18/07/2024

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How I Grew to M in All-Time Revenue in 3 Years, Starting as a Side Hustle

How I Grew to $1M in All-Time Revenue in 3 Years, Starting as a Side Hustle

How I Grew to M in All-Time Revenue in 3 Years, Starting as a Side Hustle

Who would have ever thought that cheese boards could earn you $1M?

When we first met Monisha Misra, she had grown her charcuterie board business, BoardsbyMo, to over $100k in revenue in less than a year.

Fast forward to today, BoardsbyMo hit $1 million in lifetime revenue, and Monisha now runs the business full-time with a team of 7 employees.

In this “Where are they now?” episode, Monisha catches us up on the rapid growth and evolution of her business over the past few years.

Tune into episode 574 of The Side Hustle Show to learn:

  • How Monisha leveraged Instagram and social media to build an audience for her charcuterie board business
  • Strategies she used to land press features and local awards
  • Ways she diversified her offerings into workshops, classes, and corporate gifting
  • Why excellent customer service was key to her success
  • How you can turn your own creative passion into a lucrative business

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Where We Left Off: A Recap of Monisha’s Charcuterie Business Journey

Monisha started her charcuterie side hustle, BoardsbyMo, just three years ago. At the time, she was working a 9-5 job in software sales while creating custom meat and cheese boards on evenings and weekends.

Her business took off quickly, reaching $100k in sales within just 9 months, even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monisha’s primary marketing channel was Instagram. In that first year, she grew her account to around 20,000 followers by consistently posting, using hashtags, and tagging other related companies.

She also offered virtual charcuterie board-building workshops as corporate team-building exercises on Zoom. Given the inbound interest, Monisha began teaching other aspiring charcuterie entrepreneurs how to start their own businesses.

Two years later, BoardsbyMo has exploded.

Taking the Leap: Quitting Her 9-5 Job to Pursue BoardsbyMo Full-Time

In May 2022, Monisha took a leap of faith and quit her software sales job to pursue her charcuterie business full-time. After consistently hitting her monthly revenue goals for 6 straight months, Monisha gained the confidence to leave her stable 9-to-5 job and devote herself entirely to her passion.

Since making the jump and committing to BoardsbyMo, Monisha has seen her Instagram following grow to around 120,000+ followers, 6 times what it was when she was working her office job.

While quitting was scary for Monisha, she set a target revenue that made her comfortable stepping away from the reliability of a steady paycheck.

As Monisha put it, “It was definitely one of the scariest things I think I’ve ever done.” But by focusing on her revenue goals and passion for charcuterie, she took the plunge into full-time entrepreneurship.

Diversifying Marketing Strategy Beyond Instagram

Monisha reflects that pumping out content just for the Instagram algorithm became a chore. She then shifted her approach to only post things that genuinely brought her joy.

Showing her authentic self, even if less polished at times, has been key to growing her account organically.

In Monisha’s words, “If you’re not organic and you’re not transparent about what makes you happy, people can see right through it.” She’s also expanded her marketing to new platforms like Facebook, and even TikTok (though this one didn’t stick).

Monisha reflects on why her charcuterie business has stood out amongst the many similar “cheese plate influencers” that popped up in recent years.

She believes the aesthetically pleasing nature of charcuterie boards gives her an automatic advantage on visual platforms like Instagram.

But Monisha says she started adding more behind-the-scenes, day-in-the-life type of content, showing the “not sexy” parts of running her business. She’ll bring followers into the kitchen, cutting huge wheels of cheese for hours, with salami in her hair.

As Monisha stated, this depicts “a more organic and realistic depiction of what it’s like to be a small business owner.”

When she began showcasing this raw, unfiltered side, beyond just final product shots, people saw there was more value than someone simply organizing meat and cheese.

Even if the raw behind-the-scenes posts don’t always go viral, Monisha feels this vulnerability builds trust and understanding with her audience.

Corporate Catering: Tapping into B2B Opportunities

Monisha has also expanded her marketing to platforms like LinkedIn. With corporate catering now being a huge part of her business, she uses LinkedIn to target prospects planning large conferences, meetings, and events.

She tries to keep it organic—posting about successes but also being open about challenges.

As Monisha noted, “I talk a lot about challenges on LinkedIn and that tends to go over really well.” Staying transparent helps her connect more authentically.

Building a Team: Hiring Help to Scale Her Charcuterie Business

Monisha reveals she now has 7 employees at BoardsbyMo, a major expansion from when it was just her solo hustling.

This includes a full-time salesperson who handles cold outreach to prospects and retaining past clients.

For the first time in many years, Monisha doesn’t have to do sales herself anymore.

She also hired a dedicated marketing employee to manage email campaigns, newsletters, and social media. The other 5 team members help in the kitchen with food prep and styling.

Leveraging Email Marketing Strategies

Monisha’s email newsletters highlight upcoming events like public workshops, special deals, and new product launches.

She considers email marketing critical, fearing that social platforms could vanish overnight.

As Monisha put it, “I have a fear that one day all these social media platforms are just going to go away.” Email allows her to stay in touch with her audience.

To drive newsletter signups, Monisha positions BoardsbyMo as a thought leader in charcuterie—offering tips, tricks, and expertise. This provides more value beyond just promoting products.

Monisha has also collaborated with other small businesses on public workshops—letting attendees make boards while sampling products from a local partner.

As she described, “It just shows people here’s another local business that you can support and that you can frequent and purchase from later on.” The co-marketing exposes each business to new audiences.

The co-marketing workshops are free exposure events for both businesses involved. Monisha and her partner coordinate marketing emails to promote the workshop and bring in new audiences.

Even without direct revenue, these workshops can lead to future business opportunities.

For example, a workshop attendee named Shelly booked BoardsByMo to cater her office marketing team’s event. That led to catering more events for Monisha’s company.

As Monisha put it, “Nothing beats word of mouth, and it is the easiest, most feel-good way to get a new customer.”

Providing excellent customer service is critical for word-of-mouth referrals. Monisha always asks for feedback and has transitioned to more of a consultative approach.

Rather than just fulfilling orders, she probes for event details to recommend the best options. As Monisha explained, showing expertise beyond just transactions creates loyal repeat customers.

Leveraging Press and Awards for Awareness

To boost local search visibility, Monisha focuses on getting online reviews for BoardsbyMo on directories like Google and Yelp. This helps the business surface for searches like “charcuterie catering Boston.”

She asks every client to leave a Google review after their event, stressing how reviews help other potential customers make hiring decisions.

In terms of driving awareness, Monisha has gotten great local press in Boston media, leading to great news segments, podcasts, and articles.

She proactively maintains media relationships for future opportunities.

A former student even nominated Monisha for the Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 award, a career highlight.

Monisha also won Small Business of the Game from the Boston Celtics, an amazing opportunity to showcase charcuterie boards on the court.

As Monisha put it, this was “probably the coolest thing that will ever happen to me.” She credits Boston’s strong support of local businesses for these types of opportunities.

Monisha says even when she doesn’t win local awards, just being considered validates her business.

As she put it, “You feel something so amazing when you’re even included in these lists.” She takes it all as great learning experiences.

Diversifying Revenue Streams with Corporate Events, Workshops, and Online Courses

In terms of revenue streams, catering corporate events is now Monisha’s biggest moneymaker. According to her, “It’s easier to book when people are spending company budgets rather than their own money.”

Workshops are another major stream, including public collaborative workshops and private team-building events.

Monisha still runs an online course on starting a charcuterie business, pivoting it to focus more on catering. She identified a need to educate creative entrepreneurs in those areas.

Drawing on her software sales background, Monisha created a small business strategy workshop that quickly gained popularity, even being used by Harvard Business School.

She fills a gap by helping creative founders sell their passion projects.

Monisha offers charcuterie board workshops and classes through her business. The workshops are available as online courses on Teachable.

The main course is her sales and marketing strategy workshop, which costs $400 individually or $900 as part of a bundle with other courses. It includes pre-recorded videos and a downloadable workbook.

Monisha explains, “It really gets you to do a deep dive and then create processes from there. So you don’t have to keep doing this, like digging through the mud, trying to figure out your analytics and your reporting. You kind of have a system set up moving forward.”

Monisha gets most of her course customers through organic Instagram marketing. She shares short business tips in her posts and Stories, like using Hubspot to set reminders to follow up with couples on their anniversary after catering their wedding.

Her call-to-action is typically “If you want to learn more about my sales and marketing systems, go join the course.”

Monisha has also expanded into corporate gift boxes and platters, recently partnering with a wine company to offer wine and cheese pairings.

For corporate clients, she creates custom packages with handheld bites, engraved boards, and other creative gifts.

Hiring Smarter People to Complement Strengths

When demand grew for her charcuterie business, especially around the holidays, Monisha realized she needed more help beyond just her and Hannah.

She shares, “I could start seeing that we were getting a lot of orders for the holidays and it was just me and Hannah and I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if we can handle this capacity.’”

Monisha hired her next few employees starting in October to help prep in the commercial kitchen. She explains, “I think my next hire was for kitchen prep. I think the next three were kitchen prep and then Bridget was hired to help with marketing.”

Initially, Monisha hesitated to hire part-time kitchen help, thinking, “No one’s gonna want to work just like a few hours on Friday or a few hours on Saturday.” But she realized she was holding herself back by not delegating.

Monisha openly posted on Instagram that behind the pretty final products was difficult kitchen work, and she needed part-time help.

She was able to find creative people interested in food styling and prep work to help.

Monisha highlights, “It brought me the coolest people. It brought me people who already had their 9-to-5s, but were looking for a little bit of a creative outlet for a few hours a week.”

Hiring was scary at first, but Monisha says finding the right people completely changed her business. She explains, “I would never, ever, ever have thought I’d be as busy as we are as a company today, but it’s all because I was able to hire those people and actually delegate tasks out to them.”

Monisha realized she didn’t need to find people as passionate as her; she just needed good people who believe in the brand.

By changing her mindset and hiring help, she was able to scale her business beyond what she could do alone.

Next Up: Opening a Physical Storefront To Meet Charcuterie Demand

With her business growing, Monisha has been thinking about the next step of opening a BoardsbyMo storefront.

A store would provide a dedicated kitchen space and allow for more flexibility with same-day orders.

She explains, “One of the things that we’re really missing right now is the ability for people to like pick up or order same day or come in and stop in for a grab and go.”

Monisha highlights the demand, saying, “On a pretty regular basis, we get an email sent to our info address like, ‘Hey, can I order something for this afternoon?’ or ‘Can we come pick something up?’ Well, we work in a shared commercial kitchen and we only go in for certain hours every day. And that’s not a possibility right now.”

She sees potential in Boston’s walkable environment, saying, “What if people could just walk in and grab a small board for date night that night or something like that?”

Though she’s contemplated a store for over a year, Monisha admits being “scared to take the next step.” However, she knows even if it fails initially, she will learn a lot.

Looking ahead, Monisha sees a storefront as the next organic step for her charcuterie business. With over 1,000 people taking her courses and starting their own companies, she also envisions franchising the concept if the first location succeeds.

After starting on a whim in 2020, Monisha has boldly grown BoardsbyMo into a thriving business. A storefront would demonstrate her commitment to keep innovating and taking smart risks to scale the company.

As she says, “I think it would be a really cool challenge.”

Key Takeaways

Key takeaways from Monisha’s charcuterie journey with BoardsbyMo:

  • Build your team gradually as the business grows. Start with your core strengths, then layer on complexity.
  • Focus on “who” can help rather than “how” you’ll accomplish everything alone.
  • Delegate what you’re not great at. Diversify marketing channels over time. Master one area like Instagram before expanding.
  • Look for B2B opportunities once your B2C side is strong. Bigger ticket sales even if slightly lower margin.

Monisha has boldly grown her charcuterie business BoardsbyMo in just a few years through hiring the right people, focusing on core strengths, and continually finding new opportunities. Her story demonstrates how smart risks and constant innovation can create a thriving business.

Monisha’s #1 Tip for Side Hustle Nation

“Not hiring is holding you back.”

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