Part 2: Nut Butter Guy Becomes Nut Butter Business

After getting to know Mark Overbay in a previous post, we shift our focus to his business: Big Spoon Roasters. Once he became a regular selling his nut butters at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market, Mark began to expand his business. In recent months, he decided to leave his job at Counter Culture Coffee to pursue Big Spoon full time. Big Spoon Roasters currently sells a variety of nut butters, energy bars, roasted peanuts and, if you catch them at the right time, delicious baked goods and treats, like their peanut pecan oatmeal cookies.

The company is named as a tribute to his dad, Gary, who earned the nickname of Big Spoon when Mark was six years old. One day, Mark found him in the kitchen eating peanut butter straight from the jar with a tablespoon. Mark quickly shouted “Big Spoon” and the name stuck. It’s Gary’s nickname to this day. And now Big Spoon has become more than just a nickname; it’s Mark’s passion and livelihood.

Did you always want to start a business? Yes, I’ve known it for a long time. Part of it was a discovery process (the business side), the other part of it is I’ve always loved creating things – especially with food and cooking. For a long time I wanted to have my own food business, I just wasn’t sure what it would be. Would it be a product I make or would it be a restaurant? It thought about both a lot.

Do you/did you have other ideas of businesses you want/wanted to start or that you think someone else should start? Any that you’d be willing to share? I think that there should be more food business incubator kitchens; that was a business idea I had to do here. The Cookery has mastered it, and it’s fantastic. There are only a dozen of these incubator kitchens around the country. There are many, many opportunities to start businesses like The Cookery across the United States.

I also have a lot of restaurant and store ideas. Exotic fruit importing. In America, we eat a lot of fruit, but we eat very few types of fruit. There are thousands, literally thousands, of amazing fruits in the world that aren’t imported. The varieties of bananas around the world alone would astonish you.

What’s the best thing about owning a business? Owning a business is the best and worst thing. You’re constantly making decisions, driving the decisions. It’s wonderful to be able to act on your creative impulses and see them come to life. But at the same time, you also feel the pressure of succeeding when it’s your investment on the line.

Any failure or hardship that you’d be willing to share? The biggest challenge is getting people to think about peanut butter beyond the stale, sweet paste that we’ve all become familiar with. Instead, people need to think about peanut butter as a fresh, hand-crafted food experience.

What’s the best piece or two of advice you would give to entrepreneurs just starting out? Believe in your product. Be courageous.

What do you like best about owning a business in the Triangle? The diversity and curiosity of the community is great. People here are generally excited and willing to try new things. And there’s a great network of entrepreneurs.

What do you like best about being a part of the food community here? I’m constantly inspired by original farmers, chefs, and food artisans in the North Carolina food community. The energy and passion around local food is as strong as anywhere in the world – and I say that without any hyperbole. I think people, particularly in the food community, are truly connected to agriculture, to where our food comes from, and they are interested in making that connection all the way to food lovers. That’s so important to the integrity of our food system. This area has shown a lot of leadership in that area for the rest of the nation.

What is your biggest challenge? Right now it is production capacity. All the nut butter is made – roasted, ground, jarred – by me. If this business is going to succeed, we will need to make more nut butter in a short amount of time.


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