As you may have heard, August is Black Business Month, and there’s certainly no shortage of Black-owned businesses here in Memphis. From lifestyle and beauty brands to tours and restaurants, Memphis is a city full of entrepreneurship. Born out of one beloved Black-owned business, City Tasting Tours, comes a new product that oozes Memphis: City Tasting Box. We caught up with owners Cristina McCarter and Lisa Brown to get the scoop on what City Tasting Box is and why we all need one. Read on to learn more.
How did City Tasting Box get started?
“It started with City Tasting Tours, where we would take people around downtown Memphis to eat, drink, and have a good time,” Cristina says. “Then covid happened, so we had to think of new ways to bring people a taste of the city.” This opportunity also presented itself out of the need to remain a full-time entrepreneur when many were losing their jobs and businesses due to covid-19. In many ways, the City Tasting Box was the ultimate pivot strategy. Back in June, Cristina and Lisa were chatting and the idea for City Tasting Box was born. The concept was simple: it’s a way for Memphians and beyond to safely enjoy local food and drinks, while helping the struggling restaurant industry and food and beverage entrepreneurs. “It’s our way of being able to put a little bit of Memphis in a box and ship it across the nation.”
Have you always wanted to have your own business?
“I always felt I would work for myself, I just thought it would be a different field – a marketing firm or something,” Cristina says. It was through working for Yelp that she got into more of the food and beverage world, specifically focused on Memphis. “The food aspect in Memphis is just as important as music or sports.” She loved the growing food scene and wanted to support and celebrate it – especially when covid it. It was important for her to find a way to continue doing what she loves, because to her, doing what she loves is the ultimate freedom. “The restaurant industry here is my family, and we’ve been talking every week trying to think of ways to help each other, set up delivery, and know what to do next.”
What are the challenges of owning your own business?
For Lisa, the challenge is that City Tasting Box is a side hustle (she has a full time commitment to Memphis Transformed). “The challenge for me has been learning how to pivot into a full-time entrepreneurship role.” Another challenge that has presented itself is managing time and protecting costs so there’s a healthy cash flow. When it came to City Tasting Box, they spent time considering how to give consumers what they really want while keeping the vendors top of mind. “This started because we wanted to help people locally and celebrate Memphis,” Lisa says. For Cristina, the challenge has been managing her two other businesses and, of course, her time. “Time management is the number one thing you have to do, because as a working mom with a family, it can start to feel like too much real quick.”
What can people expect when they order a City Tasting Box?
Buyers of a City Tasting Box can expect a lot of good food! Each box is packing with flavor – sweet, savory, spicy. There’s something in there for everybody. It’s not just small sample sizes either; the box is filled with normal retail-sized products. “We wanted to tell the Memphis classic BBQ story, and we’re going to tout that every day forever,” Lisa says. “But then we also have all these other cool food artisans doing great things and creating new foods in the city, so we’re also telling the story of a contemporary food scene.”
To learn more and order your City Tasting Box, visit their website.