Spotlight on Women Business Owners: Zara Ahmed and Abby Pfunder, Raclette Machine
Zara Ahmed and Abby Pfunder, owners of Raclette Machine, met in a cheese shop in 2011. They first served Raclette together at their wedding. Raclette is a popular dish in Switzerland and France where a wheel of cheese is heated and the melty cheese is scraped off and served.
Abby’s background is in food and Zara’s is in education. Abby spent a year apprenticing at Rockhill Creamery in Northern Utah while Zara was in France, both surrounded by cheese. Priced out of the Bay Area, they decided to give Utah a try (Abby grew up in Provo). They remained close with the couple who runs Rockhill Creamery, and one day while driving up to visit them, they had a conversation about what they wanted to do. On that drive, they thought, what if we do Raclette with Rockhill cheese?
Raclette Machine began as a pop-up and the initial project was very low cost. They were able to pay off their starting costs for the business within six months. They also stopped by the Women’s Business Center of Utah to meet with our Business Advisor for a free one-on-one session!
They have found tons of support within the food community. Abby worked at Amour Cafe, and the chef there, Amber Billingsley, became a great resource. The owners of Rockhill Creamery have continued to be a great support system, and Raclette Machine uses Rockhill cheese for some of their menu items.
To stay grounded, they make vacation a priority. They look at their numbers from the previous year, find their worst weeks, and plan vacations for those weeks of the coming year. They take Sundays off after their busy Saturdays at the Downtown Farmers Market. Their next step is to get the food truck they purchased up and running!
What Zara and Abby love most about running their business is being able to bring what they’ve learned to the people of Utah. They are able to support good farms and good food, and they know where all the food comes from. They’ve found a supportive community and love meeting new, friendly people.
Owning a business comes with uncertainty. They’re not exactly sure when the truck will be ready, they can’t rely on a steady paycheck, and if something breaks, it’s on them to figure it out. But at the end of the day, they love self employment. They work very well together, and balance each other out. Zara is in charge of coordinating and talking to people, while Abby handles operations. They have learned to hire out for tasks outside their skill set.
Their advice for women who want to start a business: just do it and figure it out. Take action. People will tell you to get your business plan squared away, but the truth is, you’ll figure it out. Listen to yourself. You’re right most of the time!
Photo by Annette Shade / Ginormous Sky