At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, many people became jobless, especially during the lockdown phase in March when certain businesses had to lay off workers. Twin sisters RaeShawn Middleton and LaShone Middleton are trained chefs from Laurel, Maryland, who lost their respective jobs at a restaurant. Little did they know that one afternoon’s crab cravings would help them launch the only crab delivery service in their vicinity.
Usually, the trick to a successful business is to fill a market gap. In the case of the Middleton sisters, there were no eateries offering crab delivery services in their community so, with their experience as chefs, they jumped at the idea to start their own crab delivery service, R&L Crab Company.
The twins were at brunch one day when they craved steamed crabs cooked to perfection and at the same time, they did not feel like moving out to go and grab any. That was when the idea struck them. Maybe they did not need to drive out to get them, and many people might be feeling the same way and yet would want to savor the crabs from the comfort of their homes.
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Being trained chefs who grew up on crabs came as an added advantage when the twins decided to make a business out of it, WJLA reported.
To mitigate the spread of the virus, restaurants were shut down and only takeout shops could operate with little staff. The Middleton twins decided to cook from their kitchen and deliver the crabs themselves.
They began doing the groundwork to launch their business. According to LaShone, they needed to make sure they had items that they would need, including delivery bags. Then it was about letting people know the services they intend providing by creating an Instagram account and designing flyers to be put up in their neighborhood.
The fear of the unknown always makes people fret about a lot of things and LaShone was sure scared of people’s reaction to their new venture.
“I was, like, shaking. I was, like, so nervous ’cause I was like, this is ridiculous. Like, how am I going to – I’m not going to start a business.”
“We went home that day and started making flyers,” La said. “We were shocked to get our very first order that day.”
All the while, the pair forgot one of the most essential things in being an entrepreneur — the pricing of the crabs. It came to their attention the moment an order came while they were sharing fliers. The steamed crabs were priced at $75 for the big ones. The average price on the market is $99 but being new, they needed to win over their customer base, plus their pricing comes with the delivery which makes their services stand out.
“We deliver everything ourselves, we cook everything ourselves, and when we have 20 orders, we split it amongst the two of us.”
The Middletons schedule deliveries from Thursdays to Sundays and they get about 10 orders per week with some ordering about 60 extra-large crabs in one order. With crab season coming up in March, the twins are poised for the orders that might come their way.
RaeShawn and LaShone are looking to expand their venture by saving up to purchase a food truck and sign on to already existing delivery services like Postmates to cater for big orders.
At the moment, all the crabs are made to order and none of them is reheated. The twins are also exploring the concept of “ghost kitchen” where they use the kitchens of restaurants around town to cook the crabs before deliveries.
With no prior knowledge on how to run a business, the pair are grateful the pandemic gave them the push to be business owners and now they want to share their failures and successes on this new journey to inspire others by writing a book.
“We made a lot of mistakes and are still learning as we go but I can say I know how to start a business and it may not be a traditional way, but I don’t think there’s a traditional way to do anything.”
Admittedly, it is terrifying to start a business in the midst of the pandemic but per NPR, the U.S. Census Bureau says Americans are launching start-ups at the fastest rate in more than a decade.