Salt of the Earth

We talk with gritty, hilarious people who run successful small businesses.
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Salt of the Earth


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Now displaying: November, 2015
Nov 26, 2015

Audra grew up changing oil and swapping tires. She's a fourth generation mechanic and owner of Great Bear Auto Repair in Queens, NY. Since taking the reins at Great Bear she's also started, a site that teaches people how to properly maintain their cars and helps them understand what to expect when taking them to a mechanic.

Listen to this episode to hear Audra's perspective on running her business in a mostly male industry, dealing with the preconceptions that mechanics are crooks, and quadrupling her revenue since the recession.

Nov 19, 2015

Joe Ray thought he was pretty tough at 18. So tough, he thought, that he might have a career as a boxer. He hired a boxing coach and quickly found himself with plenty of black eyes and no wins. But Joe’s coach still gave him a chance–a chance selling fish. He thrived at his coach’s fish market and so begins the story of Joe Ray, owner of Free Range Fish & Lobster, a $15M fish distributor and retailer.

Joe cut his teeth working boats in Maine and Alaska before settling down in Portland, Maine. He spent nearly a decade learning the ropes from other distributors in Portland before setting off on his own with one business partner. Free Range Fish & Lobster now consists of a large wholesale business, a restaurant sales division, and retail shops in Portland and Wakefield, NH.

We met Joe the old fashioned way–we walked into Free Range and asked to talk to the owner. Joe waved us in and within two minutes asked if we were ready to do the interview. We grabbed our stuff from the car and started. Joe’s full of hilarious anecdotes and sharp insights, especially on sales. We couldn’t have asked for a better interview with a nicer guy. We had a blast recording this one and think you’ll really enjoy it.

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Nov 12, 2015

After being fired from her corporate job and with a new six-month old, Harriet Mills needed to find work, fast. So she did the logical thing: headed for the local "paint-and-sip" studio, had a few glasses of wine, and took a painting class. At the end of the class, she had a pretty decent painting and the inspiration for a new business: Wine & Design.

Today, Wine & Design is one of the largest paint-and-sip franchisors in the country, with 62 locations and plans to get to 100 by next year. They started out small, in 2010, with one location and an $8,000 loan. Through Groupon, Facebook, and some local media coverage, they gained immediate interest, and in 2011 they opened their second store. From there, they started franchising and have continued to grow. Hear about Harriet's first job (a lemonade stand), how she used to find artists, and what she is doing to ensure the long term success of Wine & Design. 

Also, check out our website at and sign up for the newsletter to see Harriet's first painting, the one that inspired her to start her own business. 

Nov 5, 2015

Luke Holden & Ben Conniff started a restaurant in the East Village with $30,000 and one product in 2009. Since then, they've expanded into Boston, Chicago and even locations in Japan. And the focus is still on serving a fresh, simple lobster without the high price tag. 

In 2009, Luke was leaving a job in finance and Ben was looking for a job in the food industry. "Entry level kitchen jobs" is how Ben describes the job he was looking for. They ended up finding each other through Craigslist and opened the doors to their first inglorious shop in October. With 8 seats, no restroom, and no air conditioning, they earned a profit on their small investment within the first month. We talk to them about sketchy NYC handymen, marketing their first shops, and managing a growing workforce.

Luke's Lobster is probably our most interesting "blueprint", as an episode, so far. Two guys with a simple idea and $30,000 enter one of the more challenging industries in NYC, and come out with a $10M/year+ business.