Business Lessons From “Big Mama” Patricia Barron

March 22, 2012  |  

Patricia Barron is a woman that understands the value of hard work and determination. It wasn’t until she retired from Ma Bell telephone company in Omaha after 30 years that she decided to pursue her life-long dream restaurant. By then she was a grandmother, but her young spirit refused to let her be called grandmother. Instead, she became known as “Big Mama,” and like many of the Big Mamas in our lives, Omaha.com reports that there’s a lot you can learn from her story.

Barron studied culinary arts in her early 20s and always loved to cook meals for her large and growing family. In her words she loves to feed people, and sometimes had 30 to 40 people over for dinner. Starting her business after retirement had been her plan for awhile because the restaurant she wanted to create was going to be big, and she needed time. She wanted to share her grandmother’s recipes, which included oven fried chicken, collard greens, stir fried cabbage, with everyone. She hoped that her business would be a source of economic empowerment for the financially unstable north Omaha where so many needed jobs. She was 65 when she started her business, and lenders were hesitant to lend to an old woman in a financially down area.

“I had experienced discrimination in my life, because I was black and because I was a woman,” Barron told Omaha.com, “but I had never been discriminated against because I was old!”

She kept at her dream despite the challenges and opened up Big Mama’s Kitchen on a youth services campus in north Omaha. Today Big Mama’s is doing well, and has been featured on Travel Channel, the Food Channel and the Sundance Channel. People hail her “Afro Burger” and in her community she is known as the queen of soul food.

The source of her success is a lesson that many businesses need to take to heart– the strength of her personal brand.

As she was getting her business started, she hired a marketing consultant who told her to put her picture on her restaurant’s logo and business card. Barron was skeptical at first, but was glad she decided to take the consultant’s advice. She is the face of Big Mama’s Kitchen, a face that inspires African American customers and helps her white customers put a face to the good food that they eat in her restaurant. While good food and good service are important to business success, never underestimate the power of a personal brand.

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