Robbie Montgomery, affectionately known as Ms. Robbie, gained fans and a wide audience as star of OWN’s hit reality show Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s, showcasing the everyday happenings in balancing life with her family and her soul food restaurant. The former Ikette is now a sassy, clever and about-her-business 73-year-old entrepreneur who knows more than a thing or two about striving and thriving in a tough restaurant industry (where 30% of new restaurants fail in the first year.)
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the savvy restauranteur and reality TV star, who has seen her share of expansion and is now well into the 4th season of her OWN show, to talk career longevity and how she’s still pushing for more.
On gaining longevity in the food industry:
If you have something that you believe in, you have to go all out for it. It’s your dream, so nobody’s going to put forth the effort that you would into it. You have to be willing to sacrifice time—family … your everything—because it’s quite a commitment and it really takes a lot of time.
On how women can overcome challenges of male-dominated restaurant business:
Being a woman, many may feel that we don’t know about business, but we know within ourselves that we are equal. As women we have to step up and show people that we’re just as qualified to run a business… to run a restaurant. We’ve always been financial experts—we ran the house, whether the man brought the money home, or there was enough or not, we managed it. Those are our survival skills as women and we do know just as much as everyone else.
On handling expansion and transitioning into advancement:
When our TV show came out, I made sure my business was up to par and that my employees were ready to handle a bigger crowd. I prepared myself because the show was a way to advertise, expand my brand and reach the masses and the media. I thought this would be the perfect venue for us to expand. I trained more, purchased more, and made sure I was prepared ahead of time. I surrounded myself with people who knew more about the business, and my son, when he came on, he wanted to expand a little more, so I gave him rope to do that.
On career advice she’d give her younger self:
Even though things happen the way they’re supposed to, I would have told her to start the business then. I was afraid to take chances because I had kids to support and rent to pay. I believe that the chance is the same whether you take it when you’re young or older.