As soon as Scherise Merritt clocks out of her 9-to-5 marketing job, she’s running her thriving food brand, Home Beis. The new Brooklyn-based company serves as a central resource for all your cooking and dining needs, from all-purpose seasonings like her signature House Blend to essential kitchen goods such as aprons and serving boards.
Merrit first started making sodium-free spice blends for her grandmother, who was suffering from diet-related illnesses.
“I come from a Dominican family, and it’s very hard to find good quality and fresh ingredients to make food that my grandparents made back home,” she explains. “I saw that the things that we use that are in our supermarkets are very high in sodium or not organic and not very good for us.”
When she couldn’t find what she was looking for, Merritt turned to her kitchen and concocted her own. The spices were a hit with family and friends, who encouraged her to sell the seasonings. A few years later, in 2020, she launched her first line of sodium-free spice blends.
Hello Alice caught up with Merritt about the importance of starting small when launching a business, selecting a name for your brand, and how Instagram Reels can bring awareness to your products. The following conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Where did the name “Home Beis” come from?
When I think about food, I think about my home and the memories that I create with family and friends. The kitchen is the center and the soul of our homes, and we usually spend time in the kitchen. No matter where you go, no matter where you move, that feeling of home is always connected to food.
I wanted to urge people to enrich and improve their home base and the place they call home. I wanted to be very intentional with the name of the brand because the brand is all about creating and enriching memories around food. And what better way to do that than by focusing on your home base and how to improve that?
Was coming up with the name difficult?
The word “base” was already taken, so it was hard to create a name that stayed with people and that they remembered. Then I realized that the word “beis” is also another way to use “base.” That’s where I made it a little bit more unique. I even played around with other names I think that people remembered that were quirky.
But then I finally sat with myself and thought about something that was intentional and thought about, “Okay, what am I selling? What does that mean for people? What do they connect food with?” And then I jotted down all of the words that had to do with what I was selling. Then that’s how I came up with “Home Beis.”
[Hello Alice Guide: Name Your Business]
What was it like to launch a new brand during the pandemic?
It was challenging, but it also ended up being great for my business because my brand is a food brand. Everyone was home at that time and was trying to find inspo for cooking, especially if you didn’t know how to cook. So in a way, it was great for my brand because I was able to receive more eyeballs on my social media, site, and product.
It was challenging because a lot of the containers that I was trying to source for the products were very hard to find at that time. I had found a particular lid for the spice blends, but I could no longer find it to finish creating inventory once we were launching. I ended up having to pivot and go with a different kind of lid, which ended up working best for me because the new lid had ridges. When you’re cooking and your hands are slippery, it’s better to have a lid to have some kind of rigid lock on it because it’s easier to open, and they’re non-slip.
Learning when to pivot when I was unable to find certain things that I was sourcing had taught me a lot about my brand. For the longest time, I didn’t know if I should put out the blends because I thought that everything had to be perfect all the time. I wanted the lid to be perfect, the packaging, the branding — everything. But I learned that sometimes, it’s better to put it out in the world and not be perfect than not putting it out at all.
When you first launched, what marketing strategy helped you get your name out there?
On my personal social media, I’ve always shared recipes and restaurants. My personal Instagram was a big foodie account, overall, so I teased it there. I didn’t tell them what it was, but I told him that I had something that I was working on and gave them little peeks of what the product could be. I kept their attention going, and they were intrigued as to what it was that it was going to be.
Then on the Home Beis Instagram account, I started putting out the flavor profiles of each blend. Two weeks leading up to the launch, I teased different items and what’s in them, and why I was inspired to create them. Two days before the launch, I let them know what was actually launching.
You’re currently running the business while working in marketing during the day. How do you juggle between your day job and your business?
I really maximize my time the best way that I can, and I try to plan everything out. What’s helpful for me is that I do drops. I’m fortunate enough that my brand has been able to grow, and every time we do a drop, it sells out. So there’s not me having to ship all the time. Once I have a drop, the products sell for less than two weeks, and they sell out.
That has helped me manage both jobs and not having to do both all the time. Obviously, Home Beis is 24/7, and I still have to run social media and create content for the brand. But I maximize my time, so if I have to do something for my brand, I make sure that my weekends are dedicated to my brand. As soon as I clock out of my 9-to-5, I’m dedicating a couple of hours for my brand every single day.
Specifically for social, I make sure that I plan out the content a month in advance, so I already have my social planned out for the entire month. Then I’m just scheduling it and going live based on the time that I see resonates more with my audience and how my engagement has been with some of the posts. I make sure that I’m planning accordingly and I’m maximizing my time.
What social media strategy has been the most helpful for you?
I’ve found that showing your customers how to use your product or different ways to use a product and what they’re great for allows me to sell a lot of my products. I have chefs that purchase the products, but I also have a millennial audience. Some are beginner cooks and don’t know how to cook, so sometimes they buy my blends. But in my head, I’m like, Are they using it? I’m not seeing them post that they’re using it. I find that they need some inspo on how to use it, and they also want to see how easy it is to use the blends or make certain meals.
When I do Reels on different recipes that are quick and easy, my sales go through the roof. I can have maybe 10 of each product left on that given day, and the minute I put a Reel up with a quick recipe, the item sells out. I find that showing your customers how to use your products almost reminds them that your product is even in their pantry. It gives them a solution on how to use your product. It also has them coming back because there may be customers that may not have purchased the blend but seeing a particular blend used in a Reel, they’re so intrigued by what I made that they come back and purchase it.
[Hello Alice Guide: Establish Your Social Media Presence]
You recently launched a line of infused olive oils. How do you decide on what products to offer?
The olive oil has been great. They’ve been selling out also, so it’s been great to have them, and I love how people respond to the oils. The way that I ideate which flavors to come out with first is I put out a poll on Instagram and ask, “What kind of flavors would you like to see in an olive oil?” And I put out different flavors that I was already thinking about. I use that as a survey to see what I should do next, but I also look at which blends are more popular. Our house blend, which is a garlic and herb blend, is one of our more popular spice blends. I also have a garlic salt that comes out, and it’s limited edition. Every time I put it out, it sells out immediately. So I know that my customers love garlic, and that one was one that I knew that I had to offer to them based on the things that I’ve already put out and the things they already love.
[Hello Alice Guide: Diversify Your Food & Beverage Product Offerings]
What’s the process of creating your products? Do you make them at home or use a co-packer?
I do a mix of both. The spice blends are created in my small warehouse. But for the olive oils, I work with a company that makes olive oils, and I work with them to create the recipe for each oil. The olives are sourced in California, and they press them down to create the oils. Then I work with them to infuse our olive oils and ideate on what flavors to infuse the oils with.
We hear a lot from owners about the challenges of finding funding to start a business. How did you finance your business?
I funded it with my salary at my 9-to-5 job. My advice to small business owners that want to start is to start up small. See how your customers react to your products, and then continue to grow your inventory. I feel like that’s been the most successful strategy for me. I started off small; I only offered three spice blends and a couple of items that had to do with kitchenware.
For each blend, I started with 30 for each and didn’t want to do a large amount. I wanted to see how my consumer base reacted to the product and then use the profit from that first launch to continue growing my inventory.
I have not used any of the funds that I’ve made from Home Beis. I’ve continued to invest the profits into the business. As the business grows, I continue to invest in a larger inventory. Hopefully, as it grows, I can outsource a company that can create the blends for me. Then I can focus on social media and shipping them out and not having to create them ourselves.
What’s your vision for your brand?
I want Home Beis to be a lifestyle brand. I want to encompass what a home is and the feeling of home, so I hope to grow our product line to offer more products. I would love it if our products could be in big department stores, whether it be Target or Walmart.
My main focus is impacting customers, showing them that there is a better alternative to spices and seasoning up your food in a great way and that doesn’t require you to consume foods that aren’t that great for you, and put your health at risk, and showing specifically my community, which is Black and Brown, people of color, that there are alternatives. There are alternatives, and there are other ways that they can incorporate flavor in their food that doesn’t require loads of sodium.