Combining creativity, passion, and life with kids AND attracting a sizable following that wants to give you business sounds like the storyline of a grown-up fairytale…but for this mother, dreams really do come true! During a month where we celebrate mothers across the world, I want to highlight this incredible woman who not only delights families all over Tampa Bay with her beautiful grazing boards but has been an exceptionally close caretaker to her own family, including her father who recently passed away. Meet this KNOW Women Tampa Bay 2020 featuree and our May issue Mom to KNOW: Marissa Stratton!
JT: A photographer, food stylist, and very involved mama- is there anything you don’t do? What was life like before owning a business?
MS: I always tell people I add things to my plate to get out of cleaning and laundry—those are two of my many shortcomings. Life before my photography business was chaos! I had my twins in 2010. I got pregnant again when they were eight months after a date night that apparently went wild. So there I was nine months later with three babies sixteen months apart. It was so very overwhelming at times, so I decided to start a business … an obvious choice when one is trying to find more peace and simplicity, right? Actually, I was seeking a creative outlet that ended up involving a perfectly sharp photo of three wiggly babies. Overtime after seeing photos I posted on social media, people reached out assuming I was a photographer and requested sessions. I’m never one to turn down a fun and challenging opportunity, so I ran with it, and I’m so glad I did. I love my clients, and so many of them have become amazing friends.
JT: What inspired you to become a custom charcuterie artist?
MS: I like to say I accidentally start businesses, which really means I just trust in the magic and run with it when it feels right. I decided randomly a few years ago that I would take a charcuterie board to a friend’s house for Friendsgiving, and I took the task seriously. I got such positive feedback and just kept playing around with different ideas, so by Christmas people were asking to place orders. Another happy accident and Salumi was born. It’s been such a wild and fun ride, and I’m so glad it happened. I love that this allows me to marry my love for food with my love for art. I feel like I was born with a love for all things creative, but it was absolutely fostered and encouraged by my parents all my life. Both my mom and dad have great eyes for style, detail, and symmetry which are really important to me for my boards.
JT: Tell us about some of your best projects.
MS: Quarantine allowed me some of my greatest projects and challenges. Big boards turned into mini, individual boards. I was getting behind the saw, sanding, and staining to make custom mini sizes for those who were having events, but still wanted their guests to feel comfortable. We started doing personal charcuterie cones. And people started sending surprise candy boards to friends for birthdays, which I love doing. Last year stretched me out of my creative comfort zone so many times. And Super Bowl, that was definitely a fun and crazy time with Tampa hosting the game, and the Bucs playing in it! I think we ended up with almost thirty boards in 24 hours—it was bananas!!
JT: Did you ever see yourself as a solo entrepreneur?
MS: I honestly am not sure I could do it any other way. I think because the art and vibe in both businesses are so important to me that I couldn’t imagine not having control of my vision. Being home with babies can be so amazing, but also can start to feel mundane, even if you don’t realize it. We all have gifts, and I would encourage anyone who has even the smallest little nudge to put themselves out there, even if it feels a little crazy. And it’s especially rewarding for those who do feel that overwhelming stress but don’t know where to find an outlet while still being home. I think allowing things to unfold organically takes some of the pressure off. If you would have told me in 2012 I needed a business plan and to do things the “right” way, it would have felt like too much pressure while being home with three under two. But developing your skill with a hobby can lead to magical results, so just keep growing, learning, and put it out there.
JT: What is your favorite thing to do with your family in Tampa Bay?
MS: We love going to the horse track! I’ve been going since I was young and we introduced it to our kids when they were young, too. There is an area of picnic tables where you can bring your own food and drinks in coolers for the day. We set up, watch the ponies race and try to walk away with more money than we came with—doesn’t happen often! They have family days where they have pony rides, games for the kids, and other fun activities. I feel like it’s such a low-key, hidden gem for a perfect Sunday Funday.
*Feature Image by Stacy Larsen Photography