Sharing the Joy of Pasta with Chef Stephanie Fees

Sharing the Joy of Pasta with Chef Stephanie Fees

March is National Noodle Month! And to celebrate we’ve put together an episode for all the pasta lovers out there. Our guest, Stephanie Fees, is a chef who spent a few years working in commercial kitchens before she started Scratch Pasta Company, and she has a lot of great insights to share with us.

Scratch Pasta Company was originally conceptualized as a fresh pasta brand, but her main product has become her dry pasta (with the exception of the fresh pasta she sells at farmers' markets) which is all made in Stephanie’s home kitchen. In this episode, we discuss Stephanie’s decision to hire a graphics design team and the benefits she has reaped from this decision, the reasons she chose to leave the world of commercial chef-ing, why her brand qualifies as artisanal, the story behind the boxes that her pasta is sold in, and her hopes for the future of her company. After listening to this episode, we guarantee you’ll be going online or to your nearest store to buy a colorful box of her delicious pasta creations!

Get to Know Stephanie:

Name: Stephanie Fees
Location: Lynchburg, Virginia
Years in the food industry: 12
Favorite Food: Vietnamese Pho - Could eat it every day
Least Favorite Food: Truffles - I wish I loved them, but just don't get the hype!
The last thing I ate and loved: Basil Chicken and Dry Fried Mushrooms from a local Szechuan restaurant. Amazing.

Key Points Mentioned in this Episode:

  • Stephanie’s journey to find the right graphic design team. 

  • Things won’t always work out the way you want them to and that’s okay, just keep trying.

  • How the COVID-19 pandemic influenced Stephanie to focus on the online side of her business.

  • The small team of people who make up Scratch Pasta Company. 

  • Stephanie shares some of her ideas about the direction she potentially sees her business taking. 

  • The upsides and downsides of being a chef in a commercial kitchen, as per Stephanie’s experience.

  • How Stephanie made the decision to package her pasta in a box (it’s a great story!)

  • Stephanie’s original idea for Scratch Pasta and why she changed her mind.

  • Distributors Stephanie works with and loves.

  • The big dream Stephanie has for Scratch Pasta, which looks like it will soon come true! 

  • Stephanie’s pasta brand qualifies as artisanal because of the scale at which she works. 

  • A fable about a consultant and a fisherman which highlights the value of small-scale businesses. 

  • The special products that Stephanie only sells at farmers markets.

  • Why Stephanie recommends that anyone with a food business try out selling their products at a farmers’ market.

  • Where you can find Scratch Pasta (on and offline); you’ll be glad you did!

Links Mentioned in this Episode:

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Click Here for Full Transcript:

Stephanie Fees 00:00:
As you’re doing things, they don’t feel that big. It just feels like a natural progression like getting the box. But it was kind of in the works for so long that it doesn’t feel big when it actually happens. Now, it’s here. It’s so wonderful.”

Georgiana Dearing 00:16:
Welcome to The Virginia Foodie Podcast where we lift the lid on the craft food industry and tell the stories behind the good food, good people, and good brands that you know and love. If you’ve ever come across a yummy food brand and wondered, “How did they do that? How did they turn that recipe into a successful business,” then we’ve got some stories for you.

Georgiana Dearing 00:42:
Hello, foodie friends. Did you know that March is National Noodle Month? As Chef Stephanie Fees tells us, noods are for sharing, and she knows all about sharing those noods because Stephanie runs Scratch Pasta in Lynchburg, Virginia. After years of working as a professional chef, Stephanie had the opportunity to attend pasta school in Chiavari, Italy. Studying the wide range of authentic pastas and sauces in Italian foodie culture inspired her to start a pasta business, so she could share the joy of fresh, homemade pasta with her hometown.

For today's episode, I sat down with Stephanie to talk about her growing company and how she's expanded from selling pasta at local farmers’ markets to selling it retail and growing a faithful following for her online storefront. Listen in to hear how her own market research led Stephanie to make a bold move in redesigning her product packaging.

Georgiana Dearing 01:46:
Well, hello, Stephanie. Welcome to the podcast.

Stephanie Fees 01:49:
Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

Georgiana Dearing 01:52:
Sure. I’m so happy to have you. Could you give us a little introduction for the listeners and tell them a little bit about you and your business?

Stephanie Fees 01:59:
Sure. My name is Stephanie. I own Scratch Pasta Company based in Lynchburg, Virginia and I have various types of handmade artisan pastas in various shapes, flavors, colors, with kind of unique colorful packaging that kind of catches the eye.

Georgiana Dearing 02:21:
Yes. I’ve seen your new packaging, and it's pretty exciting. It's partly the reason that I thought I'd have you on today. That packaging just rolled out recently. Did that come out during the pandemic or prior to that? I’m just curious. I’m always asking my foodie guests how that impacted your business and how you kind of made choices in the last year.

Stephanie Fees 02:47:
Sure. It's probably a longer story. I think one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned in my business has been that maybe you make a mistake first and then you get it right the second time. When I first started my hunt for a graphic designer, I had someone that didn't work out great and was frustrated and lost a bit of money and that, I think it's called the sunk cost theory, once you've spent some money, you want to go deeper and just say, “Oh. Well, we can fix it,” because you've already spent money and lost it.

So I had to just cut ties and find somebody else, and it's been amazing. That’s been a big lesson for me is just being like, “It’s okay if something doesn't turn out the way you want it to, and you can just move on, and it's okay.” I found an amazing graphic design team. It’s a husband and wife, Odd and Even Studios. They're super small and local. I’ve worked with them for all of my design and marketing and everything. They've just done such an amazing job.

Georgiana Dearing 03:58:
I’m just curious because I love this sunk cost theory. I talk about it a lot with clients and I’m just curious, how long of a journey did it take before you kind of pulled the brakes on that first one?

Stephanie Fees 04:10:
Well, I’m kind of a, what's a nice way to say stubborn? I have very clear ideas of how I want things to look design-wise. When they don't, you try to – Some people just don't see your vision. Those first folks, I think they just didn't necessarily see the vision. It wasn't anything against them, of course. It just wasn't the right relationship. I think for a small business like mine, that was kind of one of my first big hires I guess was to find a good graphic designer to help with packaging, so I really wanted to make sure that it was right. It just didn't seem right and that’s find and found somebody else, and it worked out great. Sometimes, you just gotta try something else.

Georgiana Dearing 05:01:
Yeah. That's interesting, the Odd and Even Studios. They’re small. Do they also help you – I’m just diving right into the marketing questions here.

Stephanie Fees 05:09:
Yeah, go ahead. We can jump around a bit.

Georgiana Dearing 05:12:
Do they also help you with your emails as well?

Stephanie Fees 05:16:
They do. It's a husband and wife. The husband is an amazing designer, so he does kind of the labels and that kind of thing and the physical design. Then his wife has a degree in marketing and has been doing all the emails, and they've taken over my Instagram as well.

Georgiana Dearing 05:38:
Wow. That’s good.

Stephanie Fees 05:40:
Yeah. It was a big, huge financial decision for such a small business for me to have someone else do it, but I actually hired them for that three-month span between September and New Year's because I wanted to see what the business would do if I hired someone for that holiday push and someone was posting consistently with really beautiful content, instead of something that I’m just taking on my phone and posting. I just wanted to see how it would go. Of course, it went great.

Then we get to January, and I’m back to posting things from my phone and I was like, “Oh, no. I’ve gotten myself into trouble because I can't just go back from beautiful professional shoots to iPhone pictures. I do try to sneak a picture in there every once in a while too, but they just did such a great job.

Georgiana Dearing 06:40:
You had them work through the last quarter of 2020.

Stephanie Fees 06:44:

Georgiana Dearing 06:45:
Yeah. Online sales were like pretty interesting to watch actually in that time frame when you look at different businesses and how they were performing. So I imagine, did you get the results that you were anticipating? How did your sales go?

Stephanie Fees 07:01:
I did. They went great and that's why I wanted to hire them because I knew that in previous years I had mostly been a farm market based business. Without the farmers’ markets being at pre-COVID kind of capacities, I wanted to focus on online orders and growing that side of things. I knew that I couldn't do that with just me posting things like, “Here's what's going on in the shop today,” which is what I am doing and that's what I post. But they did a great job of kind of creating more of a narrative, and those are things that I just don't know or have the capacity to personally do.

Georgiana Dearing 07:40:
I have all kinds of curious questions related to that. One is that you said for a small business, how big is your business really for employees? You and –

Stephanie Fees 07:55:
Me and my mom. My mom probably works the most and refuses to be paid, so I guess she doesn't [inaudible 00:08:06]. She’s my best employee and my hardest worker. Then I have – my husband helps out when he can. Then I have one worker who comes in about 10 hours a week, and that’s it, other than the graphic design.

Georgiana Dearing 08:24:
You still own your kitchen. It’s still – Is it in your home or – yeah?

Stephanie Fees 08:28:
It is. It is, yeah. It’s another COVID story. Pre-COVID, we were looking pretty seriously at retail space in Lynchburg and hoping to open something in 2020. But we kind of had to make the call that we would stick with the at-home model for as long as we could.

Georgiana Dearing 08:53:
That's a lot of overhead.

Stephanie Fees 08:53:
Because it has no overhead. Yeah.

Georgiana Dearing 08:57:
Yeah. For retail space for a pasta company, would you also be doing meals out of there or you're just trying to do a production and a storefront?

Stephanie Fees 09:08:
I’m pretty open. We're still sort of looking for a place because every time we get a big order, we're like, “Oh, we need a space. We can't keep doing this,” putting pasta in the guest bedroom until we ship out an order or something, just small business woes. We were looking at a space that had a lot of traffic and would have been great for lunch and that kind of thing. So you can see kind of something with prepared foods and that kind of thing. But if we found a space that we liked, that lended itself more to a warehouse, I could see more of a small retail area, less food, more production. So it would just depend on the space I think. I’m not wedded to any particular vision at the moment.

Georgiana Dearing 10:02:
You are a chef by training and you come out of sort of the food service side of things before you started making your own pasta.

Stephanie Fees 10:10:
Right. That was part of the reason. I say it like it's a joke but it's not. The chef world is a very physical world, and I had done it in kitchens for, I don’t know, five, seven years. It’s great and I love it. I love nothing more than cooking, but people don't realize, I think, a lot of being a chef is just carrying like bags of potatoes up and down stairs or just the physicality of lifting big pots of sauce up and down or that kind of thing.

I could see going forward that it wasn't something that I could do. Maybe I could do it for another 10, 15 years or something. But when you're 50, it's not something. Your body would just – It starts to break down. So I was kind of trying to think of something that I could sustain myself long term physically but still be in the food world because I just love it so much, and I love the people and the community and everything.

Georgiana Dearing 11:15:
You are not the first chef that has told that story to me. I’ve heard that several, several times is that it's really physically demanding and that there's a point where your joints just can't take it anymore.

Stephanie Fees 11:29:
Yeah, yeah. They really do, yeah. I didn't do it for that long compared to some, but it really is very physically taxing, especially like not to be sexist or anything, but as a woman, you just can't necessarily lift things as easily. Men are usually taller or stronger, and so it's easier. I just wanted to try to be strategic about my future and sit down and think about something that I could do physically for the long term, something that I could sustain and love and still be in the food business.

Georgiana Dearing 12:06:
You're still primarily selling a lot through farmers’ markets and then, like many small brands this year, everybody's really picked up the online sales, so that direct-to-consumer. But I have to tell you, I was in a shop, I’m up here in Winchester and I was over in the lock store just a couple weeks ago. I think we had already booked this interview. I was there with a friend and I looked over and I went, “Oh, there's Scratch Pasta. “ This woman came from the other side of the aisle, she walked around to say to me, “Oh, my goodness. I love that pasta.”

Stephanie Fees 12:39:

Georgiana Dearing 12:40:
Yeah. So I thought I would pass it along.

Stephanie Fees 12:41:
Oh, my god. That’s amazing. Wow.

Georgiana Dearing 12:42:
It was really interesting. That's a retail shop. They’re –

Stephanie Fees 12:47:
[inaudible 00:12:47] my heart.
Georgiana Dearing 12:48:
Yeah, yeah. That was – I said, “Oh, good.”

Stephanie Fees 12:53:
You’re like, “I know, right?”

Georgiana Dearing 12:55:
Yes. The packaging stood out and that was nice and it looked good on the retail shop shelf. But are you in that many retail locations at this time or you're going to expand that portion of the business?

Stephanie Fees 13:09:
We are. I’ve been expanding it slowly, and putting things in the box was the big change. It sounds silly but before it was in these kind of – When I was doing farmers’ markets mostly, it was just in these craft paper bags. that looked great and people loved them. It was a very kind of artisan look but it didn't work for retail, just physically. They get crinkled and look sloppy over a certain amount of time.

I actually went into Whole Foods and just spent a good amount of time just looking at various pasta products that they carried, what they looked like, and what they were packaged in because I didn't want to do a box because it just felt like box pasta. What's interesting about that or how can you make it different and stand out if it's on a shelf at Whole Foods or something?

As a side note, I heard an entrepreneur say one time that to be an entrepreneur you have to be able to make a fool of yourself. So I flagged down the stock shelving guy and I said, “What about shelving pasta?” He was literally putting pasta on the shelf. Like, “What is a good product to you as the shelving person? What do you like, what don't you like, and what works for you, and what doesn't?”

Georgiana Dearing 14:34:
Excellent market research there. Go ahead.

Stephanie Fees 14:38:
Sure. He said, he was kind of like a rough guy and he was like, “Let me tell you. These pastas in these like plastic bags, they're crap because they fall off the shelf. They don't sit flat. All I do all day is come back and I’m just picking the stuff off the floor, putting it back on the shelf.” I was like, “Okay. Note to self, don't put it in like a plastic cellophane bag or anything.” He was like, “And we can't use it on any kind of like end caps because it just falls over. You can't stack it like for a display because – So all you can do if you want to put a display of it is put it in a basket and just pile it up and things like that.” “Okay, I got it. I got to put it in a box I guess.”

Once I had decided on the box, I just found a box that I liked that a coffee company did and kind of did a similar look as theirs. That was [inaudible 00:15:38].

Georgiana Dearing 15:37:
No. That is a great story. I love that because you went to the source like, “Okay, I want to be successful in this environment. How do I do that?” You did the research and then you asked somebody what really works. No, that’s a really great story. I love that actually because one of my things is getting the right message to the right audience. If you want to expand in retail, you want to do things that are going to make their business improve, so that is such a cool story. I love that. If I had known that, I feel like I prompted you to say something.

Stephanie Fees 16:22:
Well, I just remember him saying because there are those – I don't even know what they're called, those things that push products to – those plastic shelving things that push [inaudible 00:16:29] when you pull one out. He said, he was just very anti the cellophane packaging and he was like, “These things ,they just crushed the pasta in the bag when they're on that kind of unit.” He was like, “You got to do a box. If you're going to do something, you got to do a box.” “Okay, I got it. I got it.”

Georgiana Dearing 16:46:
That's funny.

Stephanie Fees 16:47:
I got it.

Georgiana Dearing 16:48: That's really funny. Well, one of the advantages though of a box is you get that big face retail, like the surface retail on the front of it. It’s like a little billboard for your product, so that's cool. No, I love that story.

Stephanie Fees 17:04:
It worked out well.

Georgiana Dearing 17:05:
Yeah. You have made some big business decisions for a very small company. I mean, you've invested in packaging. You've invested in an online storefront. You've invested in having a marketing team do some work for you. Those are all kind of bold moves and I’m curious.

Stephanie Fees 17:26:
Thank you.

Georgiana Dearing 17:27:
No. People worry about these things. Small brands worry about taking these steps, so I’m curious to hear from you, did you see enough return on these actions to make you go, “Oh, yeah. These are the right decisions.” I mean, you spoke to this a bit about having that team last quarter.

Stephanie Fees 17:51:
Yeah. With the marketing team, I always thought that as long as, for instance, my online sales maybe broke even with what I was paying them, then – Because that was my goal was to grow the online sales. So if I could grow my online sales enough that it would pay them, then it would be worth it because what I was doing with my social media and the website as it was, was not growing the online sales. They were stagnant before, Adam and Esther are their names, before Adam and Esther came along so if they were able to grow that through their know-how, then it was all a win. Hopefully, I would be able to kind of ride that through.

Then as far as the boxes, this will be another like rambling all the way back to the beginning of Scratch Pasta. But when I first envisioned Scratch Pasta, I thought it would be a fresh pasta brand that would cater to restaurants, kind of a behind-the-scenes thing to artisan higher-end restaurants. Then I could sell fresh pasta at farmers’ markets. Then I realized, based on some technicalities of Virginia food law, that you can sell without a kitchen inspection. I have an inspected kitchen now. But when I was first starting, without a kitchen inspection from the state, you can sell dried pasta but you cannot sell fresh pasta. So I was like, “Well, until I get inspected, I'll just dry the pasta,” and then realized as people were buying things that people were buying a lot more dried pasta than fresh pasta. People wanted that because it was a shelf-stable product that they could use later if they wanted to, instead of something that would go bad in the fridge.

So I had to figure out packaging for this dried pasta product, which became the bags. Then the bags started – The pasta gained popularity. I had some retail people. Over time, just the constant movement of these bags just made them look terrible, so I knew that I had to go to something other than this bag to hold the pasta. The box seemed obviously, like I said from the Whole Foods guy, the only solution. Price-wise, it was not really that much of a difference. Obviously, it was a huge investment with the design and for the labels and all that. But once it was rolling, it was absolutely worth it. The boxes are so much more durable. They look great. I get compliments on them all the time. People are very happy with the boxes.

Georgiana Dearing 20:30:
How many flavors do you produce? I know you have varieties, but how many do you produce right now?

Stephanie Fees 20:37:
I think I have 10 different types. I don't sell all of them widely. I think I have with my distributors maybe 8 of the 10. I have a couple that I just like and make but can't really make at scale, so I just kind of have those at the markets and smaller menus.

Georgiana Dearing 20:58:
You're already working with distributors because I’ve seen you in a store. How many of those relationships do you have?

Stephanie Fees 21:05:
I have a couple. In the beginning, I was working directly with every vendor. I would just – My husband is amazing at this. Every time he passes the specialty food store, he steers the car and he’s like, “Let’s go check out and see if they might want some pasta.” He's a better salesperson than I am most of the time, but we were able through Feast! in Charlottesville. They were one of my very first customers and they're just amazing promoters of local food and they – I reached out to them and asked them who would be a distributor that they used because I knew if they used them that they would probably be good. They used the Local Food Hub in Charlottesville, which is now 4P Foods.

Georgiana Dearing 21:52:

Stephanie Fees 21:54:
So they were my first distributor, and I still work with them now, and they're amazing. Then other than that, my main distributor is Rainforest Foods. I just started with them last year, and they work the whole northeast seaboard, kind of Virginia up to New York.

Georgiana Dearing 22:15:
That's a wide region. How many stores are you in?

Stephanie Fees 22:20:
I don't know if I have the count. I just started with them and I’m in their local catalog. I’m not in their overall catalog, so they're focusing my products on Virginia and Maryland and some Pennsylvania I think. I think we might be on our way into Whole Foods through them, so that would be a huge exclusive on Virginia Foodie Podcast, fresh pasta at Whole Foods. Yeah. That should be pretty soon. It’s always been my biggest dream would be to see Scratch Pasta in a Whole Foods. I can't even imagine.

Georgiana Dearing 23:03:
Well, that's a – We could do a whole podcast about Whole Foods. That is exciting. That's exciting news. I’m going to ask you this other question then. Specialty food, it’s special by its nature, and craft brands are going to have higher pricing than a mass-produced product, and Scratch qualifies for that. What sets your pasta apart from others? Can you talk about your ingredients or your process or things that qualify?

Stephanie Fees 23:34:
As artisan?

Georgiana Dearing 23:35:

Stephanie Fees 23:35:
Well, I always struggle with the pricing because, like you said, artisan food I think to a large extent is because you're making it in such small batches. I actually sent an email to a customer recently, and she said, “Unfortunately, your product is too expensive for me at this time.” I was like, “I’m so sorry.” I hate to hear that because I want my pasta to be accessible to everyone. I’m not trying to make something that is so expensive. But I’m buying flour, maybe 15 or 20 bags at a time, 50-pound bags, which sounds like a lot but I was trying to find a more approachable price point for the flour that I buy because I know that just buying it at that small amount is not going to be sustainable.

We, in Lynchburg actually have, what is it, Dave's Killer Bread, organic bread factory in Lynchburg, so it used to be a flour spread, like a white, white bread. They just refitted everything, so it's all organic, and they make Dave's Killer Bread there. I had a friend of a friend who works there. So I called him and I said, “Is there any way because you're buying amazing organic flour at such scale that I could just like kind of piggyback on your orders and maybe it could bring my price down if I could kind of buy my flour through you somehow?” He said, “I don't think that would be possible because we buy our flour by the railroad car full of flour.” I said, “Okay. Well, that's not –”

Lynchburg is such a small town. Everybody knows everybody, and I thought, “Oh, well. It’s a friend of a friend. Maybe he'd help me out, and I can just pick up my flour over at this other place.” He was like, “No, we just have literal trains full of flour.” That's how you can get a great organic multi-seed bread at the grocery store for three or four bucks, because they're running at this huge, incredible scale. I just don't have access to that. Maybe one day and hopefully – I don't know if I would qualify as artisan anymore at that point.

But at this point, I think that the size of the scale is mostly what qualifies as an artisan product. Obviously, we try to use, especially for our fresh pastas that we do at the markets, local herbs. My parents have an amazing farm, and I always try to mix in seasonal herbs and roast veggies and mix those in whenever I can and that kind of thing. But, yeah, I think the scale is really what makes an artisan food product.

Georgiana Dearing 26:32:
Well, yeah, and there's a bunch of steps between where you are now in that railroad car full of flour and –

Stephanie Fees 26:42:
Yeah. I can't even imagine.

Georgiana Dearing 26:46:
Here's a little research project for you. Look at the organization that is surrounding those railroad cars full of flour. Is that the end game for you? That’s like – It sounds silly, I’m a consultant, but there's that fable of the consultant and the fishermen where they go out, fisherman is on vacation and goes out and has a wonderful day and comes back to the fisherman, “Oh. If you did this, you could get more.” He says, “And then what?” “If you do this, you could do more,” “And then what?” He leads him all the way to being a CEO. He goes, “And then what?” He goes, “Well, then you sell your company and you can retire and spend all day with your family.” He says, “I do that already.”

Stephanie Fees 27:34:
Yeah. My husband and I have talked about that because he definitely has that growth mindset, and I think I’m kind of – Maybe I just don't dream as big and I’m very thankful that I have him and that he does. I’m kind of like, “Well, how big does it need to get?” I’m happy where it is and I’m sure it has a lot of growth and it could still grow and I could still be doing the other things that I love too. But yeah, absolutely, at a certain point. It's just enough what it is, and it's wonderful where it is now. I’m sure it'll keep growing. I hope. I hope.

Georgiana Dearing 28:15: You're using organic flour. Here's a question. Virginia's not known for its wheat, so where do you get that from? How far afield do you have to go for your flour?

Stephanie Fees 28:27:
The flour is milled by Wade's Mill, which is outside of – Where did he move? He just moved outside of Charlottesville I think.

Georgiana Dearing 28:36:
Well, then it is local.

Stephanie Fees 28:38:
It is, yeah.

Georgiana Dearing 28:38:
Yeah, very good.

Stephanie Fees 28:40:
It’s definitely – We drive and pick it up, it's very local. That’s not all of the flour we use. We use semolina flour, which is grown – It’s American but it just doesn't grow, the pasta flour doesn't grow in this region, so most of it's from North Dakota, so we just buy that through a wholesaler as any food company would. But the Virginia wheat specifically is that, the wheat itself is grown in Richmond and then milled in Charlottesville out of a water-powered mill.

Georgiana Dearing 29:16:
Wade’s Mill, I know of that. That’s really cool. It’s hyper local. You are as hyper local as you can get, and that’s pretty good. That definitely keeps you in that artisan category. If you have 10 types, 10 flavors, are you running those flavors all year round or do you switch them in and out seasonally?

Stephanie Fees 29:36:
With my distributors coming in and I do kind of have to keep a steady stock of everything and I try to keep – When I’m at the farmers’ markets, I do have a seasonal fresh pasta that I change every week. That’s always – In the summer, it's usually like a mixed herb. In the fall, I’ll usually get some roasted pumpkin and sage. Or I had one that was – It was a butternut and Chinese five spice that I still have people ask for.

Georgiana Dearing 30:06:
Oh, my god.

Stephanie Fees 30:07:
The surprise hit of the pasta world. I try to keep those as like fresh and seasonal and local as I can. But the dried pastas I just keep consistent because people have their favorites. Back when I was not working with distributors and would kind of just make whatever I want whenever I wanted, I would make something and then sell out of it. Then the next week, people would come back and say, “Oh, I love that. Can I get some more?” I’d say like, “Oh, I ran out.” It's nice to have a consistent product and then have the rotating flavors with the fresh pastas for my more local customers.

Georgiana Dearing 30:43:
An advantage to tracking you down at a farmers’ market then is that you could find those flavor surprises that aren't actually going to be probably hit the retail shelves at this time. Is that right?

Stephanie Fees 30:55:
Yes, absolutely. I have pestos that I don't sell distributors because they're frozen. I just use my parents’ basil. I do have jarred sauce now that's kind of making its way out into the world but I was making it as a frozen sauce before. That was kind of a farmers’ market only as well. Definitely seek that out at the farmers’ market usually and that's also kind of – I always recommend to anybody with a food business., it's very scary the first time you go but to go and just do a farmers’ market because the loss that you will have is like minimal. The fee is usually $25 or something.

If you're a new product and your friends and family all love something and they say, “Oh, you should sell this,” just go to a farmers’ market and try it out. See what happens because people will tell like through their spending. Sometimes, you just see them just breeze right by, and you're like, “Oh, maybe it's just my friends and family.” People don't love buying pasta in the summer heat of July, so I’ve had to learn how to switch things up to say, “Oh, maybe you don't want pasta right now. But if you mix some pesto with some cream cheese and mayo, it's a great dip for your summer veggies.” So you can kind of work your way around a little bit. I love the farmers’ markets.

Georgiana Dearing 32:25:
You've made some pretty big moves in the last like year or so. What's on the horizon for 2021? What do you think the next thing is for Scratch Pasta?

Stephanie Fees 32:34:
The next thing for Scratch Pasta, great question. It’s so funny talking about these things in retrospect because as you're doing things, they don't feel that big. It just feels like a natural progression, like getting the box. But it was kind of in the works for so long that it doesn't feel big when it actually happens. Now, it's here. It's so wonderful. I think, yeah, just growing with the distributors. I’m so excited about Rainforest and that relationship and hopefully just getting the pasta to more places. Then hopefully, maybe 2021, 2022 probably will be the year of the retail shop, the flagship Scratch Pasta store. That would be the biggest thing that's on the horizon, for sure.

Georgiana Dearing 33:20:
Well, you definitely have like the one-on-one experience that you get through the farmers’ market if you were in a retail environment, for sure. We’re going to close here. But before we do, I would love for you to share where people can find you, what your social media handles are, and things like that.

Stephanie Fees 33:39:
Sure. My website is and Facebook is Scratch Pasta. Instagram is Scratch Pasta. Then we're all over Virginia. Pretty much any specialty food store, hopefully more or less will have Scratch Pasta. If they don't, let me know, and I’ll reach out to them and I’ll get it there. Then we're just kind of working our way up north and down south. Then look out for us in the farmers’ markets.

Georgiana Dearing 34:11:
For sure.

Stephanie Fees 34:12:
In the spring, hopefully everybody will be vaccinated, and we can just be back in full force.

Georgiana Dearing 34:17:
That would be great. That would be wonderful.

Stephanie Fees 34:19:
It’s the dream, the dream. Yeah.

Georgiana Dearing 34:22:
Well, thank you so much for sharing your story and your dreams with me. This has been a lot of fun. Yeah, I look forward to seeing you around in more stores. I was really happy to find you in the lock store the other day.

Stephanie Fees 34:33:
Yeah. That was such a great story. Thank you so much.

Georgiana Dearing 34:37:
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