Myles Powell quit his job to make Mac N' Cheese
13 min watch

Myles Powell quit his job to make Mac N' Cheese

Cville
May 5
/
13 min watch

Destinee Wright: Welcome to Making It Work, a show where we chat with local entrepreneurs and chat through their challenges of COVID and how they are succeeding in this unique time.

I'm Destinee Wright, the owner of Evil Eye Marketing, a social media marketing and consulting agency based in Charlotte, North Carolina. And today we are chatting with Myles Powell. Myles is the founder of 8 Myles Mac N’ Cheese, a comfort food brand based out of Washington, D.C. You can find his products in Target, Whole Foods and dine-out locations.

So let's jump into this interview! Tell us something unexpected that most people don't know about you.

Myles Powell: I graduated thinking I was going to be an engineer for life. And that was just born out of—I was good at math and I wanted a good career, right? But it didn't take me long—I mean, two days into my new job that I worked so hard to get, that I realized engineering is not for me. And it's funny because looking back, it was the challenge that came with it. And I think that's what drove me and helped me develop my passion, which is now 8 Myles.

Destinee: Let's talk about some of that journey to 8 Myles. So you went from engineer to full-time comfort food entrepreneur. Tell us some about that journey.

Myles: Been a little bit of a rollercoaster, and this is also something that people don't know. So I started 8 Myles in 2013, and I was working as a full-time engineer still, but doing the whole side hustle thing, trying to learn how to run a business. Two years into doing that, I decided, “You know what? I think I need to take a leap of faith, and I'm going to quit my engineering job and go full time into 8 Myles.” That was 2017. Then realized that, well, I'm kind of going broke, you know, and I actually ended up taking up three part-time jobs just trying to sustain the living, right, because I was in D.C. and I didn't—and it was expensive and still is. And I end up going back into full-time work about six months later because I just—at that point, I needed a full-time job to continue on. And then so I—and that was sort of a motivational boost, right, because I tasted what full-time entrepreneurship was. But I didn't do it right because I just didn't know any better. And then so about three and a half, close to four years after that, I quit again, which was last October, to run 8 Myles full time. And the difference between this and 2017 is night and day. We're in a lot better position. I know—I kind of know what I'm doing. So definitely a—definitely a good move. Scary, but good.

Destinee: That's a lot of trust that you have to have in yourself to say, “Okay, I got this. I'm going to bet on me.” So props for believing in yourself and trusting yourself, and look at where you are now! You are growing so quickly. Can you chat through some of this progress and how you have kind of exploded over this last year?

Myles: So May of last year was huge. We launched in Target, and that transformed the company into—at least myself, into growth mode, right? I started thinking about how to expand. I was introduced to new retail concepts and I use that momentum to pick up Giant last December. We expanded in Whole Foods a little bit. We started to expand in the Midwest, and this May, we're actually going nationwide. So that Target moment was critical, and I did that while working as an engineer. But once that happened, it sort of set the clock in my head of, “Okay, now I'm ready to make that leap of faith again.”

Destinee: What's one thing you wish you had known when you first started this whole process?

Myles: There's a million and one things that I wish I knew from starting the company, but one of the key things was, I guess, I was naive about how much money gets poured into scaling up a company. From the marketing side to paying for freight. The dollars that are associated are massive, and the importance of funding is really important. I mean, at one point and this is at—this is two years ago. I just thought that I'd run the business, it would cash flow enough and keep growing that way. I didn't even know how important fundraising was. I didn't know how much people were fundraising. I thought that was just like an extra bonus, not as—not a necessity. So I would have worked on that early on if I had knew.

Destinee: So what tip would you have for someone who was interested in beginning the fundraising process?

Myles: So a couple of things. It's—number one is knowing what makes your company, your company. I mean, you need to be married to your mission, married to your products. You need to know everything. You need to have the passion for it. Because I tell people, “It's not easy, and—but you have to have perseverance in the knowledge that you can then communicate what you know to other investors.” And then also knowing what's that—what's that thing or that pull that's going to make an investor's eyes widen.

Destinee: What's been your biggest challenge over the last year, and how did you overcome it?

Myles: Honestly, it's been the mental part. The other problems, whether that's being the supply chain issues or just the problems associated with scaling up, are—they come and go, right? Supply chain won't be an issue forever. Quality control. We had an issue with that a year ago that came and went. But it's the mental part of doing this that's been the biggest challenge, because being your own boss sounds great, right, because you've got the freedom? But it—you're—it's—the pressure is insane because—and it's you putting you pressure on yourself, which is crazy to think about. I told someone—I said, like, when you're working for someone else. Let's say they keep you late at work one night. You can be mad at them and you can yell it—in your head—you can yell at them, right? But if it's yourself doing it to yourself, and you're not—potentially not getting a paycheck for it. You're just doing it out of the hustle or just the passion. It wra—it'll get to you, right? And knowing that it's not a smooth ride to get to where you want to get to, it just takes a lot of perseverance and the ability to bounce back. And that's a continual challenge from the time I started ’til now. It's just, like, creating, being—being comfortable where I am, but being excited for the future, but then also finding ways to mentally take a break, which is really hard.

Destinee: I think that's about finding some balance. I'm big on bringing self-care into our business. I don't think we talk about that a lot. And for me, part of my self-care work is mental health care. Shout out to my therapist! Because I feel like we really all need therapy. There shouldn't be something wrong for us [unintelligible].

Myles: [Laughs]

Destinee: That's my own personal thing, but it sounds like you're finding that balance and—

Myles: Yeah.

Destinee: Yeah! What has been your biggest win over this last year?

Myles: The Target launch. I started thinking about this business in 2013. That was—so that was basically seven going on eight years of hard work to get to that point. And I rem—and this is a funny story. So like up until then it was just like, head down, just keep pushing. I was making the order, me and my team, for Target. This is the most product we've ever made. I took three days off of work. All day, all night, just push and push and push, and got the product out the door the last second. And I never forget being like—I left—I had a meeting and I—the lady pretty much said, “You look like a wreck. We should probably reschedule.” And I said, “Cool.” And I went—the first thing I did was I went to a pizza shop, got myself a pizza, grabbed a beer, went down to my basement, put a movie on. And just like [laughs]. Like, that's how I celebrated.

Destinee: Yeah!

Myles: That, like, for me—it was like, “I can take a deep breath.” And then I could start thinking about the accomplishment. So, yeah. It was a big moment.

Destinee: It's funny that as a food entrepreneur you celebrate with food. I think that's—

Myles: [Laughs] Yeah!

[unintelligible] actually celebrate because I think what I've seen is that some people will have these amazing wins, and then they don't celebrate. They're like, “Okay, boom, what's the next thing?” It's like, “Okay, hold on! Take a second!” And celebrate this amazing thing that you just did. Even the smallest, right? We have to keep celebrating ourselves. And I think that's going to help fuel us and keep pushing us towards that next thing, whatever that is. But let's be present—

Destinee: —and celebrate ourselves. So all the congratulations for that.

Myles: Thank you.

Destinee: So let's talk through some of the resources. What has helped you along the way?

Myles: One of actually the biggest things that's helped me is talking to other entrepreneurs, especially those in my field. Whether they're the same sk—like same stage as me, whether they're a little bit further along or even just starting out. Because [clears throat] as an entrepreneur, you feel alone sometimes, like you're in your head. But when you can vent it out to people that understand what you're talking about, it's—it clears your head, and it sometimes even provides a clear path. So over the past few years, I've developed this, like, Rolodex of entrepreneurs who know what I'm talking about, right? I mean, 'cause your loved ones, they support you. But when you start talking that talk, they're not going to be able to—the back and forth might not be there. Which is fine. But yeah, having that connection with other entrepreneurs and then a couple of mentors as well that had been through this for 30, 40 years. Being able to talk to them has really helped too.

Destinee: So how did you connect with your mentor? Because I do agree that mentorship is so key.

Myles: I've had a couple.x One came through an accelerator program called Newchip. They're based in Austin, Texas. I was assigned a mentor through them and he's been really helpful ever since. I'm actually considering bringing him as a—as an advisory board member. There's another organization called SCORE. They're backed by SBA. Free, free, free. I used them when I was first starting out. These retired or semi-retired people that want to help. That was helpful too. And then honestly, I've connected with a lot of folks through LinkedIn, and a lot of them I'm actually helping out as they're starting to think about how they're going to scale. So it work—and it—so it works both ways.

Destinee: What's been the best advice that one of your mentors has given you? Do you have one off the top of the head?

Myles: They said, “Know where you're headed.” It's one thing to say, I want to be one of the biggest companies in the country.” That's fine, but how? How do you get there and what does that look like? Are you getting bought out? Are you expanding more product lines? You need to have a really great vision. I received that advice mid-last—late last year, and, like, I feel so much more comfortable now in terms of where we're headed, knowing I have a firm plan in place, not just, “We want to grow.”

Destinee: How do you stay motivated these days?

Myles: I think that my past is what motivates me. Knowing what I got through to get to this point has been really helpful. And then also that break at the gym. I come out of a gym session ready to roll. So that's—that's there too.

Destinee: How can we support you?

Myles: A couple of ways. So you can go on our website 8myles.com and then there's a store locator. So you can see there's me—mac and cheese near you. Strongly suggest you go buy yourself a mac. It's in the frozen section. We've got three different flavors of buffalo, barbecue and homestyle. Buffalo is my personal favorite. And then also we are—we did launch our campaign for fundraising, which will be a little pop-up when you get to our website. It's being hosted on Republic, so you can check out the page and if you would like, you can actually put some money towards our campaign.

Destinee: What else is coming up for you that you'd like to share with folks?

Myles: Well, I'm working on a new product line, which I'm not going to say what it is yet, but it falls in line with comfort food. It's not mac and cheese, but it still—it reminds me personally of m—weekends, and that's all I'm going to say. But you might see rumblings of that down the road.

Destinee: If I guess correctly, would you give me just, like, a hint? Is it like…barbecue of some sort?

Myles: So it is not barbecue related at all. I'll just say it's—it's frozen and it is delicious. I'm working on it.

Destinee: OK, that's fine. I'll call it. Thank you so much. So that will conclude our interview. Thank you so much, Miles.

Myles: [unintelligible].

Destinee: Thanks!

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Destinee Wright
Consultant, Social Media Marketer, Activist

Destinee is an artist, activist, and serial entrepreneur whose work centers on amplifying marginalized voices and impacting equity for racial and socioeconomic marginalized people. She currently works with small businesses and nonprofits to provide consulting services, content curation, and social media strategies that connect brands with their communities.

Myles Powell quit his job to make Mac N' Cheese
13 min watch

Myles Powell quit his job to make Mac N' Cheese

Cville
May 5
/
13 min watch

Destinee Wright: Welcome to Making It Work, a show where we chat with local entrepreneurs and chat through their challenges of COVID and how they are succeeding in this unique time.

I'm Destinee Wright, the owner of Evil Eye Marketing, a social media marketing and consulting agency based in Charlotte, North Carolina. And today we are chatting with Myles Powell. Myles is the founder of 8 Myles Mac N’ Cheese, a comfort food brand based out of Washington, D.C. You can find his products in Target, Whole Foods and dine-out locations.

So let's jump into this interview! Tell us something unexpected that most people don't know about you.

Myles Powell: I graduated thinking I was going to be an engineer for life. And that was just born out of—I was good at math and I wanted a good career, right? But it didn't take me long—I mean, two days into my new job that I worked so hard to get, that I realized engineering is not for me. And it's funny because looking back, it was the challenge that came with it. And I think that's what drove me and helped me develop my passion, which is now 8 Myles.

Destinee: Let's talk about some of that journey to 8 Myles. So you went from engineer to full-time comfort food entrepreneur. Tell us some about that journey.

Myles: Been a little bit of a rollercoaster, and this is also something that people don't know. So I started 8 Myles in 2013, and I was working as a full-time engineer still, but doing the whole side hustle thing, trying to learn how to run a business. Two years into doing that, I decided, “You know what? I think I need to take a leap of faith, and I'm going to quit my engineering job and go full time into 8 Myles.” That was 2017. Then realized that, well, I'm kind of going broke, you know, and I actually ended up taking up three part-time jobs just trying to sustain the living, right, because I was in D.C. and I didn't—and it was expensive and still is. And I end up going back into full-time work about six months later because I just—at that point, I needed a full-time job to continue on. And then so I—and that was sort of a motivational boost, right, because I tasted what full-time entrepreneurship was. But I didn't do it right because I just didn't know any better. And then so about three and a half, close to four years after that, I quit again, which was last October, to run 8 Myles full time. And the difference between this and 2017 is night and day. We're in a lot better position. I know—I kind of know what I'm doing. So definitely a—definitely a good move. Scary, but good.

Destinee: That's a lot of trust that you have to have in yourself to say, “Okay, I got this. I'm going to bet on me.” So props for believing in yourself and trusting yourself, and look at where you are now! You are growing so quickly. Can you chat through some of this progress and how you have kind of exploded over this last year?

Myles: So May of last year was huge. We launched in Target, and that transformed the company into—at least myself, into growth mode, right? I started thinking about how to expand. I was introduced to new retail concepts and I use that momentum to pick up Giant last December. We expanded in Whole Foods a little bit. We started to expand in the Midwest, and this May, we're actually going nationwide. So that Target moment was critical, and I did that while working as an engineer. But once that happened, it sort of set the clock in my head of, “Okay, now I'm ready to make that leap of faith again.”

Destinee: What's one thing you wish you had known when you first started this whole process?

Myles: There's a million and one things that I wish I knew from starting the company, but one of the key things was, I guess, I was naive about how much money gets poured into scaling up a company. From the marketing side to paying for freight. The dollars that are associated are massive, and the importance of funding is really important. I mean, at one point and this is at—this is two years ago. I just thought that I'd run the business, it would cash flow enough and keep growing that way. I didn't even know how important fundraising was. I didn't know how much people were fundraising. I thought that was just like an extra bonus, not as—not a necessity. So I would have worked on that early on if I had knew.

Destinee: So what tip would you have for someone who was interested in beginning the fundraising process?

Myles: So a couple of things. It's—number one is knowing what makes your company, your company. I mean, you need to be married to your mission, married to your products. You need to know everything. You need to have the passion for it. Because I tell people, “It's not easy, and—but you have to have perseverance in the knowledge that you can then communicate what you know to other investors.” And then also knowing what's that—what's that thing or that pull that's going to make an investor's eyes widen.

Destinee: What's been your biggest challenge over the last year, and how did you overcome it?

Myles: Honestly, it's been the mental part. The other problems, whether that's being the supply chain issues or just the problems associated with scaling up, are—they come and go, right? Supply chain won't be an issue forever. Quality control. We had an issue with that a year ago that came and went. But it's the mental part of doing this that's been the biggest challenge, because being your own boss sounds great, right, because you've got the freedom? But it—you're—it's—the pressure is insane because—and it's you putting you pressure on yourself, which is crazy to think about. I told someone—I said, like, when you're working for someone else. Let's say they keep you late at work one night. You can be mad at them and you can yell it—in your head—you can yell at them, right? But if it's yourself doing it to yourself, and you're not—potentially not getting a paycheck for it. You're just doing it out of the hustle or just the passion. It wra—it'll get to you, right? And knowing that it's not a smooth ride to get to where you want to get to, it just takes a lot of perseverance and the ability to bounce back. And that's a continual challenge from the time I started ’til now. It's just, like, creating, being—being comfortable where I am, but being excited for the future, but then also finding ways to mentally take a break, which is really hard.

Destinee: I think that's about finding some balance. I'm big on bringing self-care into our business. I don't think we talk about that a lot. And for me, part of my self-care work is mental health care. Shout out to my therapist! Because I feel like we really all need therapy. There shouldn't be something wrong for us [unintelligible].

Myles: [Laughs]

Destinee: That's my own personal thing, but it sounds like you're finding that balance and—

Myles: Yeah.

Destinee: Yeah! What has been your biggest win over this last year?

Myles: The Target launch. I started thinking about this business in 2013. That was—so that was basically seven going on eight years of hard work to get to that point. And I rem—and this is a funny story. So like up until then it was just like, head down, just keep pushing. I was making the order, me and my team, for Target. This is the most product we've ever made. I took three days off of work. All day, all night, just push and push and push, and got the product out the door the last second. And I never forget being like—I left—I had a meeting and I—the lady pretty much said, “You look like a wreck. We should probably reschedule.” And I said, “Cool.” And I went—the first thing I did was I went to a pizza shop, got myself a pizza, grabbed a beer, went down to my basement, put a movie on. And just like [laughs]. Like, that's how I celebrated.

Destinee: Yeah!

Myles: That, like, for me—it was like, “I can take a deep breath.” And then I could start thinking about the accomplishment. So, yeah. It was a big moment.

Destinee: It's funny that as a food entrepreneur you celebrate with food. I think that's—

Myles: [Laughs] Yeah!

[unintelligible] actually celebrate because I think what I've seen is that some people will have these amazing wins, and then they don't celebrate. They're like, “Okay, boom, what's the next thing?” It's like, “Okay, hold on! Take a second!” And celebrate this amazing thing that you just did. Even the smallest, right? We have to keep celebrating ourselves. And I think that's going to help fuel us and keep pushing us towards that next thing, whatever that is. But let's be present—

Destinee: —and celebrate ourselves. So all the congratulations for that.

Myles: Thank you.

Destinee: So let's talk through some of the resources. What has helped you along the way?

Myles: One of actually the biggest things that's helped me is talking to other entrepreneurs, especially those in my field. Whether they're the same sk—like same stage as me, whether they're a little bit further along or even just starting out. Because [clears throat] as an entrepreneur, you feel alone sometimes, like you're in your head. But when you can vent it out to people that understand what you're talking about, it's—it clears your head, and it sometimes even provides a clear path. So over the past few years, I've developed this, like, Rolodex of entrepreneurs who know what I'm talking about, right? I mean, 'cause your loved ones, they support you. But when you start talking that talk, they're not going to be able to—the back and forth might not be there. Which is fine. But yeah, having that connection with other entrepreneurs and then a couple of mentors as well that had been through this for 30, 40 years. Being able to talk to them has really helped too.

Destinee: So how did you connect with your mentor? Because I do agree that mentorship is so key.

Myles: I've had a couple.x One came through an accelerator program called Newchip. They're based in Austin, Texas. I was assigned a mentor through them and he's been really helpful ever since. I'm actually considering bringing him as a—as an advisory board member. There's another organization called SCORE. They're backed by SBA. Free, free, free. I used them when I was first starting out. These retired or semi-retired people that want to help. That was helpful too. And then honestly, I've connected with a lot of folks through LinkedIn, and a lot of them I'm actually helping out as they're starting to think about how they're going to scale. So it work—and it—so it works both ways.

Destinee: What's been the best advice that one of your mentors has given you? Do you have one off the top of the head?

Myles: They said, “Know where you're headed.” It's one thing to say, I want to be one of the biggest companies in the country.” That's fine, but how? How do you get there and what does that look like? Are you getting bought out? Are you expanding more product lines? You need to have a really great vision. I received that advice mid-last—late last year, and, like, I feel so much more comfortable now in terms of where we're headed, knowing I have a firm plan in place, not just, “We want to grow.”

Destinee: How do you stay motivated these days?

Myles: I think that my past is what motivates me. Knowing what I got through to get to this point has been really helpful. And then also that break at the gym. I come out of a gym session ready to roll. So that's—that's there too.

Destinee: How can we support you?

Myles: A couple of ways. So you can go on our website 8myles.com and then there's a store locator. So you can see there's me—mac and cheese near you. Strongly suggest you go buy yourself a mac. It's in the frozen section. We've got three different flavors of buffalo, barbecue and homestyle. Buffalo is my personal favorite. And then also we are—we did launch our campaign for fundraising, which will be a little pop-up when you get to our website. It's being hosted on Republic, so you can check out the page and if you would like, you can actually put some money towards our campaign.

Destinee: What else is coming up for you that you'd like to share with folks?

Myles: Well, I'm working on a new product line, which I'm not going to say what it is yet, but it falls in line with comfort food. It's not mac and cheese, but it still—it reminds me personally of m—weekends, and that's all I'm going to say. But you might see rumblings of that down the road.

Destinee: If I guess correctly, would you give me just, like, a hint? Is it like…barbecue of some sort?

Myles: So it is not barbecue related at all. I'll just say it's—it's frozen and it is delicious. I'm working on it.

Destinee: OK, that's fine. I'll call it. Thank you so much. So that will conclude our interview. Thank you so much, Miles.

Myles: [unintelligible].

Destinee: Thanks!

Destinee Wright
Consultant, Social Media Marketer, Activist

Destinee is an artist, activist, and serial entrepreneur whose work centers on amplifying marginalized voices and impacting equity for racial and socioeconomic marginalized people. She currently works with small businesses and nonprofits to provide consulting services, content curation, and social media strategies that connect brands with their communities.