As part of our #BuyLocalMD series this holiday season, the Maryland Department of Commerce hopes to inspire you to explore the small businesses in your own community.
With only 10 employees, one of Frederick County's smallest manufacturers is landing some of the biggest names in retail.
Mama Biscuit's, the first gourmet biscuit company in the country, is an all-natural handmade baking operation right outside the heart of Frederick. Founded in 2014 by Lesley Riley, the sweet and savory snack can be found in Wegmans – one of the first supermarkets that she approached, and online at Amazon and QVC – two retailers that approached her.
And starting in July 2018, Mama Biscuit's is hitting the frozen food shelves in Walmart.
According to Riley, every year Walmart opens up applications for small businesses looking to expand their reach. After reviewing the applicants, 500 companies are chosen to visit the company's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, and are placed on Walmart.com marketplace.
For Mama Biscuit's, it became the chance of a lifetime.
"I was one of the 100 who got a green ticket to go on their shelves [in stores]," said Riley. "It's a 10 year commitment. It's a great process for small businesses and it's something they should seek outthose who are looking to expand their business into a larger market."
But who is Mama Biscuit? Lesley Riley is a former restaurateur that has traveled her way up and down the East Coast. Originally from Pennsylvania, Riley credits her love of baking to her grandmother. Hear more about Lesley's upbringing and journey into manufacturing in the video below.
This holiday season, try the top seasonal flavors recommended by Lesley – chocolate orange rum, cranberry cherry pistachio, or the biggest crowd pleaser, eggnog peppermint.
Riley opened her own restaurant in North Carolina before auditioning for the television competition Master Chef in New York. While Riley was ultimately eliminated from the show, she gained a following of supportive fans on social media that encouraged her to keep chasing her dreams.
She later moved to Maryland to be closer to family and jumped back into the kitchen to start her own biscuit company.
"When I started doing this in 2014, I had the goal to have 50 types of biscuits by the end of the year," said Riley, who frequently brought her baked creations to her day job. Her coworkers provided open and honest feedback, allowing Riley to explore a variety of flavors with her test audience including chicken pot pie, apple pear pistachio, and Kahla stuffed brie.
Now available in more than 50 flavors – and a gluten-free alternative – Riley has high hopes for the business and hopes to get back into the creative side soon while still managing the business as a whole.
"We're growing. We're on that journey and we kind of want to see where it takes us. I can see an expansion here soon.. with Walmart, for sure," Riley said.
Riley's advice for up and coming entrepreneurs and small businesses is to have everything in line before you take the leap. To become America's first gourmet biscuit baking company, Riley had to fly under the radar to avoid being ripped-off or replicated. In the end, it was worth the wait.
"Have a good attorney and accountant – have all your paperwork in order first. Don't be so quick to quit your day job. Work your business until you can get it to a good point," said Riley.
"A lot of the time, people will jump out too quickly. I think the key is to take your time with it and have everything in order."
Stay tuned to MamaBiscuit.com for updates and future announcements.