“I consider myself to be a blue collar worker. I work and I sweat seven days a week.”
Lisa Dixon, owner of Black Honey, celebrated the business’ seventh year anniversary last week by giving away free coffee all day. Dixon has been a part of the Peterborough community for 10 years. She knew she wanted to run a food business during her time at Ottawa University and, immediately after graduating, began working for many years as a chef for different catering companies and restaurants making desserts.
“So I did that for years, and I also raised a family. After 18 years of doing that, I decided to open a dessert shop with really good coffee!”
Dixon knew Peterborough would be the place for Black Honey because “Peterborough had a couple of coffee shops, but not a lot, and it definitely did not have any dessert places… and I thought it would be great to take the kids here. So, for family and yeah, that’s why I did it; I knew I wanted to be my own business person.”
Dixon had to be her “own boss.” She knew she had leadership skills and confidence in hiring people and “training and managing a mini-economy.” She worked at a café in university, and in the kitchen of a retirement home in high school, and loved helping and chatting with people. So she knew she had the personality to run such a social business. “Before it was a fad, we had to understand sustainability.”
She explained that “even before it was cool to look at food as a fair trade item” and to think about important concerns, such as how we may be hurting people by purchasing certain things. This gives birth to “globally responsible ideas about food [because] everything has to do with people.” She was taught from a young age, and throughout her years as a chef to “get the herbs from the garden, go to the nearest farmer to get your vegetables, [and] to to a local dairy to get your butter.”
Dixon says her biggest obstacle has been finding people who are loyal to work for her. She also spoke of how difficult it is to be a small business owner, on the federal level, saying “the lack of support is really frightening.”
“If I’m not making any money, why tax me? Why not help me?”
Dixon does not really find being a woman in her line of business to be an obstacle, but does acknowledge that “the only time it’s a bit of a problem is how some of the sales reps look at me or talk to me.” She also recounted a situation in which she tried to buy her cappuccino machine for Black Honey, and couldn’t get a credit rating because the joint-mortgage she signed with her husband assumed that her husband was only paying the mortgage. “I had to fill out these special papers saying that the mortgage was mine as well,” she told Arthur.
She’s glad that Women’s History Month exists, but said she does not like to think of herself through her gender: “am I celebrating that I’m a woman, or am I celebrating that I am a business person that is doing well … Why do I need to bring up that I am a woman? … “I spend a lot of time trying to be treated equally.”
Dixon thinks it was “pretty cool” to own a business while raising a family because she was her own boss. Even though she might have been busy, she could still leave to watch them play a hockey game or perform in a play.
Dixon sits on the Board of Directors at Public Energy and likes to use Black Honey to support local theatre and arts: she sponsors local events and theatre, music, and dance companies by catering, as well as rotating art every six weeks in the cafe.
“Peterborough’s great for cultural stuff.”