Growth is a sure sign of success. For Tabitha Birdsong and Pamela Collins, co-owners of Miss Birdsong’s Sweet Tooth in Memphis, Tennessee, growth is occurring and success is evident. Their small business, which offers more than 30 flavors of candy apples as well as artisan candies, has recently hired two new employees and has also seen a 30% increase in sales since they began working with Sam’s Club as a showcase vendor.
Tabitha and Pamela began making candy apples in 2005, but didn’t start their business until 2010. After being laid off from her position as an elementary school teacher, Tabitha focused her time and effort toward pursuing this passion.
Always curious and looking to better herself and the business, Tabitha found SCORE, a nonprofit that pairs experienced business executives with entrepreneurs for advice and leadership, through an online search for Memphis business mentors. In 2013, Tabitha entered SCORE’s American Small Business Championship, a contest sponsored and funded by Sam’s Club. Her business was chosen as one of 102 winners across the U.S. to receive mentoring and other entrepreneurial support.
One of those benefits was mentoring, and so Tabitha began working with two individuals with experience in her field. One of the mentors, who owns an inflatables company, shared information about festivals and connected Tabitha and Pamela with parents who were renting her bounce houses for children’s birthday parties and were interested in serving Miss Birdsong’s apples there.
It was this type of mentorship that inspired Tabitha to give back as she grows her business. The new employees Miss Birdsong’s recently hired are both teenagers from her community. “Our goal and purpose in hiring teens is to give them the opportunity to develop customer service skills and allow them to interact in a business setting in hopes that it will help them in their future careers,” Tabitha said.
Prior to becoming a showcase vendor, Tabitha says she frequented Sam’s Club for supplies. “Now that I’m a vendor there I have the opportunity to be in the Club and meet other small business owners. So, not only am I able to market our apples to customers, but I also have the chance to meet and talk with other entrepreneurs, which helps me to grow my network,” she said. “I think it’s also inspiring for us to be in the Club as an example of what other small businesses can do with their products or services.”
Miss Birdsong’s Sweet Tooth currently showcases in Sam's Clubs and has contracts with three local Walmart stores in the Memphis area. As they continue to look for ways to expand their operation, they’ve set a goal to continue to showcase in Sam's Club locations across the Mid-South region and be in 10 Walmart stores in their area, which sounds like a sweet — and fully achievable — aspiration.
Editor’s Note: The 2015 American Small Business Championship winners were recently announced. View the winners and their stories here.