The State fairs and various festivals were canceled. Restaurants and bars were closing. And we waited anxiously, googling covid symptoms, buying toilet paper, and refreshing news feeds for the latest Covid Case numbers. It was while most of us were in a state of panic preoccupied with trying to make sense of it all that Kira Carrens seized the opportunity to usher in some semblance of comfort and consolation with her latest venture — You + Brie.
You + Brie specializes in graze boxes and picnic experiences here in Austin and surrounding areas. Graze boxes have many different names; cheeseboards, charcuterie boards, or “charcoochie” boards as we like to call them, are an assortment of cheeses, fruits, meats, and sweets organized on a board, tray, or in a box. The items are carefully plated in a strategic, almost artistic way that uses the items’ colors and shapes to complement the spread and makes it even more appealing. They’re insta-worthy before diving in.
Kira, a Clinical Project Manager by day, decided to turn her love of hosting, staging, and decorating into a thriving business that’s both profitable and therapeutic. The wife and mom of two sat down with soulciti to discuss her success with entrepreneurship, her long-term goal, and upcoming events to check out.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? And what brought you to Austin?
I’m originally from Canton Mississippi. I moved to Austin in 2009 after college. I didn’t know anything about Austin other than I had an aunt here and I wanted to get out of Mississippi. I found a job as a Clinical Project Manager, a position I still hold, and met my husband who’s from here. So we’re here to stay. I love it.
That sounds like the life; so how did You + Brie come to fruition?
Kira explained that she always wanted a business but was unsure as to what it would be. Like everyone who was dealing with some sort of anxiety or discomfort, at least with what was happening around us, Kira needed a healthy outlet. She replies, “Well like most people, I’ve always loved food. I used to make cheese boards for my family, friends, and events like birthday parties. A friend saw people making cheese boards and encouraged me to do so.”
After the nudge from friends that it could be a business, she said she would give it a try. She began doing her research in March and by April, You and Brie was in motion. “I came up with quite a few names before You and Brie. I just wanted to drive home the intimate experience. You’re having something made specifically for you.” Kira explains that no two boxes are prepared the same, consequently, any box or picnic experience can be customized for the person or occasion. She also offers vegan-friendly options.
I understand you opened during the pandemic, but when would you say you’ve had the best business thus far?
Kira admits, “Maybe it’s because of the time when I first began, but my business didn’t slow down until now. I made the most money from April through June.” Adjusting to a world mid- Covid-19 was a relatively new wrench 2020 offered us. However, discrimination, police brutality, and racism are age-old issues that divided this country in 2020. With the death of George Floyd, May 25th marked the arrival of summer in which we watched the world erupt in protest of the blatant brutality he faced at the hands of police.
The Black Lives Matter interest really helped my business get off the ground.
However, the city of Austin was already dealing with its boiling point as many citizens had witnessed the death of Austin citizen, Mike Ramos, at the fault of Austin Police Department just the month prior. These incidents along with others around the nation became the focal points of the “Black Lives Matter” Movement. According to Google, CNN, and more, the country began to take interest in Black identity. Black business owners saw it reflected in sales, engagement, partnerships, and policymaking. “The Black Lives Matter interest really helped my business get off the ground. I was only two months in; it’s the busiest I’ve been to date,” Kira adds.
With any fun new business ideas, there’s going to be some level of competition, right?
Within a year of business, Kira has seen the market saturated. “When I first started just last year, there were very few of us. Now some places have whole storefronts,” she adds. With limited capacity and delivery times as she’s still a one-woman show and full-time Project Manager, Kira felt the need to diversify her business while going with what she knows – custom-curated picnic experiences featuring her graze boxes.
“I loved staging picnics for friends and my kids in the backyard. I would take crates out of the garage and paint them and repurpose them. I enjoyed doing it.” Since then, Kira has curated picnics in parks, on hotel rooftops, bridal parties, and private country clubs. “Back in July, Bumble reached out to me and invited me to host a “Virtual Graze Box-Making Class” with their customers. It was a lot of fun.”
Teaching Virtual and Small in-person classes has been a bonus for Kira. Hosting virtual sessions is a way to safely engage with others and teach them the graze box craft. Her next event, Galentines Virtual Board/Box Workshop, will be Friday, February 5th, 2021, and still has some open slots remaining.
When asked about her goals for You and Brie…
“As long as I continue to gain and maintain my customer base, I would love to scale my business more. In the next year, I plan to hire help, outsource my deliveries, and get involved in more popups.” In five years, Kira hopes to have a storefront. She imagines a house-like storefront, with staff creating custom boxes, where customers can choose themed picnics and grab their boards or boxes and pick a spot on the lawn.
For anyone out there considering becoming an entrepreneur, you can do it.
What would you tell someone interested in starting a business right now?
“Find something that you really like to do and create a business out of it. You + Brie brings me so much satisfaction because making graze boxes is therapeutic for me. I’m grateful to be able to turn a hobby and comforting pastime of mine into a profitable business. For anyone out there considering becoming an entrepreneur, you can do it. Now is the perfect time to really sit down and think about how you can capitalize on all of this downtime. How can you start up something that can benefit you and your family in the long run? If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But now’s a good time to try!”