ImagiNation with Amanda Wilbanks

37262448_643395109368307_2848949127100760064_n.jpg

Amanda Wilbanks

Owner, Southern Baked Pie Company

Occupation: Amanda Wilbanks – Cookbook Author, Speaker, and Owner of Southern Baked Pie Company

Favorite Productivity Tool: My notebook – I keep everything in my notebook and a list of daily tasks. I only cross off a task when it is 100% completed.

Most Recommended App: Dropbox. I love that this is a cloud-based service.

Last Thing You Read: Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Website: www.southernbakedpie.com, www.amandawilbanksbakes.com

Instagram handle: @southernbakedpie @amandawilbanksbakes

Tell us about your journey?  My journey into baking is a bit of an unconventional one. I do not have any formal training in baking. I am actually a graduate of the University of Georgia Terry School of Business. My background is in sales and marketing. My first job out of college was selling insurance for State Farm. I was in an agency aspirant training program, where I was supposed to train under an established agent for 3 years and then I would be able to open my own State Farm Agency. When I went in for my 1-year evaluation, I asked if I could go ahead and start the process of getting my own agency. I was told no even though my sales record was outstanding, and I had the numbers to merit my request. I went to lunch and came back with my two weeks notice in hand. I quit my job with no plans of where I would go next. I knew that wasn’t the best idea, but I made the choice to pursue other options because I knew my goal was to start my own company.

Although my foolish decision to quit worked out in my favor, I would not recommend such a decision for everyone. My family thought I had lost my mind. And I pretty much thought I had too. My family was disappointed and frustrated. I assured my parents everything would work out. I moved home, lived off the money I had saved and began to search for a job. Truthfully, my company started out of necessity. I left my job at State Farm because I knew I wanted something more. At the time, I never thought the answer was pies, but it became clear after a visit with my mother in law, Sandy Wilbanks. She lived in Denver and came to Georgia for a visit, and taught me how to make the pie that started my company, Buttermilk Pie.

It all started with the pie crust. Although I grew up cooking as a child with my mother and making homemade biscuits and cobblers with my grandmother after church on Sundays, I had never made a pie crust. Making pie always meant stopping at the grocery and picking up a Pet-Ritz pre-made pie dough. So, when Sandy taught me how to make my first French pastry dough from scratch, I fell in love. I started making pies every day. I was working and doing contract marketing for a few companies and baking pies like crazy on the side.

My husband came in from work one afternoon and said I either needed to stop baking or start selling because he couldn’t keep eating everything I was making. His belt line was expanding, and our checking account wasn't. He signed me up for a local festival called Mule Camp where I would sell my pies. I had two days to prepare, so I quickly made up a business name and crafted a logo on Word, bought a tent, and had 1000 business cards printed by a local printer. I did it all in literally two days. I baked all night before the festival. I remember standing outside of my tent in heels, pearls, and a leopard print suit jacket and begging every single person that walked past to try my pies. I handed out business cards, asked people to sign up for an email list that I hadn't even made yet, and sold out of pie on the first day. 

After such a successful event, I knew I was onto something and steadily baked out of my house, fulfilling orders from neighbors and friends. Word of mouth spread, and I began to market to the customers I met through email and social media. Orders came in so quickly that I had to purchase more ovens for my home. I started my baking in September of 2012. The month of December, Christmas of 2012, I baked close to 500 pies out of my house. I also had a corporate customer approach me and ask if I could ship 50 pies for client Christmas gifts. Without a clue in the world as to how to ship pies, I told him yes, figured it out along the way, and earned my first corporate customer. I forgot to mention above that my home was 1200 square feet, and you can imagine that I was running out of space.

As the demand grew, I decided to look for a space for my first retail store and landed on a tiny spot right off of the Gainesville square next to Schlotsky's deli. The building was HOT PINK and needed a little (really, a lot!) of work, but I had a vision and knew that I could turn my dreams into a reality. I signed the lease on my first pie shop in March of 2013 and finally opened the doors, with the help of so many amazing friends and family, in August of 2013.

Fast forward to now and the company has grown to include 3 retail stores in Gainesville, Buckhead, and Alpharetta, a thriving online e-commerce shipping business, and a growing wholesale division where our pies are sold to markets and restaurants. My pies are also sold in Dean and Deluca and Williams Sonoma. My pies have been featured in O Magazine, Southern Living, Garden and Gun Magazine, and various other national media outlets. I published my first cookbook, Southern Baked: Celebrating Life With Pie, in August 2018. I’ve been sharing my love of cooking across the US through my recent book tour. This media and book tour has taken me to places I never imagined I would go. I’ve appeared on national news stations and the Hallmark Channel over the past few months. It's been a crazy and exciting journey. I’m living a dream every day!

What’s your favorite part of your day? Being a business owner has given me the opportunity and freedom to make my own schedule, which I love. As much as I love working and growing my company (I literally get high off the creative meetings I have with my teams), I enjoy and cherish time with my family more than anything else in the world. I look forward to coming home and being with my two boys, Austin and Dalton, and my husband, Alex, every day. Seeing them at the end of the day is the best part of my day.

When do you feel most successful? When people talk about how much they love the pies. I love hearing customers stories of how the pies brought them comfort, or brought back memories of a loved one who used to cook that has passed away. I love hearing that my product has made a busy mom’s dinner easier and lifted the stress of figuring out what to cook from her plate. I feel successful when I see and hear others are happy.  

What do you do to recharge when you’re feeling drained? I sit in the shower for a LONG TIME and read business related books. I love to read.... especially in the shower. I know that’s so weird but it’s true.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur? That it’s okay to say, “No.” You don’t have to accept every opportunity that comes your way. Your time is precious. Guard and protect it.

How do you optimize your day? I use my notebook to prioritize everything I need to get done that day. I give myself 30 minutes to check emails and respond first thing in the morning and then I don’t answer them again until the next morning. I then give myself 30 minutes to answer any questions employees have, or handle issues that came up the day prior. I then move on to my notebook list or any meetings that I am scheduled for. I handle what I had already planned to do first (what I have listed in my notebook), and then tackle any problems that come up or questions or emails that come along during the day the following morning, so that I don’t become distracted all day. This allows me to be proactive as a business owner rather than reactive.

Who is the person/people who allowed you to imagine more? I would say my mom is the person who allowed me to imagine more. My mom is the person who always told me anything was possible if you worked hard enough. Sara Blakely indirectly allows me to imagine more. She inspires me to imagine, create, and do the impossible. My husband allows me to imagine more every time I have a crazy idea. He rolls with it and pushes me to make what I’m imagining a reality.

What does imagining more mean to you and your story? Imagining more means constantly creating. If I had stopped with just one pie shop and never imagined I could handle more, I would be extremely bored right now. I imagined more when I said I would one day be a cookbook author. That’s a reality today because I imagined more for myself. Imagining more just feels good.

If you could do more of one thing every day what would it be? Laugh. I think laughter relaxes the soul and ignites happiness that’s contagious.