When Wendy LaRocca decided to go into business for herself three-and-a-half years ago, it might have seemed like the deck was stacked against her.
She had no experience owning a small business. She had been forced to retire from her career as a paralegal because of disabling medical problems. And her chosen product was something many people don’t know much about — or even like.
But, in less than four years, LaRocca has expanded The Anointed Olive in Downtown DeLand, and opened a second, also successful, location in Ormond Beach.
Except for a few scary months during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, she said, the trajectory has been up, up, up.
What’s the secret? The Beacon wanted to know.
It has something to do with the advantages LaRocca enjoyed as a new business owner that outweighed the odds against her.
One, she said, was an upbringing that taught her to take responsibility for her own outcomes, and that success comes from hard work. The other is an unabashed faith in her omnipotent spiritual business partner.
“We are a faith-based family,” LaRocca said. “When we don’t know what direction to go, we give it to God.”
LaRocca had some other tips for small-business entrepreneurs:
- Make sure your employees know your products, and are trained to carry out your commitment to customer service. At any given time, The Anointed Olive offers more than 85 varieties of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. She makes sure her employees are conversant about all of them.
- Get involved with your customers. Communicate with them. The Anointed Olive uses social media successfully for marketing, and invites return business with a coupon in every bag.
- Persist. Don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t seem to work at first. “Brush yourself off, and learn from it,” she said. “Sometimes it’s just persistence.”
- Be involved in your business, and take responsibility for your own bottom line.
- Invest in marketing and advertising. “Next to payroll, I think that’s my next biggest expense,” LaRocca said. The Anointed Olive recently increased its newspaper-advertising spend, and is seeing positive results.
LaRocca also appreciates the MainStreet DeLand Association and the DeLand Area Chamber of Commerce.
“I would highly recommend being a part of the MainStreet Association,” she said. And, “I don’t think we would’ve ever gotten open without the help of the Chamber.”
Chamber officials, LaRocca said, helped with communications when the yet-unopened store ran into difficulties with the City of DeLand Building Department over remodeling details at the original location.
It hasn’t always been a cakewalk. When times get tough, LaRocca likes to remember the Bible’s guidance — not that God will never give you more than you can handle, but that He will, so you’ll be encouraged to lean on divine will, rather than your own.
“Sometimes I have to remind myself. I’m supposed to be overwhelmed, so I rely on the right person,” LaRocca said.
2018 — The Anointed Olive opens at the corner of North Woodland Boulevard and Wisconsin Avenue in Downtown DeLand. Wendy LaRocca’s husband, Richard, was nearing retirement. The original plan, Wendy LaRocca said, was to buy a vacation home in North Georgia and spend half the year there. It wasn’t meant to be.
Sidelined from her career as a paralegal because of serious medical problems, Wendy LaRocca was exploring the possibility of starting a small business. She was looking in her kitchen cabinets when she realized that, everywhere the family had gone on vacation, they had picked up a bottle of olive oil as a souvenir. The Anointed Olive was born, with the whole family’s blessing.
“We like food,” Wendy LaRocca said.
2020 — A big year for expanding The Anointed Olive.
“We were barely in business for two years when we bought Ormond Beach Olive Oil Co. Then, in September 2020, we moved down here [to the current location at 118 N. Woodland Blvd. We gained 500 square feet and tripled our foot traffic,” Wendy LaRocca said.
They had always envisioned a second store, but not so soon. Plans changed, LaRocca said, when the owner of an existing olive-oil retailer in Ormond Beach offered the LaRoccas a great deal on his business.
Both locations are successful.
2021 — Now retired from environmental engineering, Richard LaRocca, Wendy’s husband, runs the Ormond Beach store. Her son, Matthew Gray, runs the DeLand store, while Wendy manages the overall business and brand. The family lives in DeLeon Springs. Both Wendy and Matthew are graduates of DeLand High School.