If you’ve ever felt homesick for your favorite comfort food, you’ll understand.
Today Percival Lammie and his partner, Kim Lammie, run Percy’s Pies— a gourmet Louisiana-style sweet potato pie company in Marina, CA.
But back in 2008, Lammie was just trying to find a pie that reminded him of home.
“I had moved back in the area. I was a veteran that actually was stationed here then moved back for business. I enjoyed my dessert, and I couldn’t find a good sweet potato pie. It was very, very difficult. In Northern California, depending on where you go outside of Oakland, they look at it as pumpkin because it looks the same. I believe that the recipe was that they would flip it over from pumpkin to sweet potato, and you can’t do that. Made it very grainy.”
An orthotics and prosthetics practitioner by trade, Lammie was no stranger when it came to problem-solving. After locating an old family recipe, he went to the kitchen and got to work.
At the time, he had no idea his pies would become a local favorite.
“I wasn’t even starting a business,” he said. “It was just so I could get some good sweet potato pie. Handing it to friends, and friends of friends. And I found out that people were actually liking the way I like it.”
Lammie was surprised when friends began offering him money for the pies since he offered them as gifts. But they insisted, telling him he should start a business.
“After a time, I just said, ‘Boom. Okay, fine. I might as well start something.’ So it was more of a hobby that turned into a business,” he said.
In 2016, Lammie decided to take his business to the next level and signed up to compete in the Startup Challenge Monterey Bay annual competition for new ventures in the region. He competed in the Main Street Division, intended for small businesses and sole proprietorships.
“I had a good time. I had a really good time. There were some really, really good businesses there. It’s one of those things that you don’t go into to win; you just see how far you can actually go. If you didn’t show up enthusiastic, you’re going to leave enthusiastic.”
At the end of the competition, Percy’s Pies was named one of the top finalists in the division.
According to Lammie, Startup Challenge gave him the structure and support necessary to grow his business.
“They set you up so that you really, really feel like they are behind you,” he said. “Whatever I wanted to do, they would actually provide that link, or a person I’d talk to, or a direction, which is important. You may have a good idea, but if you don’t know where to put it, you don’t know your target market, you’ll never succeed.”
Startup Challenge also helped Lammie address issues he had not previously anticipated.
“When I started, it was a little bit difficult and intimidating with the whole process and understanding where you are. If you were doing it by yourself, you would go round and round the circles trying to figure it out. Because there’s no book. So it helped a lot. I’ve gotten as far as I did because of their help. And help from my wife.”
Lammie’s experience in Startup Challenge also taught him an important lesson— when to accept help, and when to say no.
“Sometimes people are put in your place to test you, whether or not they’re there to help, to hinder, or to create situations. Sometimes you have to make a hard choice, and to say no to some people. Even though it may look like an opportunity. If you don’t feel right about the situation. And they give you the tools to say no.”
So what’s next for Percy’s Pies?
Currently, the business offers four flavors of sweet potato pies: original, praline liqueur, coffee liqueur, and ginger snap. They are also in the midst of developing a sweet potato ice cream and even a sweet potato cheesecake.
“When sweet potato pie is done well, you don’t need anything on top,” said Lammie. “You eat it just the way it is. Because it’s sweet and very satisfying… you’re creating memories for people. But when I made the ice cream, I realized that I had a separate genre all by itself. I’m in the process of doing that and actually trying to perfect a sweet potato pie cheesecake. That’s the next move.”
Hungry? Percy’s Pies delivers gourmet sweet potato pies year-round. Visit their website and get one on your table ASAP!