aka Nate Winner (or vice versa, we’re not sure which one he responds to more these days). NOLA Pie Guy is not just Winner’s nickname, it’s also the name of his bakery business. He bakes his delectable goodies daily out of the Café Luna kitchen, where he spends most of his time when he’s not out hunting for local seasonal fruits and ingredients to use in his creations or delivering his pies to happy customers.
The majority of the orders that NPG receives happens online through the local Good Eggs website. While he loves the convenience of receiving online orders, it’s his pop-up shops at Crescent City Farmer’s Markets around the city where he gets to interact with his customers. He has been known to take orders via Twitter and Facebook, by engaging in online conversation with his followers request a yearning for a pie. NOLA Pie Guy relies on weekly products reports generated through Good Eggs and uses Quickbooks to keep track of product sales and changes in sales to keep the business up to speed on how the sweet treats are performing.
I caught up with The NOLA Pie Guy himself recently to check in with how things are going for the business and to find out what he’s learned since his participation in Idea Village’s 2014 Food Challenge. Although Winner is mostly a one-man shop, he employs interns during peak times and offers value to those interested in learning what it takes to run a kitchen and the principles of baking, illustrating the hard work it takes to run a solo startup business. The business is growing, and although he is often asked if he has plans to open a full-scale bricks and mortar bakery of his own, he says he’s in no hurry for that. Next up for NOLA Pie Guy is to advance to full-scale shipping of his pies nationwide and maybe a name change.
A name change? While he does love being known as NOLA Pie Guy, he is considering a name change to Sugah Shop for a nationwide branding strategy. As one would expect, he says the feedback from his loyal local fans, who are mostly young professionals, indicate an enthusiastic preference for his New Orleans’ inspired moniker. I asked NPG a few other questions about his startup experience so far:
What’s been your biggest challenge to date?
Finding a commercial kitchen space.
What mistakes have you learned the most from?
The need to think more long-term about branding strategy when naming the business.
What is something you need to be doing better in your business?
Engaging more in social media, especially using Instagram.
What connections have you made that have helped you the most?
The mentoring from Idea Village and Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, like Lisa Lloyd were really helpful.
What would you like to see happen in the startup scene?
More focus on food and beverage and the support of Food Entrepreneurs.
Winner is truly working hard to build a business. He has a clear understanding in the distinction between building a business incrementally that offers flexibility versus creating a complex business from the outset that doesn’t accommodate a learning curve. While he is always looking for new opportunities, NOLA Pie Guy stays true to how the business will grow– one mini pie at a time.