1- Q) Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
A) Parkesdale Market is the largest strawberry and citrus market in Florida. We are third generation, family-owned market with a garden center, gift shop and an ice cream shop. We sell the freshest produce available from locally grown strawberries to PinkGlow pineapples from Costa Rica. Our garden center and gift shop are packed with beautiful plants and succulents as well as gaStrawberry Picking Farms, Fruit Market, Plant City Farmers Market, Strawberry Fig Preserves, Strawberry Jalapeno Jam, Seven Keys Coconut Toast Spread, Coconut Spread, Monstera Minima, Succulent Gift Box, Everglade Seasonings, Gator Hammockrden décor and souvenirs. We are world known for our famous strawberry milkshakes and strawberry shortcakes.
2- Q) Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
A) My husband and I moved to Plant City in 2007 to learn how to run the market from his parents, Jim and Cheryl Meeks. We met after college in Fort Lauderdale. He’s a Florida State graduate and I graduated from The University of Florida.
3- Q) What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
A) Moving to Plant City from Boca Raton we knew that Parkesdale Market was something special to the community in Plant City. Our goal was to keep it as a meeting spot where locals and snowbirds are proud to visit. No major changes have been made, except for updating the greenhouses and a much-needed new roof!
4- Q) What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
A) Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time and effort to have a successful business. Sure, we were lucky enough that Jim’s parents trusted us with their business, but there have been a lot of sacrifices to keep it going.
5- Q) What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
A) Top three skills to be successful: Communication, Dependability and Flexibility. You have to be able to clearly communicate with customers, vendors and staff. Your customers depend on you to have products and services. COVID taught us flexibility.
6- Q) How many hours do you work a day on average?
A) It depends on the season. During strawberry season, it feels we are working 24/7 and that’s because the market is open every day. So, Jim is here for close to 12 hours a day. I’m here close to 8-9 hours a day depending on the kids’ after-school schedule. During the slow season, in the summer, we work about 9 hours a day, but the market is only open Wednesday to Sunday so it gives us some time off.
7- Q) To what do you most attribute your success?
A) I think because we learned from Jim and Cheryl, we had to be successful. We couldn’t let mom and dad down.
8- Q) How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
A) Hands down, I would say word of mouth. So many people come in here because a friend, a neighbor or a family member told them about us. I love hearing that.
9- Q) Where did your organization’s funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
A) The market started with Jim’s grandparents back in the 1950’s. Jim’s grandma, Granma Parke, would sit at our location trying to sell berries out of a pick-up truck. Then in the 70’s, Jim’s parents with Jim in tow moved to Plant City and built the market to be what it is today.
10- Q) What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
A) The best way to achieve long-term success is consistency. You need to be consistent every day. Your customers depend on it.
11- Q) Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
A) Hopefully training the next generation to run the market! Our daughters are currently in high school, so we’ll have to see what they plan on doing next.
12- Q) How important have good employees been to your success?
A) A successful business needs great employees who are motivated and enthusiastic about their employment. We’ve been fortunate to have great staff who we see as extended family.
13- Q) How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
A) Because our business is seasonal, we have to give ideas time to stick. A good rule of thumb for us is if it sells in the summer, it will do great during season.
14- Q) What motivates you?
A) I’m motivated by results. I like trying new things and seeing if new strategies work.
15- Q) What are your ideals?
A) I want everyone who comes into Parkesdale Market to leave happier than they arrived.
16- Q) How do you generate new ideas?
A) I generate new ideas through traveling, trying new things, playing on social media. When we travel, we love to try other local, small businesses.
17- Q) How do you define success?
A) I define success by the fact that people keep coming to see us and they keep bringing their friends and family to enjoy our strawberry shortcake and milkshakes.
18- Q) How do you build a successful customer base?
A) You build a successful customer base by being consistent and offering a great value.
19- Q) What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
A) If you don’t like how things are, you can make changes.
20- Q) What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
A) Our strawberry milkshake being featured on The Food Network as America’s Best Drinkable Dessert. That was amazing.
21- Q) What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
A) As someone who has worked for someone else in the past, I don’t think there’s many differences because at the end of the day, the quality of your work, whether you work for yourself or someone else, determines your success.
22- Q) In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
A) Hectic. Some days are smooth and I can check off a few items off my to-do list, some days, I don’t think I even get to write a to-do list because I’m running around responding to situations all day. And that’s ok!
23- Q) Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
A) I believe success comes from consistency and determination. In order to have a successful business, customers will like to find consistency in your product or service. Why is Coca Cola successful? Because it tastes the same no matter where you go.
24- Q) Who has been your greatest inspiration?
A) Jim and Cheryl have been our inspiration. They made this market what it is today.
25- Q) How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
A) Mistakes can be prevented by paying attention to detail. When we rush, we leave ourselves open to mistakes.
26- Q) What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
A) We like to travel and try new restaurants. We do this mostly during the summer time when the market is not busy.
27- Q) What makes you happy?
A) One of the happiest memories I have about the market is listening to customers laugh as they visit with their friends/family in our greenhouse enjoying our strawberry shortcake.
28- Q) What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
A) We’ve missed some family activities because we had to cover someone’s shift at the market.