Gidgette Moshier was looking for a new project as she neared the end of her teaching career. She and her husband, Ken, both had a business background; Gidgette’s parents had owned two businesses, and the couple started an auto-repair shop in Phoenix they later handed down to their son.
The couple decided to draw on their love for traveling and tea, as well as their small business backgrounds, to open the English Garden Tea Room.
“After investigating all that went into it, we decided that we would have to expand our concept in order to be a viable business,” Gidgette remembers. “That’s where SCORE came in.”
New industry? Time for new knowledge
Gidgette first attended a five-week small-business workshop taught by SCORE mentors at nearby Yavapai College. While she and Ken had previous business experience, this would be their first foray into the hospitality industry.
The Moshiers then spent “countless hours,” Gidgette says, working with volunteer mentor Dick Milon. He advised on the pricing food and bar items, as well as creating a menu that would drive sales during the slow parts of the day.
He also helped the Moshiers work with their strengths and outsource other tasks. “Even though I know how to do payroll,” Gidgette gave an example,” At this time, it is not cost effective for me to spend time to do it…so I got an accountant to handle those things for me until I’m ready to take them on.”
Milon was a sounding board as the couple searched for a location and negotiated a lease. He also advised them as they renovated the space and brought it up to code before opening.
“Even though we took over a space where there was a previous bakery, the building was a former firehouse and was not up to code,” Gidgette recalls. “Every time we turned around, there was something else that needed to be upgraded or fixed.” Prepping the space took the Moshiers four months, but Gidgette says it would have been longer without Milon’s advice along the way.
The power of conversation
English Garden Tea Room has been growing steadily since opening its doors in July 2016. In the first three months, gross sales more than doubled and the number of employees grew from five to 12.
The Moshiers know how important customer satisfaction is to their business’s word-of-mouth marketing. “We did not even start advertising until we had been open for six weeks. Everything in the beginning was word of mouth or Facebook….to give us time to get things settled,” Gidgette admits.
“I think part of this success is because we make time to talk to our customers and listen to what they want and expect when they come in,” she says. “We have had some issues, but the one thing Dick told me was to face them head on and handle them.” By engaging with upset customers, Gidgette has been able to resolve problems and turn negative experiences into positive ones.