March 2, 2011

Devo's Story

Meet Devo...
this is Devon, "Devo," Johnson, founder and "top banana" of Devo Olive Oil Co.

I'm always inspired by young entrepreneurs and became more and more curious about the story behind Devo Olive Oil Co. as I browsed through their website.  Devon was kind enough to fill me in so I could share some of her story with you!

How did all of this begin?
"The birth of Devo Olive Oil Co. was quite serendipitous," writes Devon...

In 2009, I started selling some of my homemade jams, preserves, and pickles in a friend's quilt shop here in Branson, and handed out samples to all the shoppers who came in the store.  The purpose of that project was to raise money for my favorite charity, Heifer International, and supply funds for my hobby.

Everyone loved trying the different preserves,
(I wasn't making your nana's traditional condiments, but more exotic flavors like kiwi colada jam, carrot cake preserves, strawberry vanilla syrup, papaya butter, etc),
so I started toying with the idea of opening a jam shop with a tasting bar.

In February 2010, I went on vacation and wandered into a gourmet food shop that had a couple different oils you could sample before buying, and immediately the lightbulb illuminated.
I bought a bunch of books about olive oil, and the more I learned about the health benefits, and the thousands of years of its uses, not just as a superfood, but for household and beauty uses, the more fascinated I became.

So I researched sources for importers, bottle printers, etc., and within about two weeks I was determined.  I knew the Landing was the best spot for the store, signed a lease, and continued to get everything in order as I waited to take possession.  (I have always enjoyed making pasta, and thought that would be a perfect accompaniment to the oils and vinegars we had decided to carry.  I found a co-packer that would make the extensive varieties and quality of pastas I make at home, sampled them, and waited patiently to see the finished product). 

When did Devo open shop?
We, myself and a few others who had responded to a newspaper ad, renovated our space and stocked our product in about 12 days, and opened the doors for business.  We opened in July 2010.  We've been scrambling around like crazy people trying to meet the demand ever since!

Where did the name come from?
The name Devo came from a couple different inspirations: 
1) It's been my nickname since as long as i can remember. 
2) DEVO is very similar to the popular evoo abbreviation.
 3) Our logo on the bottle is of a stylized dove with an olive branch.

What was a highlight when starting your own business? 

The most amazing feeling was when we got our first shipments of bottles and pastas with the name and design I had created on them -- something I could physically hold in my hand that I had first seen in my mind's eye, come to fruition.  That's intoxicating. 

Tell me a little more about the origin of your said they're from Italy?
Our oils are imported from all around the worldGreece, Spain, Tunisia, Italy, France, Japan, Chile, and Australia... 

The balsamics are from Modena, Italy.  Because our oils come from several regions of both hemispheres, we always have the freshest product available in the world

What kind of advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs based on your personal experience?
1) You have to get started, this is the hardest part.  Most likely the only thing really holding you back, despite all the excuses you make to yourself, is fear.  Which is silly really.  Being afraid of a grizzly that is chasing after you in the woods makes sense, and you should run.  Once you can stop being afraid of something that isn't even real.

2) Don't try to do everything yourself.  No one is good at everything, but everyone is great at something.  Find the people who are great at something you aren't and build together.  Then, make sure you tell these people constantly how much you value them and mean it.

3) Figure out your reasons why -- and it can't be money.  Money is not the best motivator; it has to be something much bigger to get you going and fulfill you every day.  My belief is that if you constantly strive to provide more in service than you receive in compensation, you will have more than enough money.

4) Follow you instincts, never compromise on quality, and have a plan -- written in pencil, because not everything will go exactly how you want it to all the time.  You have to be a bit flexible (this has been, and continues to be, the most difficult lesson for me, as I am a control freak).

5) Have fun!  If you aren't having fun, it's not gonna work.  Re-evaluate your motivation, what you want to accomplish, and your "reasons why" continuously.
Thanks for tuning in guys!  I hope you've been as inspired as I have!  - Em
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