Meet Erica Perez, ICA Accelerator alumni and co-founder of Oaktown Spice Shop. After noticing a market opportunity in the Bay Area, Erica and her husband/co-founder John Beaver opened their business in 2011, providing fresh ground spices and hand-mixed spice blends. Today they have shops located in Oakland’s Grand Lake neighborhood, on Solano Avenue in Albany and in the Castro Valley Marketplace in Castro Valley. We connected with Erica to talk more about what running this successful and busy spice business is like.
In one sentence, who are you?
I’m a journalist-turned-entrepreneur and a mom of two who loves food, people and local business.
Briefly, tell us about your business:
Oaktown Spice Shop provides the best-tasting spices sourced from around the globe. We grind spices in-house in small batches for the freshest, boldest, and most resonant flavors. We formulate unique, high-quality spice blends, and we provide warm, informative, inspiring customer service to help guide through the unfamiliar. We have three retail brick and mortar locations, an online shop and foodservice and wholesale channels.
What inspired you to start Oaktown Spice Shop?
My husband, and co-owner, John! He had some experience in the spice business, and he suggested that a spice shop would thrive in the East Bay. I loved the idea from the start.
What’s your favorite part about running your own business? And what is your biggest challenge?
I love the independence and the impact that I can have as a decision maker and leader. The biggest challenge is that there’s never enough time to do everything I want to do.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
This is a tough one! I remember a lot of good nuggets from the first class I took through ICA, which was with Michael Bush. He said you should commit time every week to work on the business (versus working IN the business). That can be really hard to do when you’re hustling to run a small business, but spending more time on strategy helped us grow our team and our business.
What role does community play in your business?
Community and small business are symbiotic, and there is great opportunity for building community around food. We support local Bay Area community organizations, local businesses and contribute to the local economy.
What has been your most impactful interaction with ICA, and why?
The Accelerator was impactful because we met fellow food entrepreneurs who we’ve continued to stay in touch with — people with whom we’ve exchanged support, advice and community. We also got valuable advice and guidance on growing our company to the next stage.
Erica and John have been connected with ICA advisory services since 2015. In 2021 they were in Cohort 8 of the Accelerator at ICA. Today they continue to partner with ICA through Shared Services, our HR and financial service offerings provided by ICA-in-network professionals.