Small Business Profile: Sofi Madison, Owner of Olives & Grace - Boston

 

Hi Sofi! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Weston, just outside of Boston. I moved to Colorado for school, followed by CA and then back to Boston to open up shop. 

What was your first job?
I've always worked in restaurants, which I'm so grateful for. The camaraderie, the work ethic, the knowledge, I love it all. 

What lead you to begin Olives & Grace?
I'm most inspired when I see a product, and then meet the person behind that creation. While living in Colorado and California, I was gathering heaps of knowledge about the slow food movement (from farmers markets) and about how products are made, by going to fairs, markets, and apothecaries. I wanted to create a business that supported the people behind the hustle. 

Tell us more about the origins of the brand’s name.
My original vision was to create a sort of artisanal picnic shop, where you'd get our "Olives", cheese, jam, chocolate. etc.  and discover the makers, the farmers, the entrepreneurs behind those specialty items. It was to be a celebration of the "Grace" of the moment, and the process. 

How do you source what you have in the store?
We're always, always looking for new items. The special sauce is who we bring in, and why.  

Do you have a team? What steps did you take to build it?
We have a team of 5 right now, including myself. Building the team, and managing everyone is perhaps one of the most difficult parts of owning a business. It's juggling characters, schedules, moods, work ethic, etc. It's tough, and my team is so worth it. 

You are a pretty big staple in the South End. How do you connect with your customers and community?
We're so grateful to be a part of the South End. Our door is wide open to our neighbors, and it's incredibly rewarding to watch families grow, couples get married, friendships blossom. It's an effortless job, staying in love with our customers. Truly. 

What are some brands/designers that you are excited about that we should know of?
We have in these beautiful new kites that I'm pumped about. They take me way back to playing in the park, pre-cell phone era. 

How would you like to see your neighborhood/community evolve?
We need to protect the South End from future chains from entering. As rents rise, we need to stay authentic. 

Why do you think it’s important to shop small and support local makers?
Who wants to live a life void of quality? When makers throw themselves entirely into their craft, put their name and face on their website, you know they aren't cutting a corner. It's all about living a quality life, and supporting those who lead by example.

What is your favorite thing about your workspace?
It feels like home, and it feels nice to be able to welcome people into our space regularly. It feels like a healthy exercise in staying open, both literally and spiritually. 

What role has Boston played in the development of OG?
Boston is home. This city has taught me to hustle, work through the pain, and give the love back. This city has grit, and I dig it.

What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
The most rewarding part of my job is opening a delivery that just came in, and seeing how a vendor has improved their packaging. It's really motivating to know that they invested even more time and money into building their brand and doubling down.  

What are some of the setbacks or challenges you faced when starting OG?
It's easy to fumble when you're in a super busy season, and you don't have time to rest. That's when mistakes happen. I need to work on my life work balance. 

At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support other women?
Women make shit happen. And when we work together, the whole thing lights up. There's no need to walk alone through this journey when we can weave something beautiful together. 

What have you learned from owning your shop that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
Make time to rest and recharge. If you run on fumes you'll start dishin' out smoke. I want to learn that taking time for myself is a sign of respect for the shop, not neglect. 

What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
I love the Fall season at the shop. The leaves come blowing in, and people start thinking about special gifts for their loved ones. That's when we get to kick our storytelling into high gear and it's go-time. 

What do you wish more people knew about you?
That we are hiring! 

What are some of your favorite places in Boston?
Gardner Museum, Oleana Patio, Niche Boston, Viola Lovely, The Charles River at sunrise, Coppa

Find Sofi at:
Website
Instagram

 Photos by  YJ Lee

Photos by YJ Lee