The Dutch Oven Co.

September 5th, 2014 by Gwen Green

As a school teacher, August meant back-to-school time for Shantel Smith. This year, rather than return to the classroom, Smith started a business.

“I enjoyed teaching, but at the end of the day, I wanted all the work I did to be something I could leave as a legacy for my children,” said the mother of two boys, ages three and five.

Shantel and her husband Jeremy opened The Dutch Oven Company in Cabot Aug. 25.

The Dutch Oven offers prepared meals, a hot lunch special Monday through Friday, and catering. Smith is using many of her mother’s recipes to stock the to-go case with down-home favorites such as chicken pot pie and beefy cheesy enchilada bake. The chicken and dressing recipe was her great-grandmother’s.

Smith said her clientele is working parents who are “tired of feeding their families out of a paper bag but don’t have time to go home and cook.”

Though new to business oShantel Smith of The Dutch Ovenwnership, Shantel is not new to the kitchen, having done some catering on the side while she was a teacher.

The Smiths began planning for their venture in January. Friends referred them to the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

At no charge, the center provided market research to help the couple select a location, reviewed their financials and business plan, helped them prepare their business loan application, and gave online marketing pointers. The step-by-step guidance of their ASBTDC business consultant, Nancy Knighten, over several months mapped out the startup process for the new business owners.

“Pre-January, before I met Nancy, I wouldn’t have thought there was so much to it, but since we left there with our packet for the bank, nothing has taken us by surprise,” said Shantel. “Nancy did a really good job preparing us for the business side. A year ago, I knew nothing about business.”

Now, the former teacher says others are asking her for advice about starting a business.

“Expect a process, an investment financially and time wise,” she recommends. For anyone pursuing financing, Smith said, “Get yourself ready, financially and otherwise. There are no secrets when you get a business loan.”

Smith attended multiple ASBTDC seminars, including the center’s “Website in a Day” event in Sherwood in May where she created Dutch Oven’s website. “I built it that day,” she said. “You have to have some basic computer skills, but it was easy.”

The business also has a very active Facebook page that already has more than 1,000 likes.