Ayeshah worked up plans for her dream restaurant – Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. – centered around the best biscuit you’ve ever had and tasty, scratchmade southern foods. She started by doing neighborhood pop-ups and launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund her dream. Lines formed for blocks and droves of hungry biscuit-seekers kept coming for hours. The lines drew headlines and the demand for Mason Dixie biscuits led to a fully funded Kickstarter and a 100 sq. ft. stall in Washington D.C.’s Union Market.
It was impossible to keep up with biscuit demand. We made biscuits at night, baked them off in the early morning, and then transported them to that small market stall, stocked to the brim with biscuits. After weeks of selling out by noon, a few loyal customers started asking if they could buy our dough. That’s the moment that changed our lives forever.
Ayeshah worked furiously to try to find a way to keep her loyal customers satisfied. She decided to freeze the biscuit dough, but she didn’t know how to package the frozen biscuits for customers. A ziplock bag would not cut it, so she went into home appliance store for some inspiration, bought a FoodSaver, and brought some vacuum sealed biscuits to the stall. Within an hour, all the samples she made had sold out. By day, her team was freezing biscuits so that when she got out of work at her full time job, she could package the biscuits until late at night.
Ayeshah received an email from a marketing executive at Whole Foods Market saying she bought some frozen biscuits at the stall and that she could not get enough of them. She requested some samples be brought to their headquarters, but they were still in a vacuum pouch unsuitable for merchandising, so Ayeshah was almost too embarrassed to go. But she took the chance, brought the samples, and asked for a few months to get the packaging in order. This was never part of her plan, but it was an opportunity of a lifetime.
While still maintaining a full-time job to fund the new frozen biscuit business, Ayeshah hired Ross Perkins, now our COO. The duo worked tirelessly and grew a 24 hour operation to get biscuits to the stall and around town to local shops while developing the new packaging. By October, they were ready to launch.
By November, our two original varieties of biscuits - buttermilk and cheddar - were ready. The day before Thanksgiving, our first Whole Foods Market bought the biscuits. Ayeshah and Ross sold a record-breaking 150 boxes in less than 3 hours, outselling butter and milk that day! Mason Dixie Biscuits then became the fastest local frozen product to go regional in Whole Foods Market Mid-Atlantic history!
By mid-2016, we were in every local natural store and independent shop we could get to. The scratchmade nature and restaurant-quality taste of the biscuits were a hit in the D.C. area, so we decided to leverage our success to bring our scratchmade frozen biscuits to rest of the country, starting with taking on a national grocery store chain. We got our first chain that summer and grew from under 100 stores to over 300 stores that year.
Demand outgrew our ability to produce the biscuits ourselves, so we moved operations to a FDA-compliant facility to make enough biscuits to keep pace, but we had to break some standard practices to get our biscuits to stay as close to handmade as they used to be. That meant making machines act like human hands and buying all real, fresh ingredients, and not the artificial ingredients that these facilities are used to. With our new facility partner, we grew to over 1,000 stores that year.
The success of our biscuits at large retailers put our brand on the map. We continued to get requests for our biscuits at stores all over the country and by the end of the year, we were at over 2,000 stores, doubling our store count and sending our biscuits coast to coast. We also introduced our newest biscuit varieties: sweet potato and sweet corn.
Thanks to our customers and the retailers supporting small brands like ourselves, we are continuing to grow across the U.S. We are working on growing to more stores to meet demand and on new varieties of biscuits. We know there is a long journey ahead and we look forward to taking you along for the ride!