We’ve met Carrie Morey, owner of Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit in Charleston and Atlanta, to talk about her fascinating journey in the culinary world and the success she has doing what she loves. In this inspiring interview, Carrie revealed her most important principles of life and business and how she sees her future as the queen of the delicious, unforgettable Southern biscuits.
What is the secret to a good biscuit?
I would say the main secret is making it by hand, which I think is a little bit of a dying art, not many people do it that way anymore. At least that’s been the secret to my success.
How do you manage to still make biscuits by hand, since Callie’s has grown so much and you have to make… hundreds of thousands of biscuits?
We’re in our 12th year of business and we’ve been somehow lucky enough to have an incredible team of bakers who have been very loyal to me. Some may come and go, but they all seem to be very passionate about what we are doing and the art that we’re teaching them. I’ve just been very blessed with an incredible staff of people, there is no way that I could do it without them. Some of my veteran bakers have been with me since the very beginning, before I could even pay them. So, it has really nothing to do with me and all to do with my great team.
I know it wasn’t easy to start and grow this business. Could you please tell us a little bit about your beginnings?
When I first wanted to do it, in 2004, not only the idea of a biscuit business didn’t exist, it was hard to convince anyone that it was a good idea. So I was taking quite a bit of a risk. In the beginning we didn’t have much business, but I had good friends and people that were willing to let me take them to dinner and buy them a glass of wine here and there, to help me experiment and get the word out and try to get this business off the ground.
How did you get loyalty? How does anybody get loyalty from someone?
That’s a great question. For me, loyalty comes from having a great product and having great customer service. I think that sometimes, great customer service is even more important than the product. I know that not everybody is going to like my biscuits, not everybody is going to understand and appreciate them, but if they had a good experience, even if it started out as a bad one, my goal has always been to make everybody happy. So I definitely have a little bit of an edge, because eating biscuits usually makes people happy, but even when they’re not happy, as long as their experience was good and they came out of it with a good taste in their mouths – no pun intended – that’s really the goal and that’s how I think that I’ve created loyalty.
What’s the greatest compliment you’ve got?
Probably that we have great customer service. I love our biscuits, I know that we have a great following and that many people love our biscuits, but to me, the customer experience is so much more important. Because today, there are so many great food experiences, food is definitely in the forefront, it’s everyone’s entertainment, and if we have great customer service and people remember that, that’s what really creates loyalty – remembering that experience and wanting more.
Do you still bake biscuits yourself?
I definitely bake biscuits. Am I counted on, on a daily basis, to produce a certain number? No. My job has evolved, I’m the business owner and now I have technically three businesses, so a lot of what I do is logistics, planning, making sure everybody has what they need, dealing with problem solving daily. But there’s really no place that I’d rather be than baking biscuits, because that’s a calm, serene place that can take a stressful day and make it really nice and easy. I bake biscuits at home, not often, but we do it, my girls love to do it and I love to get my hands in the dough, for sure!
I know you have three daughters. Do you think they will carry on the tradition of baking?
We talk about that a lot, they say that now, they’re very young – 11, 9 and 8. Whether or not they carry on the tradition, I don’t know, but I do hope that I am instilling in them a good work ethic and the desire to be successful and be able to multitask, to be moms themselves and have a career. It would really surprise me if at least one of them wouldn’t do something within the food and beverage or entertainment sector. Between the businesses that I have and the entertainment that we do naturally at home, I think it has become second nature to them. So, I hope so, but it’s not going to bother me if they don’t.
Was there a particular time, throughout this journey that you’ve been on, where you thought, God, this has just gotten so much bigger!
That actually happens on a weekly basis, and usually the next sentence after that is: What the hell am I doing? I just wanted to ship some biscuits to people! 😀 People ask me all the time: Is this what you had in mind, is this your original vision? No, my original vision was to feed my passion, which was to be involved in the food world and also be a successful mom. While I do think that I have been blessed and have achieved that, naturally, with our success, we asked ourselves: What should we do now? This would be really fun to do! And them I had to go back to why did I start this business. I started it because I wanted the balance of being a mom and having a successful career. That struggle is hard and people ask me all the time: What are you going to do next? What store are you going to open next? And I just try to not think about what I am going to do next, I’d like to let it come to me naturally, when it’s supposed to happen. As I get older and wiser, I realize that things happen for a reason and timing is of the utmost importance, so I just started letting things come to me and remembering why I wanted to do this and treasuring my children as they quickly grow old.
What are your earliest memories from the kitchen with your mom, learning how to bake?
Well, actually, my childhood memories are baking with my grandmother on my father’s side. My parents were divorced when I was really young and I lived with my father, so I have countless memories of baking cakes and pies and cookies and biscuits with my grandmother. The biscuit that she made is not the one we make today at Callie’s.
My memories of cooking with my mom started in my teenage years, in the height of her caterer career, when she would make biscuits and all kinds of other stuff. I was her prep person and the one who served at her parties. I feel like my whole life I’ve had matriarchs that have set incredible culinary examples for me, since I was three or four years old up until now. I have lots of fond memories of not just baking, but cooking and being in the kitchen. To me, that’s really what being a Southern woman is.
What is the dream that you have that has not yet been fulfilled? Or is there one?
I don’t know if I really have one, I feel pretty blessed. I can’t ask for a lot more, I have a great balance, I have an incredible family, I have 50 employees, three businesses that are now thriving, and my hope and dream is that they will just continue and the path that I’m supposed to be on will continue in a positive manner. If I’m supposed to grow, then I’ll grow, and if I’m not, then we’ll just do what’s supposed to happen. I feel like I have achieved my goals, so I am ready to do more, if that’s what I’m supposed to do, and if I’m not, I’m fine with that too.
What is the most important thing that being in business for yourself has taught you?
It’s not just one thing. The first one is being honest, it’s always the most important way to go, having balance and never forgetting why you started it. I always go back to what I call „my mission statement”. I think sometimes you can get caught up in running the business and all the growth opportunities and lose sight of why you started it, so I try really hard to not forget that.
The last thing that I would say is that I want to empower everyone that I touch. I feel that I have a responsibility with the people that I employed to be good to them, to create an opportunity for them, to help them grow and if they want to continue with me, great, if not, help them in any way that I can in their paths to their dreams. As a business owner, you are dealing with people’s lives and it’s important that you invest in that.
What would you say to anybody reading and listening?
My message to people is do what you love. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, then you ought to get out. Anything is possible! I’d never thought in a million years that I’d be where I am today. For me it’s not about money, it’s about success, creating opportunities, setting a good example for my children and my friends and making people that I love proud of me. Life is short and at the end of the day you gotta do what you love, otherwise you’re going to lead a pretty miserable life.
What does success mean to you?
Success, to me, means balance and happiness and being at peace with yourself. Knowing that you are working as hard as you can and you’re also having as much fun as you can and you feel good about yourself. The reason that I think I’m so motivated to continue with Callie’s is because I get my confidence from my success in business. Like I said, it’s not really about money for me. It is a way to feel good about myself, and then in turn, I am a role model for three little people plus 50 employees. I hope that I can inspire someone else to do what they love and find their success.
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Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit was inspired by Carrie’s mother, Callie White, who used to be a well-known caterer in Charleston, South Carolina. Today you can taste the unique, handmade biscuits, in a variety of flavors, in the two Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit locations, on King Street in Charleston and in the Virginia Highland area in Atlanta. You don’t live in any of these cities? It’s ok, Carrie delivers fresh biscuits nationwide. Find more about that on calliesbiscuits.com.
~ photos by Jason Stemple ~Semnat de Corina Stoica, Paul Leslie