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The Heidi B Show


Mar 18, 2021

CEO and Founder of Mason Dixie Biscuit Co - Ayeshah Abuelhiga

Choosing a career path is challenging. Not everyone has the opportunities and means that others enjoy, which can further limit our career choices. You may even start on one path, only to end up with a completely different career than what you intended.

In today’s episode, Ayeshah Abuelhiga shares her serendipitous journey toward being an entrepreneur. She talks about how she went from having a successful pop-up store to a successful big-time business. Ayeshah also shares some of the challenges she faced and how she keeps her busy life balanced.

If you are an aspiring entrepreneur or have a business of your own, then this episode is for you!

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Gain valuable insights from Ayeshah’s journey as an entrepreneur.
  2. Discover the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur.
  3. Learn how to have a balanced life.

Resources

Episode Highlights

Ayeshah’s Journey

  • Ayeshah grew up in an underprivileged lifestyle. She was forced to go to college but had no idea what college was. 
  • Her career options were doctor or lawyer, but she did not want to be either of those. She went into international development. 
  • Different opportunities opened up to her when she started working to support herself.  
  • Her fine dining experience at Passion Foods was her favorite work. She learned a lot, and it influenced how she operates her business until today. 

How Ayesha Started Her Pop-Up

  • Ayeshah left a well-paying job because she wanted to be her own boss. She went back to her roots in restaurants. 
  • She was inspired by her parents carrying out and serving comfort food to people.
  • She came up with the concept of Mason Dixie and started with biscuits inspired by the Panera bread. 
  • Before the pop-up, Ayeshah was in a Kickstarter campaign. She gained attention, and people wanted to taste her biscuits. 
  • She teamed up with a guy who owned a gelato factory who wanted to promote his coffee. Her pop-up store became successful. 

The Pop-up Experience

  • There was a long line of people, which led to Ayeshah holding a semi-permanent pop-up store at a food hall. 
  • At the food hall, Ayeshah was discovered by Whole Foods. They offered to launch her consumer product line.
  • The product line was not her initial goal, but it happened because of the people’s attention to and enjoyment of the product. 
  • There was no contract at Whole Foods, and it was tough to stay on top and continue to grow, but it was gratifying. 
  • Her products started to take on the market share, and she was considered a competitor. 

First Disappointments and Setbacks

  • When they first launched the product line, Ayeshah had no idea that the baking powder had aluminum, and neither did Whole Foods. 
  • When authorities started doing label scans, they were flagged for the presence of aluminum in the products. 
  • It cost a lot of money, and they had to reformulate. 
  • Nevertheless, it was a massive opportunity for the company to be the cleanest label biscuit. 

Pursuing the Business

  • At first, the product line was great for marketing the restaurant, but Ayeshah saw how much money they were making. 
  • Ayeshah and her team went to Southern grocery stores and walked away with 1,100 stores. 
  • Her products were growing a lot in sales in the current market. 
  • She could not manage to get ahead of the demand and thought of finding a manufacturer.

The Most Challenging Part of Entrepreneurship 

  • The most challenging part is knowing when and who to hire.
  • You have to trust your gut and trust somebody because you cannot do it on your own. Find the right people.
  • Fundraising is always a challenge.
  • You have to learn your strengths and get a partner to help you progress quickly.

Ayeshah’s Business Partner

  • Ayeshah entered and won a pitch competition. 
  • A guy was interviewing them. She learned that he was a freelance writer but owned a nut company and made nuts in the same facility they were making biscuits.
  • The guy developed a nut allergy and cannot make the product anymore. 
  • Ayeshah offered a business deal to the guy as she needed all the help she could get in her business. They eventually became partners. 

How to Have a Balanced Life

  • As an entrepreneur, you end up sacrificing your time with friends and family. 
  • Ayeshah goes on long walks with her phone off. She notes that this kind of quiet time allows her to think strategically and creatively. 

Ayeshah’s Daily Non-Negotiables

  • Ayeshah has an 80-20 rule she applies in any relationship. She uses this to score people, things, and opportunities. 
  • In the 80-20 rule, Ayeshah ensures that 8 out of 10 things are successful. 

Ayeshah’s Advice for Suffering Women

  • Have confidence. If you believe you can do something, you will. 
  • You can excel in whatever you do, and you have to believe in that early.
  • Be ready to set yourself on the path and stick to it, and it will lead you where you want to be.

5 Powerful Quotes

“What a wonderful time to be a woman entrepreneur because there are so many technologies that make it more accessible than it used to be.”

“Many entrepreneurs start out thinking it's easy to make money. And it's not—it is work.”

“The act of being found was probably the most serendipitous part of this whole experience.”

“I don't think anything's a disappointment. I think you learn from every mistake you make, and for every bad thing that happens, a good thing is on its way.”

“It's always more important to realize that, especially early on, you have to give 100,000% in business so that you can afford one day to kind of step back and be proud of what you were able to achieve.”

About Ayeshah

Ayeshah Abuelhiga is the founder and CEO of Mason Dixie foods. Her focus is disrupting the conventional and highly-processed dough and frozen bread category. She was the first to launch frozen, clean-label biscuits, zero-prep scones, and sweet rolls on the market.  

She grew up in the kitchen of her parents' Soul Food carryout restaurant in Baltimore. It made her passionate about Southern cuisine. Years later, she creates one of her childhood comfort foods—biscuits. She firmly believes that mentorship can genuinely impact the trajectory of a person's career and life, so one of her goals is to guide and teach skills to underserved children. 

Connect with Ayeshah through LinkedIn and Instagram.    

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Heidi B