Tara Simon is 29 and the founder of The Sticky Pig. Tara has always been very entrepreneurial at heart but like most ended up with a job after her graduation from Temple University in 2002. After three and half years as a graphic designer she decided to go back to her first passion of fitness and became a certified personal trainer. But it was not until 2009 when she met a group of foodies that simply held dinner parties once a week that she got the motivation and push to unveil candied flavor bacon to the world..
What is your background/story before you started a company? Previous jobs? Career path?
Food, exercise and nutrition have been interests of mine since high school. I decided to study nutrition in college but quickly realized this was not the path I wanted to take. I changed my tune and pursued my other love: art. I earned a Bachelors of Art degree from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and immediately began a job as a graphic designer for a start-up online intimate apparel company. As one of six people in this new company, I learned how to wear many hats as I not only did all the graphic work for web and print, but also answered customer service calls, process credit cards, prepared photo shoots, assisted in packaging and shipping and was the right hand girl for my boss. After three and half years I decided that a desk job wasn’t for me and went back to my fitness roots, becoming a certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor. I slowly transitioned from graphic design to full-time Pilates instructor and within three years of working for a gym I decided to work for myself out of my home studio. TaraFirma Pilates & Fitness and has been around for the past year and a half.
On The Sticky Pig how did you go from idea to making the company a reality?
I am very entrepreneurial at heart and thought of candied bacon several years ago, but after pondering over the idea it seemed like such a daunting business venture that I ended up putting it aside. However in the spring of 2009 I met an amazing group of foodies that got together once a week for a themed dinner party. This group of well cultured palettes quickly became fans of my candied bacon thus solidifying that I have a golden product worthy of the masses. It was a little push from them that motivated me to try different combination’s. With my new foodie friends as my board of taste testers I developed 8 flavors in matter of two weeks, designed my website and set up my online shop. The Sticky Pig was officially born in November 2009. I now have ten candied bacon flavors, two candied bacon ice cream flavors and continue to experiment with more flavors to come.
Can you explain where the idea for candied bacon came from?
I’m not sure exactly where it came from, but the idea was introduced to me when one of my old bosses brought in bacon baked with brown sugar to an office party. It was love at first bite. How could you not love the flavors combination’s of sticky, salty, sweet and spicy? I too started making basic “candied bacon” for friends and family who also had the same reaction when they tried this indulgence. Throughout the years I perfected my recipe and added my own flair, experimenting with different flavor combinations and turning them into the little gourmet candies they are today. I also use my candied bacon to make candied bacon ice creams, which will be sold later this year.
It seems like you could do some fun marketing with candied bacon. Any strategies you have successfully used to find customers?
The Sticky Pig is only three months young and so far word of mouth, local press, Twitter and Facebook have all been very successful in attracting customers. It is through these avenues that people contact me to be a part of their functions, such as bacon festivals throughout the country or charity and wedding events.
Have you ever thought your idea was not going to work? If so what did you do?
Honestly, with the overwhelmingly positive reactions I get from people who taste my candied bacon confections, I never once thought my idea was not going to be successful. However, I have definitely been a little fearful of taking on a financial risk. I just continue to move forward with a positive attitude knowing that my idea is golden and that no reward comes without taking great risks. Besides, I’m having a hell of a lot of fun with my little piggies!
What have you found to be the hardest thing about starting a company?
I think fear is the hardest thing about starting a company; the fear of taking on too much financial responsibility too soon. There is always that idea in the back of your mind that your business might crash and burn.
If you could give 1 piece of advice to a young entrepreneur today what would it be?
I know you said to give one piece of advice, but I have two that are very important to me: 1. Surround yourself with like-minded, supportive people who stand behind you, and 2. Don’t let fear cripple you because if you let it, fear will keep you from ever reaching your goals. If you believe in yourself and your product others will follow suit.
Care to brag at all? User numbers? Sales numbers? Big achievements?
The Sticky Pig is still a little piggy at only three months old but has already been written up in The Orange County Register, Greer’s OC blog, and will be featured in the February issue of Riviera Magazine and the March issue of Orange Coast Magazine. Twitter and Facebook followers are growing by the second as the word starts to spread.
Favorite business book?
I wish I could say I had a favorite business book, but honestly I have not read any in regards to starting a company. I just dove right in. Sometimes over-thinking can be a hindrance when starting a business –just do it! If anything, it is the spiritual books and just trusting your instincts that give me guidance when making life decisions.
What do you do in your spare time?
When I have time to spare I love taking yoga and Pilates, jogging on the trails, cooking, reading, painting, photography, eating my way through Orange County by trying new foods and restaurants, and spending time with my amazing group of friends that make me laugh and keep me grounded.
What are your next steps? Either business or personal.
My immediate next step is to find a new commercial home for The Sticky Pig so that I can expand the product both nationally and internationally. Oprah here I come!
I also plan on becoming present in the local wedding and catering community. Not only does candied bacon make a great anytime gift, but is also perfect for something unique to serve for dessert at catered events.
In addition I also plan on launching a gorilla marketing campaign, as well as a Sticky Pig candied bacon dessert truck, much like the sought after lunch trucks that travel around southern California, serving all of my candied bacon treats, including candied bacon ice cream.
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