President & CEO,
Soft Stuff Distributors, Inc.
“Never stop learning! Take classes on relevant business subject matter and ask lots of questions. Remember, if you are the smartest person in the room…you’re in the wrong room!”
About Soft Stuff Distributors, Inc.
Soft Stuff Distributors, Inc. is the Premier Specialty Foodservice Distributor in the Mid Atlantic. We have established an excellent reputation over the last 29 years for providing wonderful breads, desserts, ice cream, hors d’oeuvres, soups and On Trend foods. We Deliver The Good Stuff!
Headquartered: Jessup, Maryland
Company Website: www.gosoftstuff.com
When and how was your business started?
I started Soft Stuff Distributors in 1989 out of necessity. I was working for a major manufacturer of restaurant equipment. My boss thought that I was looking to open a Coffee Café when he opened a thank you note from a real estate broker that was sent to my office and he fired me! I was actually helping my friend scout out sites and had no intentions of opening a retail coffee operation. In retrospect, getting fired was the best thing that could have happened to me. Twenty-nine years later, I have a thriving and growing Foodservice Distribution Company!
How has being a WBENC-Certified WBE helped your business?
WBENC Certification has proved invaluable to me over the years. The network that I have built has allowed me access to opportunities I would not have dreamed existed. The educational opportunities are transformative, and the community is terrifically supportive. I can safely say that without WBENC, my company, Soft Stuff Distributors would not be where it is today!
What is your proudest moment thus far in business?
My proudest moment came when I was notified that I was one of the 2018 WBENC Women’s Business Enterprise Stars!
What advice do you have for new entrepreneurs?
Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. You need to recognize that in order to be successful, you will have to sacrifice many things that your friends and family can not relate to. You will skip vacations, work nights and weekends, know levels of stress that will wake you up at night or prevent you from going to sleep. Be smart, be agile and remember that it’s okay to fail as long as you want to understand the reasons behind the failures. You start a business thinking it will look and function in a certain way, but the truth is it won’t. Be very cognizant of the changes you will need to be successful and don’t fear change!
What advice would you share with a newly certified WBE looking to make the most out of her certification?
Show up at every event you can. Introduce yourself to everyone you meet. Ask for nothing, be gracious and offer to help others.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
Never stop learning! Take classes on relevant business subject matter and ask lots of questions. Remember, if you are the smartest person in the room…you’re in the wrong room!
What tips do you have for WBEs to get the most out of their time at the National Conference & Business Fair?
Look at the list of exhibitors. Figure out in advance whom you would like to speak with. Bring a well-crafted Capabilities Statement and don’t be impatient or pushy! Always remember to politely ask how your prospect would like you to follow up with them and then do it!
What should a every first-time attendee know about the conference before they arrive?
The National Conference & Business Fair can be very overwhelming. The best way to prepare yourself for a successful event is to solidly know your business. Know your value proposition, know your differentiators and know your capabilities. This way when you engage with prospective clients, you can articulate why doing business with you is good for them. Be professional and relaxed in your approach. Enjoy the opportunity to share your story, your vision and embrace the community. Don’t over promise or speak ill of your competition. Make friends everywhere you go!