YOU SAVED MY LIFE!
I hope this reaches you or someone that can get this message to you because I owe so many of my accomplishments to your dedication and courage when you birthed your company. Your book was my business school but let me first give you a little background…
Four years ago I was encouraged by a friend to leave my lifestyle of commercial exploitation behind... And that was one of the scariest moments of my life because I didn't believe I could survivor outside of sexually exploiting myself...but he did and I was set on my journey with his advice to "Market My Mind and Not My Body" and a copy of your book.
Well today that advise and book pawned my organization Neets Sweets Inc. which if it's in Gods will be the vehicle to finance other survivors of Human Trafficking to one day spawn their own versions of Neets Sweets (and hopefully not even have to experience some of the things I had to.) you have walked me through everything from avoiding unnecessary pitfalls to sharing the power of having a dream with others. Unconditionally I just wanted to say.....
THANK YOU!!!!! And my only request is to know that you received this message :)
I appreciate you telling your story and reminding me how good chocolate strawberries are J Good luck in your endeavors.
-Hi I saw you at the Intel WIN yesterday and found you inspiring.
I personally have loved your berries from the beginning.
Please keep making your Berries; they are the best thing since cheesecake.
Thank you for bringing those wonderful berries into my life. J
Is there anywhere that I can actually still purchase your berries. I have been an avid cheerleader for you and all your efforts over the years. Good always triumphs over the "icky" , I have all the faith, confidence and belief in you that your return will be bigger and better.
All the best, and Merry Christmas.
I just finished your "Berried in Chocolate" book today, and I just had to write you. I met you at an event at the Aerospace Museum of California last year, and I bought a copy of your book. No way you remember me, but you inscribed the tongue-and-cheek message of " To Stephen, a stud muffin who makes Brad Pitt look bad!" If I ever meet Brad Pitt, I'm showing him your inscription! I just got around to reading your book, and I am so glad that I finally read it. Reading your book at this time in my life has truly made me believe that everything happens for a reason, and that there is a higher power out there that is watching over us. I lost my job back in November due to budget cuts. I had been down for awhile, and not really sure about what the future would hold. Then this week, I picked up your book, and finally decided to turn its pages. Now,I feel like I have a renewed confidence in not just myself, but in my natural abilities. I liked the part where you talked about research being shown that many successful people had their largest success right after their largest failure. As long as we have the tenacity to tighten up our boot straps and get back up after we have been knocked down, eventually, we will find success. I also enjoyed your section on "worry," and how worry is always focused on tomorrow and what's going to happen tomorrow. We don't own tomorrow, and we can only claim today. God is there for our future endeavors,and we should just be trusting and be prepared to go for the ride. With all of the inspiring words that I was able to pull from your book, I feel re-energized, and ready to take on the world, without feeling sorry for myself at all. I still haven't lined up my dream job yet, but, with the positive outlook that I am now putting forth, I know that only good things are on the horizon.
Thank you for writing this book. Good luck with the Valentine's rush!
Thank you again for delivering your message about being passionate about what you do in life. It hit home and was well received by all staff. They are still talking about it. You made an impact.
VP of HR and Administration
Valley First Credit Union Modesto CA TEAM DAY
You were the feather in our cap and the savior of the day! The women who came to hear you speak were inspired, impressed and empowered. That is exactly what we are going for and your presence drove that home. Thank you so much!
I want you to know that the heads of my two largest sponsors were in the room with you in the morning and both said that you were so enjoyable. I believe that it is your presence that has sealed the deal that they will return as sponsors next year.
Executive Producer, Modesto Women’s Expo
I am so glad you are still here!
I was so inspired by your story (has it been over 10 years now?) and I refuse to order from the people I see as having stolen your name! So I just had to send this note to say, Congratulations and Thanks for hanging in there! I am a fan not only because we share the same name, but because you inspire me.
Good job and keep it up!
I wanted to let you know how unhappy I was with a recent Shari's Berries order. I have e-mailed their customer service the first being the middle of February and the second today with no response yet. As I did some more research I find that you are no longer associated with that company and that may explain why. I plan to purchase from your company next time.
Shari My boyfriend ordered me berries that I had from you years ago under your original name and they were horrible. I wish he would have done some research to find you. I just tossed 10 berries in the garbage. i hope your quality is just as good as it used to be. i will.give him tour business info. We were big fans years ago.
Shari, it was very cool to read your story. As a young female entrepreneur that recently launched my own food gift business, Love Loaves, it was great to see how you were able to succeed. Best of luck with Berried in Chocolate.
I recently had a terrible experience with Shari's Berries and was so disappointed. They were NOT the berries I remember. THEN, today, I read an article about Shari in Feb.2013 Guidepost magazine. So I went to this website and read the history of Shari's Berries and Shari losing her original business and "name brand." I was sooo relieved to read this and want to tell Shari, she should thank God that she is no longer associated with that company. The strawberries are green, almost spoiled and dipped (mechanically) in the grossest waxy chocolate! I'm so so happy to know that Shari had started HER business again with the great standards and products I remember.
I just wanted to tell you how I came to reading your book and what such inspiration you are to me. I read that book faster than any other book I have read. I read in 3 days and I actually finished it. I was searching for chocolate books at the library and came across your book it probably was not a coincidence.
I have a small chocolate business that I have been doing on the side for a long time and I need to get serious about it now or never. I am in a really tough time right now and have faith in God that this is my plan. Unlike you I am not good at marketing myself and I know that is my downfall. Right now I am focusing on one product and it is different flavor caramel popcorn. Everyone loves it but I just cant seem to get it out there in the "public" eye. But after reading your book I am going to try to push myself and take your advice. I am a mother of 2 teenage kids that I homeschool so I am really trying to make my dream and now what I think I am being led to do come alive.
I just wanted to thank you for the book I am sure it is making a difference in a lot of women that are in the same position. I really hope you receive this letter and I would love to send you some popcorn.Thank you,
So last night I sat alone after the event and just decompressed for a bit. I was overwhelmed as I thought about what all of you and what you did on stage, not just for the audience but for our community. I’m not sure you know (heck I’m not sure I know) the impact you made last night. Last night you helped change lives and businesses. YOU did that. And that’s exactly why we do these events.
I spoke to attendees all night and today I’ve been fielding emails, texts and social media posts all day that loved you and your talk. People have been sharing how they were depressed, struggling in business, personal challenges and how the event gave them the help and hope just when they needed it. I heard over and over – “that’s just what I needed”. And one of my favorites, “last night made me proud to be in business in Sacramento”. Wow, what a testament to what you did up there.
Obviously you have a story many people know, but I saw you share a side that maybe they have not seen before. You really connected with them. Not to mention you did it without notes! (I know you still hate me for that). Your blend of stories, lessons and humor was fantastic and I had a blast with our little chat after (although nobody was willing to pay for me to be dipped). In short, you were wonderful.
As much as anyone, I know and appreciate how much work it takes to prepare to deliver a talk like you did. I also know you have the opportunity to speak just about anywhere you want with a lot less work, and I sincerely appreciate you being part of the event. I want you to know that your effort did not go unnoticed. It’s impossible to convey the appreciation I have for not just what you did not just last night but during the entire planning process over the past few months. I just want you to know from the bottom of my heart how much I love and appreciation I have for you.
Thank you for what you did, thank you for who you are, and thank you for helping so many.
With sincere gratitude,
By Michelle Kennedy
I’ve known Shari Fitzpatrick for close to fifteen years. Back in my reporting days in Sacramento, you better believe I clamored to cover any story related to Shari. This is because, of course, I wanted to get some of her delectable, chocolate-dipped strawberries.
Over the years of getting to know her, I learned that Shari started her business on a card table in a tiny Sacramento apartment. I admired her so much and watched her grow Shari’s Berries to a multi-million dollar company.
When Girls on the Grid decided to focus on women making history this month, Shari popped into my head. Even though I hadn’t connected with her in years, I emailed Shari to set up an interview. Completely unaware that anything had changed in her business, her opening line when I arrived at her house rendered me speechless:
“Michelle, you know I lost the business right?”
I didn’t know. In fact, I had Shari’s Berries delivered to some family members just two months ago. The company still exists. Shari just isn’t a part of it, even though Shari’s Berries is still the company name.
Over the course of the next two hours, Shari shared her incredible story. It is a sad story that morphed into a triumphant one. Through losing one of the biggest parts of her identity, Shari found a way back to her authentic self and reconnected with why she started the business in the first place.
Michelle: Take me back. How did you start the business?
Shari: “I grew up picking strawberries in Southern Oregon. Strawberries are part of my upbringing and who I am. In 1989, I got a $1500 cash advance on a credit card and started my operation on a little table in my apartment. That paved the way to opening a couple of stores in the Sacramento area in the early nineties. We took off delivering chocolate-covered strawberries from there. Over the next several years, we grew and grew. I was the first person to create a successful chocolate-dipped strawberries delivery business.”
Michelle: What happened that changed everything?
Shari: “I met a lawyer from Sacramento. I worked with him to raise money and grow the business. It took me one year to realize I trusted the wrong person and another year to convince the Board to agree he had to leave. He convinced me to agree to a really bad deal and took a big piece of the company right off the top. After he left, we brought in an account-level qualified numbers person as CEO. I was in a fragile position. He saw a great opportunity to slip in and take over. He basically bankrupted the company. He sold it off for pennies on the dollar to Pro Flowers. Part of the contract was that he stay on as president of Shari’s Berries.”
Michelle: So you lost the company but your name is still on it?
Shari: “Yes, unfortunately. There are shysters out there. I was naïve. I’m just this little hillbilly from Southern Oregon in the strawberry patch. I made a mistake. I take all responsibility. I agreed to and made a bad deal.”
Michelle: How did you get through it?
Shari: “I felt like I’d lost one of my children. I gave birth to that company. I raised it for twenty-two years. I had to grieve for a while. My faith helped. Letting pride go and working on forgiveness helped me tremendously. We have to forgive to set ourselves free. I also had to realize that while chocolate-covered strawberries are my passion, dipping is not who I am, it is what I do. There are so many more layers to me.”
Michelle: What is the silver lining here?
Shari: “This experience changed my life for the better, believe it or not. I was able to spend more time with my family. I wrote and published a book telling my story called Berried in Chocolate. I also launched a new company by the same name. I am dipping strawberries again, my way. They are not mass-produced. It is back to the basics, small and personable. I’ve also launched a public speaking career. I speak to new entrepreneurs, large corporations and small groups. I tell people the whole story and let them know that the best versions of many of us are born out of the worst experiences. There is not a time when I’m done speaking that there isn’t a line of people wanting to talk to me. Many are crying saying the same thing happened to them. We are in this together. My book deal and public speaking have opened up a beautiful chapter in my life.”
Michelle: What is your advice to other entrepreneurs?
Shari: “My best advice is to start small. Big is not always better. Get some business cards made and start testing out your product on people. Just do something and don’t let fear drive you. When you get going, don’t quit. It is one day at a time and one foot in front of the other. When you fall, get right back up. Also know what is important. My goal is not to get “big” again. When it got too big, it stopped being fun. I need to remember that I lost sight of what was important. Keep your priorities straight, whatever they are.”
If you do an Internet search for Shari’s Berries, unfortunately you will find complaints about poor quality, berries that are fermented, and many that arrived at people’s houses broken. Shari says it’s heartbreaking, but she has accepted that there is nothing she can do about a business that isn’t hers anymore. Her goal is to just let people know Shari’s Berries is not her product and people can order her original, premium berries through BerriedinChocolate.com.
Shari dipped some berries for me while I was there, and I have to admit I broke my “no sugar” pledge for the occasion. Her berries continue to be meticulous, beautiful, fresh, and almost too pretty to eat. I said “almost.” If you’d like to check out any of her speaking engagements or read her book, you can also find that information on her website.