Rebecca Miller didn’t expect her career to turn into something out of a Nora Ephron movie. But that’s exactly what happened when she and her mother, Jeanne Plumley, decided to resurrect Peggy Jean’s Pies.
From 1994 to 2004, Plumley owned Peggy Jean’s Pies with her best friend, Peggy Day, in Columbia, Missouri. “They grew their business into something really remarkable,” says Miller. “They had been featured in Southern Living magazine and on Food Network, gaining some great national exposure and a lot of hometown love.” By 2004 the establishment had 22 employees and served breakfast, lunch, and more than 50 different kinds of pie in a 5,000 square foot restaurant and retail space.
Last Call for Pie
Things changed when Day suddenly became very ill in 2002. “She was a lot older than my mom; she was basically a mom to my mom and a grandmother to me,” Miller says. “She went from working 90 hours a week to almost being bedridden in just the span of a few months.” Plumley struggled to run the business all by herself and help Day’s husband care for her increasingly ill friend. “I suggested that for the sake of mom’s mental health, she close her business, and she did the very next day with a sign on the door,” says Miller. “And that was the end of Peggy Jean’s.”
That is until ten years ago. Miller never worked at the original Peggy Jean’s, instead earning an undergraduate degree, attending law school, and then working in a private practice. She and her husband lived about two hours away but moved back to Columbia when they were expecting their first child.
“Fast forward ten years and my son said to my mom that he felt she should start selling her pies on a food truck — it was at the height of food truck frenzy,” Miller recalls. “She was not working, and she was bored.”
The very next day, Plumley told Miller that if she was going to bake pies again, she would need more space than a food truck; making pies from scratch requires room. She asked Miller if she wanted to go look at a space with her. “Honestly, I just envisioned every Nora Ephron movie ever made — I would be a pie baking lawyer and it would be cute and amazing and so fun!” Miller says. “Also, I have the Meg Ryan hair in my scenario.”
Fire up the Ovens
Miller and Plumley turned to Kickstarter and raised $10,000 to bring back Peggy Jean’s pies. At first, Miller continued practicing law, but after about six months of trying to grow the business, she realized it was an impossible task with a full-time job, so she talked to her husband and quit her job the next day.
“It was the bravest thing I had ever done,” Miller says. “I knew that if I was going to leave a successful legal career, we needed to dominate the Missouri pie market.” That eventually led to their logo and hashtag: #worldpiedomination.
“We know #WorldPieDomination will come true if we just keep moving forward and working toward our goal of Peggy Jean’s Pies in every city we can possibly think of,” Miller says. And with options like Caramel Apple Pie, White Chocolate Strawberry, and Peach Praline, that dream isn’t so far away. “Every single day, we bake real pies for real people. We use my great grandmother’s recipes, and we do it all in an industrial chic 1,050 square feet kitchen.”
In about two and a half years, they’ve grown incredibly fast — 21 percent their first year and a projected growth of approximately 37 percent by the end of this year. “We changed our logo, our look, our vibe, and our practices to be more of a story of Jeanne and I than Peg and Jeanne,” Miller says.
A Digital Bakery
They’ve also made two major changes from the original iteration. First, they decided to only sell pies — they don’t serve any other food. Secondly, they’re taking advantage of the evolution of the internet. “Obviously, during the first Peggy Jean’s, the internet was such a different place than it is now,” Miller explains. “And there certainly was no social media. Early on, I decided that I would blog our entire story of entrepreneurship, whether it was good, bad, stupid, charming, or anything else.”
That’s where Bluehost comes in. “One of the biggest ways Bluehost supports us is by hosting our website — which obviously is ridiculously important in today’s world — and by integrating our blog immediately onto our site each night after I hit ‘publish’ in WordPress,” Miller says. “We have thousands of followers reading each day, and I just so appreciate that our readers know they can immediately go to our page and find my latest thoughts on entrepreneurship. I have no idea how else I would do it. I’m not a tech-savvy person, so the fact that it is easy makes it the absolute best!”
Miller has learned that when it comes to being an entrepreneur, success is all about giving every bit of yourself. “Owning a business is crazy hard,” she says. “It takes everything you’ve got and then some. But oh goodness, when it works, it is the best feeling in the world. To be able to create and share with others is something I never knew I would love so much.”
Celia Shatzman is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. She has written about everything from travel to fashion, beauty, finance, health, fitness, and entertainment.