Meet Seattle native Grate Boards founder Dimitria Hare-Michael who has always had a passion for all things cheese and entertaining. Her love for cheese all started when she was a young girl, so what better way to combine her love of entertaining and love for cheese than by sharing her boards with the world! Alas, Grate Boards was born! Grate boards has all your cheese board dreams! We create custom cheese boards and grazing tables perfect for any occasion from parties, weddings to corporate events.
It is great to have you with us Dimitria! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Dimitria Hare-Michael and I live in Seattle, WA, born and raised! I come from a huge foodie family, we all live within 10 minutes of each other and are together constantly, sometimes a little too much. They have moulded who I am both as a person and a businesswoman. I graduated from the University of Arizona in 2013 and miss living in the warm desert every day. In my spare time, I love watching football, cooking and hosting parties and gatherings with my friends and family, I am the honorary party planner.
What was the setup process like for Grate Boards and how is it funded?
As mentioned, I come from a huge family where most of our gatherings are surrounded by food. Everyone in my family are amazing cooks, my dad is even a professional chef and my mom is the ultimate entertainer so starting this business was ultimately in my blood. I have always loved cheese even as a young girl, my mom will be the first to tell you that all I ate when I was younger was cheese and fruit.
My role in all family and friend functions was always to provide a cheese plate or some kind of appetiser. One evening I was having some of my girlfriends over and I was making my normal cheese plate, but I wanted to elevate it so I started doing some Instagram research then I ultimately told myself I too could be one of these “cheese influencers” that I found on Instagram.
From there I tested out the idea with my friends and family and started spreading the word through my community and about a month after pitching the idea to everyone I got my business license, built my website and started Grate Boards! I funded everything on my own.
Who are the team behind you at Grate Boards and do you currently have any mentors?
The team at Grate Boards on a daily basis is me, I do however get a lot of assistance on larger orders or when I’m out of town by my amazing mother. Both she and my dad have helped me along the way in regards to food styling, pricing, recipes, etc, I definitely couldn’t have started without their help.
As far as mentors go, I look up to a lot of different amazing women on Instagram who do similar things to Grate Boards. Some of these women are similar to influencers and do not sell their work but would rather promote products, whereas other women have made a true business out of it and sell their products similar to what I do. I look forward to seeing where my business can grow similar to these other women.
What platforms are you using as marketing tools?
My main marketing tools are Instagram and Facebook. I regularly pay for boosted posts on both platforms, which you can target your audience based on geography and/or interests. I created my website within the first month which has been a great way for people to find me from things like Google searches.
I also have no problem donating my services to things like school auctions, fundraising events or styled photoshoots from professional photographers. I think there is a fine line of when you donate your services though, but ultimately it can be a great marketing and advertising tool for you.
Do you currently use any apps or tools to help the functionality of your business practice?
Besides the social media apps that I use, I use Square for all of my invoicing, I use Plann to create certain captions for my Instagram posts and a lot of photo editing apps including Snapseed. Photography of my product is extremely important and I spend a lot of time editing my photos, I take a lot of pride in my photos and my colour scheme of my Instagram. I also am obsessed with updating my Google calendar with upcoming orders, I am old school and still use a paper planner also!
Who is the most influential female powerhouse that you admire and why?
The biggest female powerhouses are the women in my family. I come from a very large family full of successful businesswomen. My mother has been in the apparel business as a merchandiser and designer for a very successful women’s clothing line for 35 years. I have watched her business at the highest points and at the lowest points, but she always remains calm and confident in her business. She is constantly thinking of new ideas and ways to evolve her business, especially currently, as the retail world is shifting so much. Both my sister and aunt are also female business owners and it’s a great pleasure for me to see them grow their businesses over the years.
I have worked for my aunt’s company part-time since she started it 9 years ago and she honestly is one of the best bosses I have ever had, she has such patience with her staff and listens very intently on ways to improve and grow the business. My sister works in a man ruled industry, but she never lets that intimate her, instead, she works closely with them to improve both their career and her business.
Lastly, my grandmother is the matriarch of the family and has been the strongest woman in my life. She went through an extremely challenging childhood growing up in the Philippines during WWII and eventually moved the US where she met my grandfather and raised her 5 children in Seattle and now has helped raise 10 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.
The best lesson learnt throughout the business building so far? I
I have learned to not be afraid of saying no. When I first started the business I felt like I couldn’t say no for many reasons. I felt like I needed the money, I needed the promotion, I needed the client, etc. I learned as my schedule got busier that there is a fine line between the work-play balance. The hard part is that most of my business occurs on weekends and there are many times when I want to enjoy my life and I have to learn to say no. Saying no does not make me less of businesswoman, but rather it makes me more of a balanced businesswoman. I don’t ever want to burn out on my passion and I don’t want to overwork myself where it’s no longer fun for me to do.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
#BEYOUROWN means never giving up on your dreams and never letting anyone tell you no. Female business owners usually have the strongest faith in their business, but they also want people to believe just as strongly in their business as they do. I know personally that I was and still at times are a little reluctant to tell people what my business is because I’m afraid what people will think. People need to not be so afraid of what other people think, if you have belief in your idea then others will see your passion for it and consequently it will make your business more successful.
What does 2020 look like for you?
2020 looks like it has a lot of potential for Grate Boards. I recently started teaching cheese board making classes called The Art of Cheese around the Seattle area. I would love to be able to teach these classes once a month, it brings me so much joy to share my passion and talent with others. I love teaching people that they too can be cheese board artists. The opportunities for Grate Boards in this next year are endless, I ultimately hope to grow my business both financially and to grow my brand awareness through social media. I look forward to seeing what happens in 2020!
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