Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we chat with Mary Bigham of The Town Dish, an online publication focusing on food, drink, travel, style and health. With a mission to share their discoveries, Mary talks to us about the importance of quality work to naturally expand one’s reach.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your career.
The basics. I was born and raised in Gettysburg, PA. I’m seriously hometown proud so quick shout out—it’s more than a battlefield. If you haven’t been since your 8th grade field trip, go back! I love to enjoy hard cider and to dine at incredible restaurants. I chose my college because they had my major and I really liked the dining hall offerings (not kidding). I moved to Ireland after graduating college to work for an international travel company and then followed a relationship to West Chester, PA. The relationship ended, but I settled into a marketing, events and sales career at a company in Chester County and traveled internationally in my free time. On a trip to Turkey I started blogging (mostly so that my mother knew I was still alive—this was pre-social media) and I sold Turkish items online to help fund the trip. I realized that most of my posts were about food, drink, beer and wine, and that I could also make money online (Note: my lawyer has since told me that reselling international goods without an importing license is illegal, so don’t do that—ooops!).
2. What prompted you to start The Town Dish? (Note: official company name is Dish LLC.)
When I returned to West Chester after my trip to Turkey, I approached local newspapers to see if they needed a contributor for the food scene. They weren’t interested because I had no culinary or writing experience, so I started a blog. Dish LLC (The Town Dish and Dish Works) started as a blog focusing on the food scene in West Chester (WestChesterDish.com) because I felt there wasn’t a good resource for interesting food stories in the town. Sometimes something that wouldn’t be a traditional “news” story is still interesting in the food and drink world and I felt that I could help to create that resource. I met my (now) business partner and programming whiz, Jason Tremblay, and the rest is history.
3. What draws you to the world of food?
Everyone eats. Food brings people together, it’s interactive, it’s nostalgic, it’s exciting, it’s creative. There are SO many stories to tell about every culinary aspect. Passion starts with growing or creating a product and continues through to talented chefs, distillers, brewers, wine makers, bakers, cheese makers and then to the consumers. Vegans, bacon lovers, beer enthusiasts and gluten-free folks all are passionate and particular about what goes into their body, so it’s universal, interesting and ever evolving. Also, my heart flutters and I feel giddy (I have a serious crush on a lot of foods) when I have a really good creme brûlée, break the yolk of Eggs Benedict, hear the word “brunch” or when I read a retro recipe in one of my vintage cookbooks. I just FEEL something. It’s the same way my heart swells when I hear a song that I love.
4. The site has really grown, with 9 areas now being covered. What are your plans/goals for The Town Dish?
We hope to be able to still focus on our existing communities as well as anything national or international that involves food and drink in the world of travel, style and health. We are also passionate about all things PA and our neighbors in Maryland, Delaware and New York. So, be on the lookout for stories and coverage on a variety of new areas in the next few years. Our Dish Works Division, which creates culinary content, blogs posts and articles for client’s websites or publications to help increase sales organically, is also on a big growth path.
5. What is your most successful form of marketing?
We have been involved in many longtime food events in our communities and have been major sponsors for these events annually. We have an active readership and we tell quality stories that naturally are shared and expand our reach. Our talented Marketing Director, Angela Corrado, and our skilled EIC, Amy Strauss, are the muscles behind those initiatives.
6. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
Happy clients are a huge inspiration. Creating jobs and employment for our team is another big motivator and responsibility. Talented food producers, creators, entrepreneurs and business owners are a strong influence. Observing, listening, wondering “what if” often and running things through our mission to “publish and produce culinary content” keep us on track while still pushing the boundaries of creativity. A walk with my dogs, a late-night documentary, an incredible dining experience or a gooey, creamy french cheese with a freshly baked baguette…all and any of that inspires me.
7. What advice do you have for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?
Find a great lawyer, accountant and tech person, and then hire the most talented, amazing and passionate people you can find. Work hard. Be nice. Be prepared for stress. Understand the responsibility of prioritizing others in the company over yourself. Be open about the fact that you don’t always know what to do. Ask for help. Please your clients. Listen. Embrace change. Communicate. Be authentic. Thank your incredibly understanding and supportive friends and family. And remind and show them often how much you love them.
Just for fun…