Janelle Weaver and her life and business partner, Daniel Townsend, spent six years travelling in their 1978 VW Westfalia camper searching for the right place to open their restaurant, The Bewildered Pig. The pair finally landed in the bustling metropolis of Philo, California about which Janelle says, “I think it wasn’t so much that we chose Philo, it was more that Philo chose us.”
Now, seven years later, The Bewildered Pig is much more than a full-service restaurant: there’s also a gourmet market with wines, beers, gourmet picnic items, natural remedies, kitchen tools, and more; they produce “Faux-mage” a trio of plant-based cheeses; and they are working on an herbal apothecary.
Janelle has been a chef for more than 25 years and had owned a small deli/restaurant that taught her what she didn’t know about owning a business. When she and Daniel opened The Pig seven years ago, they knew that it was a huge endeavor, far bigger than the businesses they had each owned. They realized they needed some help so turned to the Mendo-Lake SBDC at West Center. She says, “It wasn’t until the past couple of years that I feel I’ve forged a pretty deep relationship with our SBDC advisor. We had some ideas to realize in their entirety that were more than just a restaurant, and turned out to be even more than we originally thought.” When they started their plant-based cheese program about a year ago, Janelle again reached out to the Mendo-Lake SBDC for help and assistance with diversifying their business base. They continue to work closely with West on that program and will be launching an online store in the near future.
She has developed a close working relationship with her SBDC advisors: “We developed a relationship with our consultant with whom I’ve been doing Zoom meetings and phone calls for about the last 18 months. It’s been an incredible journey going through that process and getting to know someone who really starts to understand the impetus for why you want to create something different. It becomes more than just a numbers game. It’s why does this person want to do this and can I help them. I feel that connection with the SBDC at West Business is really important as it’s much more than just a business contact. They really get to know you and they really want to understand why you want to do something and once you develop that relationship, it really becomes a friendship. I look forward to those phone calls.”
Janelle and Daniel both appreciate the fact that the SBDC advising services are free and are always happy to make recommend West Center’s services to fellow business owners: “The first thing I always say is, ‘You’ve got to call West Business Center because it’s free and they’re great and you don’t have to know what you don’t know.’ You can know nothing and just have a dream or an idea and they can help you with the steps to get there and make it a real business.”
The restaurant business is a tough one and anyone who lasts more than the first couple of years can definitely call that a success. “I definitely feel like we’ve been successful in many ways, not necessarily financially all the time but to be able to do the kind of food we want to do and create the hospitable service we’ve created and the following with the guests is probably the biggest mark of success. It’s very touching to see the impact we’ve made on people with our hospitality, it’s not just going to a restaurant, it’s about making people feel important when they sit in the chair.”