SBDC suits Sassy Pat’s to a ‘tea’

Pat Carson’s business in Locust Grove started with a tea party. “I held a tea for my sister Pami-Sue,” Pat says. “And that sparked my interest in the lost art of tea parties. I wanted to share it with others, so I decided to start Sassy Pat’s Tea Parties.”

Pat wanted something new to do during her retirement. Fortunately, when she decided to look into a tea-party business, a friend gave some advice. “My friend said, ‘Please do me a favor, and go to the SBDC,’” Pat says. She did and met with David Reardon, the business counselor at the Lord Fairfax SBDC at Culpeper.

“Pat contacted us for startup assistance that would help her understand registration and licensing obligations at the federal, state, and local levels,” David says. “Following the guidelines, Pat set up an LLC.”

Pat developed a business model that minimized her overhead: the client arranges for the location of the tea, often in the client’s home, while Pat provides the food, tea, china, silverware, decorations, etc. “It’s really taken off the last few months,” she notes. “Right now I’m the only employee, and I’ve never been so busy in my life!”

Before pouring the first cup of tea, Pat sits down with each client and makes a plan. “I go over available color schemes and themes, and we look over the menu,” she adds. Sassy Pat’s offers a selection of savory and sweet options and a variety of teas. “There are so many choices to make,” she adds. “Every tea party takes a lot of planning.”

So does, as Pat discovered, starting a business. Pat returned to the SBDC for an in-depth lesson on using QuickBooks. “I showed Pat the various accounting functions in the software,” David says. “This session gave Pat a more comprehensive view of the input and reporting capabilities of QuickBooks.”

As her business grows, Pat plans to return to the SBDC for guidance and assistance with business-related issues. “I will go back to the SBDC— I definitely will,” Pat says. “The SBDC gives you good information that you won’t get anywhere else. Plus it’s free — that’s the best part!”

“Giving these tea parties has become my passion,” she declares. “This is something I want to do for the rest of my life and I want to make sure I do it right,” Pat concludes. “The SBDC pointed me in the right direction!”

Sassy