253: How The Spice Suite’s Angel Gregorio Expanded Her Spice Shop Into A Lifestyle Brand

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253: How The Spice Suite’s Angel Gregorio Expanded Her Spice Shop Into A Lifestyle Brand

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I’m celebrating the 5 Year Anniversary of Side Hustle Pro all this month with video interviews with some of my favorite guests of all time! (So you can listen to this episode on your favorite podcast app or watch on the Side Hustle Pro YouTube Channel)

Today in the guest chair, we have Angel Gregorio, the founder and owner of The Spice Suite, a growing community-centric spice boutique, located in Washington DC’s Takoma Park community. 

When we first spoke with Angel on the Side Hustle Pro podcast in 2018, she shared how she walked by a vacant storefront with no plan or desire to be a small business owner and decided on the spot to turn it into a spice shop. 

That spice shop has since become a dream incubator and haven. Voted Best Spice Shop in Washington City Paper’s Best of DC, The Spice Suite offers fresh spice blends and cooking oils from around the world, handcrafted and customized to disrupt the typical dining experience. 

And as a way to pay it forward and support fellow dreamers, Angel offers space at The Spice Suite for pop-up shops, free of charge. No fine print. No commission.

On this episode, hear how Angel:

  • The first steps she took to get her very first product made (and how she started all wrong!)
  • How she makes the margins work for her in eCommerce:
  • How her approach to life and business has shaped her business expansion

Check out this episode and others on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud, and YouTube 

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Guest Social Media Info

Side Hustle Pro – @sidehustlepro

The Spice Suite – @thespicesuite


Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:03

You're listening to Side Hustle Pro, the podcast that teaches you to build and grow your side hustle from passion projects of profitable business. And I'm your host, Nicaila Matthews Okome. So let's get started.

Hey guys, welcome welcome back to the show. Welcome to the very first video interview episode of side hustle Pro. This is new for me. This is exciting. So today we're chatting with one of the all time most adored side hustle pros guest Angel Gregorio and I have to say the most stylish to all time fliers. Angel is the founder and owner of the spice suite, which is a growing community centric spice boutique located in Washington DC is takoma park community. Angel is also a mommy. She's a home cook, activist and educator with a knack for blurring the line between food and fashion. And when we first spoke with Angel on this show, back in 2018, couldn't believe it was that long ago. So she you told us that you walk by a vacant storefront with no plan, no desire to be a small business owner that day, and decided on the spot to turn it into a spice shop. So that spy shop has now become a dream incubator and haven it was voted Best Buy shop in Washington city papers Best of the sea. And so especially it offers fresh spice blends and cooking oil from all around the world. But it does way more than that, right? You as a way to pay it forward. And support fellow dreamers also offer the space as a space we for pop up shops free of charge, no fine print no commission and I know because I did a pop up shop for sign has a probe merge right where I had my baby. And that is really what I love the most about you and what you do at the spice sweet angel and the community that you have created. And since embarking on your self proclaimed foodist fashion journey, you and your business have been featured on a variety of local and national media platforms such as the Washington Post's Martha Stewart, Beyonce, his black parade, hey, hey, no extra nickel at essence, calm. And guys, I'm going to stop right there. Because I will let Angel tell us the rest. All right, so let's get into today's show. So welcome back, Angel. Thank you so much. I'm so proud of you. I'm so proud of you. I'm inspired by you. And that means a lot to me, you know, because I see see how much important to others. And I see how much you help others on the journey to grow. And yeah, I really do look to you. And you might not always realize that you are mentoring me when we aren't even speaking. But you are. And one of the things I definitely want to touch on in our update is all the ways that the spy suite has expanded since we last spoke, I mean, let's talk about his food, his fashion journey, like it started out as something you said. And then it's actually become a lifestyle brand. Amazing.

Angel Gregorio 3:11

It's so mind blowing to me. And Nicaila, like when we spoke was crazy to think that that was 20 a theme Yeah, like the space that I was in with the store. I was just I was so excited. Like, I was so excited. I felt like I had grown this business and that I was you know, of course still have work to do but I was just excited about what I had done. And if someone had told me that I had to close the doors to the spice suite at that moment after that podcast and if you had racks I would have felt like I did something good. And now looking at what I've done in the three years since we spoke I am so just enamored by the success of this space and not because I'm patting myself on the bat. But because I know that like the success of the space suite is primarily on the backs of people who look like me and I didn't grow this business by signing a deal with a big box store. I didn't grow this business by taking an investment from you know some capital venture venture. Like I grew this business with black women by my side with the support of customers, you know, black mainly black people all over the country world at this point. And so it just feels really good and food is fashion has really become like being able to really like live that out now right like something I just said And now to have it printed on everything from cooking utensils and place to cast iron skillets and you know t shirts is

Nicaila Matthews Okome 4:37

while it is and it truly is something that like you said is just grown as a result of the love of black women and I have seen that line myself personally wrapped around the corner, the DC block corner like of people waiting to get into the spy suite, you know that's not something you see often and And as with something so unique as a spice product also, but let's get into this, I got my notes here. So spicy was a physical location. Now it's expanded into products, utensils, cookware, all of that. Where did you start? When you were thinking of getting into that? What was your first step in in just exploring actual products?

Angel Gregorio 5:29

Yeah, so I first started with wanting to do cast iron, cast iron skillets, because one, I love them. So I'm only create products that I use and love. Like, I don't want it to ever feel forced. I don't want it to feel like gimmicky and I'm trying to force something on you like I sell it by using it right? So I thought cast iron skillets will be awesome for that, because I love them. But also because of like the legacy and history that cast iron skillets had to black families, like when you get your grandma's cast iron skillet, you know, like that's like a prized possession, right? It's almost like getting a piece of her jewelry, like something you covet. And you have and you want forever. And so I thought like how cool would it be to know that there will be folks who will have my cast iron skillets in their families for centuries, possibly, because they continue to pass them down. Because caste nine is really that thing they just last forever. So I knew for sure that that would be the first thing that I would create. And I really thought it all wrong. Like I started with like buying cast iron skillets that would not not brand it and then taking them I used to drive them out to this store in Arlington, I think in Arlington, Virginia that, um, that engraved trophies, I could not figure out how to get someone to engrave cast iron, like no one wanted to say engrave it. Like even the folks I knew who were like craftsmen who build things. They were like, Yeah, no, like, we can't engrave cast iron, because you wouldn't be able to cook on it anymore. And I'm like, well, there has to be a way like this company is doing it. And we all know that I have to figure it out. And so until then I was like, I'm just gonna drive them out to the store. They said they can engrave them. So I was literally getting them engraved, and like making hardly any money off of them. Because I was spending so much on the skillet, and then the engraving, but I just wanted the product to exist, I just was willing to take the loss to make it happen.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:12

That is crazy. And did they even have a price for that? Or did they just make it up charge you something super expensive.

Angel Gregorio 7:18

It was like this arbitrary price like a year ago for you for like $15 a skillet, okay, like I just want them done, I wasn't even thinking about the profit margin and didn't even have enough business savvy to, you know, think it through and and my, you know, self as you can tell from my journey and how I got started, I am so impulsive. You know, when I want it, I want to see it happen immediately. So they can make it happen immediately. So I did it. And of course now we've moved to kind of overseas manufacturing. And now you know, because I can meet the volumes, like, I can't meet those volumes where they want it, you know, for you to get it customized, you have to order at least, you know, 5000 units, and I'm just like, I can't order 5000 pounds. So it's about 500 times, you know, at this point. So I you know, it's just crazy to think that like I went from having to just call them in the back of my car and say to Arlington so now I'm getting you know, 250 boxes of cash

Nicaila Matthews Okome 8:14

at a time. Wow. And I love that you touched on the profit margin because you know, can I speak from my own experience? Like I, I did merge when I started. So how sopro and then I was like, Oh, this is a lot of work for low margins. Right. But I I know there's a better way to do things right. And so I'm getting ready to do that now for the fifth year anniversary. And I'm like, how do I make it make sense, right? Like, how did you make the margins work for you?

Angel Gregorio 8:47

So I think for me, the first thing was to recognize the type of brand that I wanted, like I knew that I wanted to have a luxury spice brand, right and I can't so the hard part about that is I want the luxury spice brand, but I didn't have the money to invest in luxury packaging and printing and labeling you know, and all the things that make it look and feel like luxury. So what I did at first was like let me focus on making sure I have a luxury product. Like I knew that even if I had to if I was still writing on labels like I was five years ago that what is inside this bottle is gonna wow you and you won't even think about the fact that what's in it is you know, what was the packaging isn't amazing. And so it was really like identifying what lane I wanted to be in. Because in retail that you know folks have options, right? Like this Old Navy gap, Banana Republic, same brand, but like it's how much money are you trying to spend on this white shirt because we have different levels of them. And so I knew I want equality. I knew I wanted to compete with the other spice shops who were a family or had been around for hundreds of years who weren't going anywhere and they were charging you a premium. And so I needed to compete with them. And so I did it that way. And I think the easiest way for me to figure out how to make it make sense for me financially was to say Every every way that I could without compromising my brand identity, but I didn't want it to ever look cheap and cheesy, but I knew that if it were like a decision between glossy versus matte paper, and one was more expensive than this, like, I'm just gonna have to take the loss on this one and do the least expensive paper until I make enough money. So saving everywhere I could like, this is the first year that I had retail bags that were branded, I was just throwing playing bags before because those were cheaper. And now the place financially, I want my customers to see the investment that they make when they shop with me. And even, you know, it's very small. And I know customers don't think about the fact that my bags now have my, you know, name wanted an art or a copy on it. But to me, that was a big deal. Because a year ago, you know, two years ago, I couldn't afford that.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 10:46

I love that you I love that you bring that up, because it can be so hard in the beginning to decide where do I spend money on what you know, because you're like, Okay, people need to see my bags as people are walking out the store people need to know and see that branding, right? But then No, that is not your product, like you're not in the industry of bags, per se focus. Speaking of what you're in the industry of what came first for like subscription box, or creating the products and having people order those directly.

Angel Gregorio 11:21

Yep, so we always had, you know, our physical location at NBC. That was always a thing. We only got, we started to do some ecommerce time. And when I started to do e commerce in the beginning, it was just me figuring it out. And I would let people DM me chefs would be like, Hey, can I order and I'm like, Sure, you can order I put something together for you. There weren't that many people trying to order. Yes, some point things got crazy. And I was like, Okay, I can't handle this anymore, I need to figure out something that makes sense. So instead of doing a subscription box, what I did was I put together what I call a spice box. And I knew that if I were going to try to crank out hundreds of orders a month, because I wanted them to drop monthly one time like shoes, because food is fashion right saturated this like a shorter release week, I'm going to tell you when it's being released, I'm going to drop them a set number of them, and when they're gone, they're gone. And so that's exactly what I did. And the way to make it make sense to me was everybody who orders a box gets the same exact items. So that way, I can have the boxes ready at one o'clock today. And they don't go on sale until four o'clock because all I'm waiting for is your name and address the slap on the on the box, I don't have to wait to see what you're going to order because you're only ordering what I put online. And we won't ever have a site where you can order individual items. Just because I goal is always to like optimize the customer service experience and to work smarter. And for me, and my team. working smarter means getting those boxes out quickly, efficiently and making sure that everybody gets the same thing. Everybody's boxes packaged the same way labeled the same way. It just makes life so much easier. We can do so much more volume, because at some points we're selling, you know, 300 boxes in two minutes. Wow.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 12:59

I know that when I went to get the utensils that was like, Oh, am I tripping?

Those things were gone. Okay, gone. And you know, I'm trying to outfit my whole kitchen and no ice is crashing here. So I was like What is happening? And mind you this was during a time where it's so crazy with the craziness of last year that I would you know, tune into Instagram. And I couldn't believe I'm like, it's Angel starting a whole new business. Like is she releasing completely new products during this time? Can you talk about how you got through the challenge of having to close the shop, while also starting to venture into these new spaces with your business?

Angel Gregorio 13:51

Sure, so it all happened so fast. For me when I went you know when DC shut down and and we could afford to stay open because we sell spices we could have argued that we are essential and stayed open before the health and safety of my family to the Spice Girls. It just wasn't worth the fight. So I figured let's just shut down. And I knew that there was some things I wanted to do so to space aesthetically anyway, so it was kind of the perfect time to do it. Of course, nobody knew we would be closed as long as we were. But I figured Oh a couple weeks gives me time to paint and not have people in and do some cute little things around the shop. And so while we were close, I'd already released the cast iron skillets. And at that point, I had real ones not the ones I was getting printed at the trophy shop. And I was doing like a few Chinese and a lot of fun things. And I was approached by this big box luxury home store. And they wanted to do business with me and they wanted to bring some of my products into this store and for about a half a second I consider it considered it. And then I paused and was like if they want to do business with the spicy that means I have something they want but why would I do business business with them? I can just become the black version of them. So I live You know, decided, you know what, I'm just going to become the black version of that, I'm going to go through my kitchen. And I literally like that night, I walked in my kitchen with my note section in my phone and I like typed out all the things I use all the time and my garlic press those scooper utensils, you know, cast iron skillet oven mitts, like everything. And that was my, that was like my vision board, almost my notes section in my phone. And one by one, I started to create all of those things with my own brand. And I wanted to create it and I decided I'm just gonna do a kitchen takeover. Like why do we have to have like one or two things by black business in our kitchen? Like why can't everything be owned and branded by a black owned business. And so I set out to do that. And of course, I did it over time because I needed to make money so we invest money to buy the more expensive products. And now we have about 22 to 24 different kitchenware items that we have in store now. And all of that happened during COVID. Like all of that happened while we were shut down. And when we reopened, I figured we're going to shut down for this long when we reopen. It needs to be like a thing because people are going to be scared. People want to be here to get out and walk and go in stores again, you know, nobody really knows what's safe and what's not safe. So I need to make something that makes people excited and eager to get out where they almost feel like they're willing to risk at all. Like, you know what, I'm just gonna have an entire kitchenware section that's got the cute little sofa and Pac Man game and all the fun stuff that I just bought into the store. I gave it away and decided that whole side of the store needed to be kitchenware. And we still were you know, w e AR just because your kitchen should where it should play.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 16:45

When I was there was the Pac Man and yeah, yeah, stuff. So you were planning like that happened kind of as things were shutting down, and it wasn't like you were like, oh, things are shut down. Let me start, you know, making money some other way?

Angel Gregorio 16:59

No, it was just it was random. Like when I got that call, and they wanted to do business with me. I decided in that moment to just do it. And it didn't take, you know, super long for me to kind of research and find some manufacturers order samples, approve them. And then I just like got going and now I'm like, I feel like I can't stop like now you know, I'm about to release knives and tote bags and more and more things. And it's like, Okay, what else do I need in my kitchen?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 17:25

And so this is the part that I mean, when I say like, you know, you're inspiring to me, because something like this will sometimes stop me in my tracks like I will be intimidated by how do I find the right manufacturer? Do you think about things like that, or you're like, let me research find one that I think is good. And if they turn out to be great. I'll switch later.

Angel Gregorio 17:43

That is exactly me. I don't I don't get bogged down with like the details. But I'm also the girl who will buy a new car without test driving it. Like I like the car is cute is exactly the car I wanted just drop it off, like I don't need to go out and test drive it like if it breaks down, I'll have the warranty and we can negotiate that far later. But it's just like, I want what I want. And so I think I just kind of trust the universe and that that, you know, things will be provided for me and then I'll make the right decisions. And I just hope that the good energy that I put out and the integrity and honor that I you know operate with is it comes back to me in the form of the business that I do with other people. And so I'm grateful that I've not found a manufacturer who was shady. And everything I've every business transaction I've made has gone away or sometimes I'm frustrated because they're coming from like India or China. And this takes long to get here. But it always arise.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 18:40

Yeah. And I too, I think what you just said was so critical. So something to keep in mind for all of us. Like I like that you said, like I believe that the good energy that I have, and I put it out there will be returned to me, you know, more or less and and I've never thought of it like that. But that's so true. Like why? Why wouldn't I believe that? I'm doing the best I can I'm operating with integrity. I believe it will work out. Yep. Alright guys, I know you're spending a lot of time thinking about your side hustle, how to get started all of that right? But have you thought about how you're going to email and stay connected with the audience? What about how you're even going to make money? Well, don't worry, because AWeber has thought about all of this for you. AWeber has all the tools that you need to stay connected with your audience. Share your messages about your products or services, and make money. With AWeber you get the email marketing solutions that you need to grow your business. You can choose from a huge library of pre built email templates. So you don't have to have a lot of experience or be a graphic designer to create beautiful emails. You can just use the easy drag and drop features to create your custom emails. You can even connect to your brand's Facebook page, and then an email design will automatically populate how kulas that AWeber also has a landing page builder with access to unlimited landing page templates, and a pre stocked image library. So you can create your custom landing page in minutes without paying 1000s of dollars to a graphic designer. Plus, using the landing page builder, you have the ability to collect payments. So you can set up a landing page and start selling your products or services online directly through AWeber. How cool is that? It only takes a few minutes to get set up and boom, start making money. Oh, and you definitely need to use a Weber's Web Push notifications. It allows you to send messages to your visitors, even when they're not currently on your website. Yes, that's pretty cool. And all of these features are included in an account, no alcar pricing, they even have a free plan. But guess what? site has a pro listeners, you can try a Weber's pro plan right now. No risk, no credit card, just visit aweber.com and use code hustle pro to get a free 30 day trial of a Weber's pro plan. Again, that's aweber.com and use code hustle pro to try the pro plan free for 30 days. Enjoy. Now, you mentioned the cast iron skillets. And that in and of itself is expensive. We've already talked about that. So although you're spontaneous, I mean, at some point, you have to think through Okay, the fiscal side of it right? Like how much is this gonna cost? How much am I willing to put up? Were you starting out when you were testing the waters with quantities? Like 50? Or did you go all in and you know, get both of 1000s of products.

Angel Gregorio 21:43

So when I started, I was just getting the minimum, like whatever they said the minimum was to customize it. I was like, Okay, if the minimum is five, I'll say five, that sounds safe. We'll do it. The minimum was 500. Though I was like, I that's crazy, but I need it. So I don't really have a choice, I'm just gonna have to do it and roll the dice on it. And I also I mean, of course, what I have to say is like, while I am taking these worse than rolling the dice, when I'm ordering these products, and maybe ordering these numbers, they just seem like really mind blowing. I also knew from selling our spice boxes and having lines around the corner and things like that, that I had a tribe of people who support my product and my brand, and they would want to buy it right. So it wasn't like this, me thinking about this day one opening the store. I'm just willing to invest all this money. And with it, I had some data, you know what I mean to support that, if I bought a 500 skillets, I see about five to 600 guests in a weekend, I could probably move these skills. Yes. I don't want to make it sound like I was really rolling the dice and taking this wild gamble without any you know, idea whether I will sell them on that, like I definitely had some sort of a lot of historical data to support, you know, like how my customers spin and the trends and how much you know, an average sale is and what they're willing to spend on products. And my products are comparably priced. Right. Like I wasn't released in cast iron skillets they cost $150 when they're $50 you know, everywhere else

Nicaila Matthews Okome 23:13

that is a very good point to bring up. You're absolutely right. Like your customers are diehards, they're loyal, they will trek to the rain, wait in the rain outside to get what they need. And that's because you provide such quality luxurious, tasty, you know, products and spices. And was there a way that you were still able to sell spices while the actual physical store was shut down? Or did you just completely shift to like kitchenware?

Angel Gregorio 23:41

Yeah, so we were still don't I'm selling spices, what the major shifts in that though, was that prior to COVID, I was still bottling spices, labeling them kind of doing a lot of that stuff myself, with my team, you know, we was on it. And things got so busy during COVID that I was like, You know what, it is time to scale. And I have been not finding it. But I've been kind of nervous about like what that looks like because that is a totally different invoice when he started looking at co Packers, right? Because now that means that I have to take all of my recipes from my spices and instead of like just blending them and mixing them and, you know, storing them myself. I have to send these recipes to a co Packer. They send me a sample back. I paste it and I say yep, this is garlicky Savannah, this is exactly the you know the recipe that I sent you. And once I approve it, they bottle it and label it and ship it to me in the same way that these major brands do. And then I just have to put them on the shelves. The thing though, is that they aren't going to send me 25 bottles or 50 bottles, like the minimum orders for a lot of these places is about 150 cases. You know a case is 12 and that's per spice. Yeah, I have about 102 different spices on my shelves. So that's a lot of money. That's a lot of spices and you pay for the recipe develop Part Two, like I could pay them to send them my recipe and sign an NDA and you know, make sure that they aren't selling my recipes to other places so that you only get it, you know, at the spice sweet. But that was really expensive. But I had to do it because I was selling too many to continue to bottle them myself. And so that was the best decision I could have made. Because now I literally can tell them like, yep, I'm ready to reorder. And they send me several pallets worth of spices, and I don't have to do anything to seem literally receives it and unpack them and stocks my shells. And now we're at a point where we have to you know, we're only open Friday through Sunday, because we need it Monday through Thursday to receive shipments get our online orders out. And we stopped because online was so busy. And we move so much merchandise over the weekend, my sanity two more days to prepare the store.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 25:55

So you already had a team that could take care of the shipping

Angel Gregorio 25:59

out so at first. Yeah, yeah. So I had a team already and the team has shifted a little bit because the roles needed to change. Okay, like now the roles are more around like the operations and online and restocking and fulfillment, and less of like in store things that will happen before. But yeah, I have an amazing team. And I'm grateful for them. They had a bomb.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 26:19

Yeah. I mean, I've interacted with some of your team. And they are incredible. And you know, I think that is so I don't even know, that's just so cool that you're able to build that. And it's I think that's part of the universe, giving you back what you're giving it because those people they gravitate to you and they're happy to support you. And you know, they want to be there. Now come on, share some tips like where do you get these people?

Angel Gregorio 26:44

You know, what's funny is people always say like, you don't hire family and friends, everybody I pay his family or friend. I've not hired any stranger to work for me. Wow. Yeah. And I've not been burned by them. I've not had any bad experience with experiences with them. But I also just feel like if you know and love competent people, then why not hire them? Like why would I look beyond the competent, amazing skilled person that I know to hire someone else just because of this myth, that hiring family and friends or doing business with family and friends doesn't work email, like my assistant is a girl I've known practically my whole life. But I also believe that when you hire your family and friends, you pay them well to write like, they don't mind working for me or taking on the title of my assistant, which can sometimes sound inferior, you know, because she is paid well. And my team, you know, is taken care of, and I value them. And we delineate business from family, like we have times when we talk just about business, and I don't want to talk about my kids or you know, like anything else. And there are times when you know, we can switch and we do the other and I try not to blur those lines. But my only tip for hiring good people is to take your time and be clear about exactly what you need. You can't just like generally hire people, like people need to have specific skill sets that you can identify, and things that you know how to do especially in the beginning, like hiring them. Like I knew how to mix label package, restocked because I was doing it all by myself for two and a half years, like literally by myself. So when they came on, I could easily tell when they were doing the right thing or not. Because it's like I knew your job because I did your job, right? Like now they do things that I don't do, because the operations have shifted, and the company is doing things that it wasn't doing when I was doing it by myself. So now I'm learning from them. But in the beginning, it was so important that I was in a role to like hire them lead and teach them so that we could grow in it together. And then the goal was for them to kind of grow beyond that. And then they become the teacher.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:55

So what was your vision? When you started to think through turning listen to more of a lifestyle brand, like beyond just the physical spice shop? And what actually happened? You know what surprised you. Um,

Angel Gregorio 29:09

so what my vision for turning this into a lifestyle brand was really just my desire to see like, blackness in everybody's houses, right? Like I really just wanted, like, you know, in the same way that we see Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray, you know, and these brands that we've come to know and recognize, and we don't even know much about these people, right? We just know that they are like household names, like, Well, why can't we become a household name? And for a while, I was reluctant because I felt like I couldn't take over people's homes without signing a deal with a big box store. Like I just didn't think I could do it. And knowing that I've been able to infiltrate as many spaces as I have with just my one location has been like a confidence booster like it makes me feel like I can do anything. And I feel like this food is fashion journey. This phase of creating kitchenware and designing and creating what has become a lifestyle brand has been the difference between this business just being like this thing that I enjoy doing. And the thing that will create wealth for my grandchildren it like is really like changed my life.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 30:20

That's it right there. I mean, that is it. And you don't always start out knowing what that will be. You are like the biggest testament to doing good work, doing hard work, and also listening, listening to the science of where life is leading you. Yeah,

Angel Gregorio 30:33

yeah, I had no idea that this will be my path. Like, I didn't stop me. Of course, you know, I didn't start off even wanting to own a spice shop, I was just excited. You know, in the beginning, I used to be excited when we won the Washington city paper like that spice shop DC. And then a couple years ago, I was like, wait, it's time to do the running for Best Buy shop. And I don't see Best Buy shop is a category. And I realized that every spice shop in DC had clothes, I was the only one left. And I you know, I wasn't focused on the competition, I don't research them, I clearly don't shop with them dawned on me that I was the only one left and these are spy shops that are franchises that have you know, shops in Tyson's corner in Annapolis. And really, you know, they were in Georgetown, like, these weren't spice shops that were and some random little pockets, like some of these spice shops have been around for decades in the city and made their mark and this is what people knew, as the spice shop of DC and now I've been able to change that, you know, kind of single handedly. And it is really kind of humbling and mind blowing at the same time that you know, this educated tire Spice Girl has been able to like change the way you know, you know, see an experience by shopping, etc.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 31:46

Speaking of all of your, you know, multi titles, multi hyphenate, right, one thing that is different about you, and this could have something to do with the other spice shops closing as well is the marketer, the natural marketer in Angel, like, when you release videos, via Instagram, when you release. My husband's gonna laugh at this because I you know, I'm there, but I'm also very easily marketed to as well. Even though I know what's happening, it's like, oh, I need that. So every time you would drop a video and you know, it'll be like the slow motion things sizzling in the pot. The it's just like, how do you pay for that? Or do you sit? Do you come up with these ideas on your own to just like make your your products

Angel Gregorio 32:41

look crazy, is I have never thought twice before posting a video. I've never planned a post. I've never watched a video I posted. Like not I don't even listen to interviews that I've done. I don't watch myself, like, watch myself.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 33:01


Angel Gregorio 33:01

I just can't, I don't like to do that. I don't watch the videos that I post at all. I don't plan them. And I've never ever edited a video on my life. I don't own any video editing apps, I don't know how to use them. Before reels, I was recording my videos and Instagram before. Like I've never used anything else I literally was just record my cooking videos with one hand and I would be flipping with the other hand. And that was just that and I was just posted and whatever caption came to mind while I was typing, it will be the caption but I really don't put a lot of thought into it. Like I really wanted my social media has to be this like organic kind of display and introduction. So who I am and how I talk. I wanted it to always feel like my voice when people meet me, you know and hear me talk it sounds exactly like I do on Instagram because like, nobody wrote it for me. I've never worked with anybody. I've never hired anybody to do PR marketing, branding. anything. I just spent my first dollar on marketing when I did the Metro bus ad a couple months ago prior to that I've never spent money on marketing before.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 34:03

What made you do the Metro bus ad? Oh, my accountant

Angel Gregorio 34:08

was like, okay, so taxes are different for you now, you need to spend some money. And they were like marketing is 100% tax deductible, like spend some money on marketing? And I'm like, Well, I don't know, because I'm like I spend money with like photographers, of course I'm like on videography when we do professional things with the Spice Girls and such. But honestly, so many people give me things and I like give them you know, some money but they don't charge me what they're supposed to like photographers. I just like there's this reciprocal, you know, kind of relationship. And so he was like, Well look, they're in Texas. So my accounts I was like, What about a billboard and I'm like, aren't really a thing and dc dc through and through like a DC native DC girl. You know, I don't really do business in Maryland a lot like I say in the city. Like I love DC. So I was like, You know what, there's nothing more DC them Metro. Yeah. And I just like I got so excited. And I literally remember the thought coming to me while I was on the zone with that counts. And I was like, I got you ask them, I'll sum up, what's my marketing budget. And all that. So I called and, you know, did a quick little Google search to figure out how to get an ad on a bus, we had already done a photo shoot, and I didn't expect to use those photos, those weren't done specifically for that, that was just me wanting to get the Spice Girls together. And I wanted to surprise them. Because wow, you know, a lot of people know my brand in DC, they don't know my connection to the Spice Girls, and what that means and how much they mean to me. And so like, I feel like the biggest Thank you You can give is to kind of reinvest in somebody, especially with the relationship that we have. And I wanted to reinvest in them by kind of spending the marketing money on them. And I did a couple of ads, you know, solo ads, Sue, but I really wanted to surprise them with their faces on the Metro bus. So I'm like, that's something they'll never forget. They'll always have the pictures and videos of it. It's like this, you know, kind of historic thing. Yeah. And not a lot of people do. It's not a common form of advertising. And I just felt like, you know, put it in, I wanted the buses to span, right, like, I didn't want just buses, and like silver spring and upper Northwest, I wanted buses that will go through the hood, I wanted buses that will go to Northern Virginia, I wanted buses that will go through Maryland, because I wanted little black girls and boys to be staying in a bus stops on Benning road, georgia avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, and see all these black women on the bus and one day like, what do they do? Yeah, you know, like, and I wanted them to, you know, hopefully find us on Instagram and realize like, wow, like they sell candles and earrings. And, you know, and find out like what they do and what we do, and being inspired about it.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 36:47

Before we get into the lightning round, I'm really curious. You know, one of the things that always stood out to me about you as well, and we talked about this in your very first time on the show is that you are big on knowing what's for you. And you know, people would ask you like, hey, how come you're not open here? How come you're not doing this? And like, that doesn't work for me. Here's what I do. Here's when I'm open. Now that you have seen that interest from other stores and other brands and the fact that we want this to be in other homes and as many black? Well, I would want to be able to get product anytime I want. Right? Now have you considered like well, I will you expand into big box stores at some point, because of that representation of being a black own lifestyle brand in these spaces where we're not usually in.

Angel Gregorio 37:35

So I just recently started to become open to the idea. So recently, in the past, like month or two, I've had conversations with a couple folks that a couple of different big box stores. And I am open to the idea of it. I've really just wanted to cross the seven figure threshold all by myself first, like I really I really needed to thank you, I really, really wanted to do that. By myself. Like I really, that was important to me, because I want to always be able to control my own narrative like I you know, I think for some people, it's like having you get your first millions, it's how you get it right. Like it doesn't matter which I get. But for me, it was super important for me as a small business owner, as a black woman business owner, who loves community and loves black people and blackness, to like be able to make my first millions without having to compromise the integrity of my brand or the blackness of my brand. Every single product I sell in my store now has a stamp on it that says handmade in DC by black woman. And I didn't want to have to take that off. Because you know, this store thought that that might be a little much or it might, you know, like I don't want to have to negotiate in that way. And now I'm at a space with like, this is my brand. There's not a single person who follows her the you know, investigates the space, we're just not clear about who I'm here for, and who I love and who I'm rooting for. Right. So if you approach me, I'm assuming that you've done some research and you know, I'm not taking that sample from my product. And so now I feel comfortable with having those conversations, because there's a little bit of confidence that comes with like financial security, whereas before, if they would have approached me, then maybe I would have done it. Because I would have been you know, I get some points. It's just kind of like wanting the money to come so that you can do all the things you want to do. When in reality I've done so much more than what I wanted to do with the spice suite. Like I always say I'm living a dream I didn't even know I had. And at this point I like I'm pinching myself almost daily.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 39:34

Live in a gym, I don't even know I had that. That's it right there. That is the epitome of how I want us all to live our life with that openness of knowing that we don't we don't know where we're gonna be in a year, five years. 10 years from now we just don't and maybe we could take some pressure off of ourselves from thinking that we need to and that we need to be able to describe that because again, if you remain open like you have done and listen like life will show You signs it will take you where you need to go. When we spoke in 2018, I had no idea like I had no idea that this would all come from the spice we write that one day, I would want to outfit my whole house. wisely like, Oh, are you gonna move beyond the kitchen? Like, what do you think? I

Angel Gregorio 40:19

think I'll stay in the kitchen. A few more things I want to do in the kitchen, I might creep into your closet, but definitely just

Nicaila Matthews Okome 40:27

fine. I wouldn't mind. Like I'm looking at your gallery wall right now. Like I just, I'll take all of that.

So now we're gonna jump into the lightning round. You know the deal? Just answer the very first thing that comes to mind. Are you ready? I'm ready. All right. So number one, what is the latest resource that has really helped you and your business and the new areas you've gone into that you can share with the side hustle pro audience,

Angel Gregorio 40:57

the latest resource that's helped me is really just Instagram like all the new updates and features like help me like reels and things like that have simplified the way in which I can market and share my products. I'm really simple like I don't do a lot I don't have a ton of apps on my phone.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 41:15

Alright. Number two, who is a entrepreneur that you admire and why

Angel Gregorio 41:22

actually two of my good girlfriends Jerry Evans, she owns turning natural juice bars throughout DC we're doing it with

Nicaila Matthews Okome 41:31

Jerry two I love Jerry and

Angel Gregorio 41:35

I know we can see your live once together. And our shujaaz who owns capital city Mumbo sauce like one I use their products I shopped with them frequently. But aside from that, like just the women they are the friends that they become so me like they have become so important to my success and my growth and my and I just create a space like always saving space for me to just be exactly who I am. And then like taking the time to like fully understand me as a person and me as a business woman and knowing like when to check me in separate spaces to help me to grow like they have become like two people two of my favorite people and I adore them and I think that their business minds are brilliant.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 42:15

So number three what is a non negotiable part of your day

Angel Gregorio 42:18

music I love music I'm there's always music playing in the background when I'm cooking and my reels always music in my life like this because throughout my house and when I come in the house, the first thing I do is like an instance and like take out my phone to turn on the music. I love music it's just always a part of my day. It just relaxes me and excites me or just does whatever I needed to do yo

Nicaila Matthews Okome 42:44

for now what is a personal habit that has helped you significantly in growing your business?

Angel Gregorio 42:51

Um, know how to listen has been like the most important thing because especially as I kind of navigate being the quote unquote leader of this Spice Girl and tribe, like you know how to listen to each of these women understand what they need. So if they can get from me what I what they need, and vice versa, has been like super important to the growth of my business because there will be no spice sweet in its current form. Without this this tribe of women are called Spice Girls.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:20

And then finally, what is your current parting advice for fellow black women entrepreneurs who are on the journey to growing their side hustles into moneymakers.

Angel Gregorio 43:32

So I typically My advice is like sinap effect later, right. And I think I was typing something to a friend earlier today. And I typed it and I was like that, that that's it. That's my new kind of advice to myself and to other people. And I typed out to her that like perfection is the illusion of success. I think sometimes we think that like when things are you know, we as we think that things are perfect. And we think that that is success. And perfection doesn't exist, right. And so as long as you're thinking that things are perfect, you'll never really be successful because you will be striving towards something that is attainable. Like all we can do is take small steps every day in a direction of our dreams and we will get there we will get closer and closer to the life that we want to live. But to think that will ever be perfect is deceiving. And to think that success is tied to perfection is misleading.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 44:25

That is speaking to me right there. So I thank you for that I really, truly from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for that. And um, before we go, can you share where people can connect with you online and on social media after they listen to this episode? Sure. So our Instagram is the

Angel Gregorio 44:41

best place to reach us because I'm always there. Spice sweet and on Facebook at cisely. And we recently launched some community spaces that were not launched by me but by folks who love us and that was black girls in the spice suite and we shot the spicy which share recipes and kind of personal shoppers.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 45:03

Alright guys and I will link to all of those in the show notes are in the description box on YouTube. So thank you thank you so much Angel for being who you are for coming back to celebrate the five year anniversary of side hustle. Thank you. All right guys, and there you have it. Hey guys, thanks for listening to side hustle Pro. If you like the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like you to find the show. And if you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Instagram at side hustle Pro. Plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter at side hustle Pro, that co slash newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business Tip of the Week. Again that side hustle pro.co slash newsletter to sign up. Talk to you soon.

Meet the host:

Nicaila Matthews-Okome

Hi! I’m Nicaila, the Creator and Host of the Side Hustle Pro Podcast. I started Side Hustle Pro when I was a side hustler myself. I was a digital marketer at NPR by day, side hustler by night. Through the powerful stories shared on this show and the courage to launch my own initiatives, I was able to quit my own job and go full time with Side Hustle Pro.

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