Hope Seidl is a Baltimore native and embodiment of the Bmore Babe (not only because she is founder of @bmorebabes, a community for women in Baltimore). Hope is co-founder of BBQ restaurant, Smoke, in Cockeysville, MD, founder of Bmore Babes, and social guru! Her one true love is her restaurant, but in only nine months, Hope has managed to create and run a popular community for women, with 3k followers on Instagram, events, and emense inspiration for the woman with ambition. We sat with Hope in a comfy booth with our nitro iced coffee on a cloudy afternoon at R. House in Baltimore, where we talked all things business, inspiration and authenticity.
Tell us about Bmore Babes and how it got started?
Bmore Babes started because of the #metoo movement, female revolution and rise in female empowerment groups in the last few years since Trump became president. It started with the men in prominent positions who had treated women unfairly getting knocked down and it became a whirlwind. I questioned, “was it really about this or is it about taking down men?”. It evolved so many different ways and I loved the way it brought women together. We believed in each other, had each other’s back and it didn’t matter that people were calling it a witch-hunt, it didn’t matter that people were just calling them liars – they stood up for what they knew was true. They didn’t let those big voices make them quiet. I really love that because I feel like we all have a voice that has been quieted about something – whether it’s something in work, at home in a relationship, or in a passing situation. There’s something that’s happened to everybody where they have been silenced. So that really lit a fire inside of me and I really love seeing what happened. My personal Instagram page became a place where I was very vocal about these issues and I thought maybe there needs to be a place for me to post empowerment quotes and thoughts on the current political and social trends, so that’s how it started. It started as just that, an outlet for me to talk about what was happening and it slowly grew because a lot of people liked what I was saying, a lot of people connected with it. They could talk about motivation and empowerment but also talk about the real world and things that are happening.
In a way, I knew when I started the page it would eventually take a bigger form. I didn’t realize how quickly or how rapidly it would grow. It’s like a snowball, you just keep like adding elements, layers, new people and different things. So now, Bmore Babes is a multifaceted beast – it’s a place for you to go to find a community, it’s a place for you to find business advice, it’s a place for you to find female owned businesses in the area, it’s a place for you to find motivation and inspiration. In all of those things too, it’s so much more than that. For example, during the IG takeovers, you learn so much information, get insight into how to run a business, how to do a multitude of jobs, and balance all of the day to day. I have learned so much from so many different women over the last nine months and it is just getting bigger. It’s just really exciting, overwhelming, and most of all rewarding.
I was born in Baltimore and lived here until I was six. I lived in Annapolis from 6 to 15 and then I came back and graduated high school here. I went to CCBC for school…I never graduated. I didn’t feel like I needed to. I was always really great at school, I was in charge of everything – yearbook editor, field hockey team, lots of AP classes – I was an overachiever. When I got to college, I felt like I didn’t need it. I had been in the restaurant industry since I was 15 so I just took some business courses and then I just stayed in my field, working the restaurant industry. From there, I kind of just ran with it.
I know you run Smoke with your partner, Josh. How did you get started with that?
The universe brought us together, for sure. He had a restaurant in Pennsylvania that he closed with his other partner and decided to bring the concept to Baltimore. He moved in with his best friend who is also my best friend and that’s how we met. Prior to that he had had another restaurant, he’s a trained chef and I have been in the industry since I was fifteen – I was a hostess, server, carside carry-out person, bartender, manager, marketing manager. Then I met Josh and he needed help with the front of house. At this point, I had been doing social media for a while, so I left the restaurant industry and I took a social media job while I was working with Josh. So that was paying my bills because we were so new, we couldn’t afford to pay me. I worked at a social media agency for about two years and while I was there I learned a ton from experience and networking and meeting people. I was helping him with creative design, bookkeeping, and other work in those areas. Then when we decided to open our second location, I left the social media agency, I invested in the company and now we’re partners. I feel like the universe wanted me to have all of the experiences that I had in order to be the business owner that I am today – with marketing experience, restaurant experience, with the couple of business experiences I did have – it is the perfect modge podge of things I really just needed to know to be part of this role.
At Smoke, we want you to feel like you could be in like any big city when you walk in. There’s concrete on the wall, emo music playing and guys with tattoos all hanging out. It has that vibe like it belongs in a big city. We are changing the game around bbq, we’re doing it differently. It’s modern American barbecue so it’s not by the books.
What advice would you give another woman, in regards to Bmore Babes and owning a restaurant?
If you want to open a restaurant, I would tell you not to. You will never sleep, your life will no longer be yours. It becomes your baby, it becomes your whole entire world so you need thick skin, you have to have a lot of money to open your first door, and you have to know what you want to do. You have to plan. You can’t walk in there and hope this works – the fail rate for restaurants is so high, four out of every five that open fail. If you have a concept that you really believe in, then find an investor and do it but be prepared for the worst to happen. That sounds really awful and negative but it’s real. There’s lots of good information out there about where to find an investor and how to put together a business plan.
If you want to start your own community, I would say be genuine – be genuine in your mission, in your heart, and to your content. If you’re forcing it or drawing at straws for things to say, it will be very obvious. Everything should just flow. The things that I say or put out are things that came to me and felt true to what I needed to say and my mission. People want real content, people want value. When I talk to people about social media, I think about it this way…people value their count so much that if they’re following you they expect something. So if you’re not providing that expectation, they’re going to unfollow you. So that’s my thought. Be genuine with what you are putting out, always.
Do you feel like being a woman in the restaurant industry has affected your success?
I’m a woman in an all man’s world so it’s my way or the highway and they all know it. It’s not always like that, I have the luxury of being in a relationship with Josh so we’re together and they all know mom’s in the house. I find myself putting more focus in different areas because you can definitely tell difference between when a man and woman do certain things. I think that in the restaurant world you don’t see a lot of women owners, off the top of your head you can probably only name a few. That doesn’t mean that women can’t be successful in restaurants but it means that you do have to have a certain type of personality.You have to have thick skin with the constant need to please people, the ability to multitask a hundred different things at one time and still be able to have a smile on your face. It’s a lot and the women that I know in the industry are so badass. They are really inspiring, strong women and none of them have had it easy. They’ve all had really hard roads to reach their success; it’s hard but it’s so rewarding and just knowing that the other women in the industry have your back makes it that much more rewarding. I feel like a lot more women are taking interest in cooking like being chefs and finding creativity in that way.
What’s next for Bmore Babes?
We’re having a Baltimore Business Babe meet-up quarterly. The first one is going to be a resume workshop because they do change regularly and so many people never learn how to properly write one in the first place. So we’re going to talk about resume building and social media for an hour and then afterwards you have the opportunity to network with a hiring manager at Fun Bowl and also there will be a Grey Site Boutique will be there with their Baltimore Babes set up. I want my events to be informational and not just about getting together and getting drinks. I’ve been at so many different networking events where people will talk to you about things that are not necessarily helpful. I want networking to be done at my events, I don’t want you to get drunk, I want you to get business.
Follow Bmore Babes for events and announcements on Instagram @bmorebabes and http://www.bmorebabes.com. You can also follow Smoke on Instagram @hickorysmokedgoodness or check them out in Cockeysville, Maryland!
All images © Rachel King, 2018