From Richmond Times-Dispatch By
Richmond-based piemaker Joyebells has made it to the big leagues.
The family-run company that started in a kitchen three years ago has now taken over shelf space in Food Lion and Sam’s Clubs stores nationwide.
Joye B. Moore first started her business by selling the sweet potato pie recipe designed by her great-great-great-grandmother, the last person in the family to have been born into slavery.
The pie has taken off since then, selling in Food Lion, Sam’s Club, and as of last week, through QVC.
Moore started by selling just five pies a week at the Dairy Bar in Scott’s Addition, to making ten pies a week for that restaurant. She then jumped production to between 100 and 200 pies a week for other local stores before Food Lion took notice. Production then jumped to 1,800 pies a month to meet the demand for area retailers.
Revenues have skyrocketed over that journey. At the end of her first year, in 2019, Moore said she brought in a revenue of $8,976. Joyebells grew to $53,000 in revenue the next year, then about $350,000 in 2021.
So far in 2022, the company has generated $6 million in revenue, and its projections show an end to the fourth quarter at $10.4 million. It now has shelf space at all 1,100-plus locations in Food Lion’s 10-state footprint. It’s also grown into all 600 Sam’s Club stores nationwide.
Production for Food Lion is about 17,000 cases or 136,000 pies. Joye said she did not yet want to comment on the number of pies being sold in Sam’s Club but could reveal that in the future.
“We look at each other and can’t believe it. Pies, pies did this. It’s surreal,” Joye said, sitting next to her husband, Eric Moore. “I’m most proud of my family, all of us coming together, all of us coming together to elevate our historical family trajectory.”
The Moores’ children moved in with them along the way. The children worked for the business without a paycheck for the first two years of the operation. They’ve all moved out since the business has risen to its current level of success this past year.
Eric Moore started as a cashier at a fast food restaurant and then grew to become a supervisor for 15 Bojangles restaurants in the state. He now serves as chief operating officer of Joyebells, supporting many of the day-to-day logistics. He also hand-delivered many of the pies to local grocery stores in the earliest days.
Nearly all of the company’s growth up until now has been based on the sales of sweet potato pies. Recently, Joyebells added peach pie to the mix. And there are more to come.
The Moore family has a total of about 11 recipes, but more are on the way.
Apple and pumpkin pies will be released in 2023. Then later in the year, Joyebells will branch into savory flavors with its home meal solutions brand “Country Sides.” The company is slated to release collard greens, sweet potato casserole, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, and cornbread dressing.
Joyebells is planning to release those new products for the fourth quarter in 2023 to capture the holiday market. Moore said the idea is to offer an entire family dinner, except for the protein.
“Where we are currently, we didn’t see happening until 2025,” Joye said. “It’s a blessing and has just taken on a life of its own.”
The company previously took on a co-packer to help with production once it rose to the national level to help cover Food Lion and Sam’s Club orders.
“The hardest thing at that level was we had to stick to our guns when it comes to taste and quality ingredients,” said Eric Moore. “It took a while before we gave the approval on the final product. We had to push to use the highest ingredients no matter what the cost was going to be and that the customer would still support it.”
The price for a Joyebells pie is $12.99.
Despite going national, Joyebells is still using Richmond’s Hatch Kitchen to fulfill orders for area stores. The Moores said it was an invaluable learning phase for their business, and they wanted to keep using its facilities.
Moore also wanted to acknowledge Food Lion, which she says had faith in her at the beginning.
“Food Lion was instrumental in showing proof that we had the ability, one to have the appeal that a store of Food Lion’s size would have enough support to come in,” Joye said. “The customers have to buy it. They were a huge piece of our trajectory. I don’t think anyone would have been paying attention as soon or as quickly if it had not been for Food Lion.”
Most recently, Joye made an appearance on QVC last week as part of its 24-hour Season’s Eatings Food Event.
“The QVC Merchandising team met Joye at the Fancy Food Show this past summer and just fell in love with her personality, her story, and of course, her pies,” said a QVC spokesperson. “Her passion and authenticity is a perfect fit for QVC.”
Moore is starting to connect with early-stage entrepreneurs as a business speaker now that she has reached this level of national success. She says she was always working on side projects that never quite worked out before she found her hit with Joyebells.
“To all my other serial entrepreneurs and dreamers, all those things that you’ve done over the years in your life … that’s your positioning, that’s your seasoning for life for when the thing you’re supposed to be doing comes along,” Joye said.
“Believe in your instincts and the potential of your product,’” she said.