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Vendor Feature: Karen Tassell, owner and creator of PDQ Meals

When was your first Braum’s An Affair of the Heart show?

My first An Affair of the Heart experience was helping my mom, Cathy, in her booth at AAOTH. That was 27 years ago – my daughter was only 3 years old!  At that time, Mom’s business was appliqued T-shirts and knit pant sets.  She did all kinds of embroidery and applique on apparel.

How many shows have you done?

Wow – how many total shows in my lifetime? I couldn’t even guess.  I think with all my variations of businesses, I’ve probably done 75 or 80 Braum’s An Affair of the Heart shows, across all of the markets.

How many shows do you do in a year?

At this point with PDQ Meals, we now have sales teams that help us cover the country.  We’re now up to about 125 shows per year!

How did you get started?

I got started with and because of my mom.  I helped her with her businesses over the years, all leading up to my current adventures in PDQ Meals.  When we started with the casseroles, the business really exploded.

How did your booth morph from apparel to fudges/apples to PDQ Meals?

I love coming up with new ideas, and in business, you really have to anticipate what the market needs and see when trends are evolving.  If I was still trying to make and sell appliqued knit pant sets, I think I’d be out of business. If you can’t adapt, you’ll be out of business, and it’s been fun over the years changing up our offerings for customers across the country.

With PDQ Meals, we’re trying to evolve this business, too.  I’m experimenting with an Instapot to help my customers navigate that appliance in making my meals.  And, for 2020, I’m working hard to offer some low-sodium and heart-healthy options/tweaks for customers.

Have you always been a chef?

I’ve always been a cooker – and a dump cooker, at that.  I’ve always loved dumping a bunch of stuff in a pan and we called it Karen’s Surprise.  Some nights, it was amazing, and I’d have to try and figure out what I’d done!  I wouldn’t call myself a chef, but I’m good and making delicious food.  Now, I love being able to equip customers to make it themselves, with my mixes.

We love seeing your husband, Dan, but I think many shoppers and vendors wonder how your mom is doing?

My mom is fantastic.  She’s running my shop in Texas, managing web orders and managing two full-time employees. She’s still working hard, but being at the shop full-time means she can take breaks when she needs too (we all know that’s very hard at a show.)

What’s your proudest moment when it comes to your business?

That’s a hard question because I’m proud of my business every single day.  Defining moment is hard to nail down because the work is moving like water all the time.  If one thing doesn’t work, I do something different.  I did hit a huge sales number in 2019 – after only three years of business.  If we want to talk about one moment, that’s probably it. Three years ago, I would have called anyone crazy if they’d told me our sales and shows and web orders would be where they are right now. 

Do you have any fun memories from past AAOTH shows?

I built my first snowman at AAOTH!  I was probably 40, but I’m from the Houston area where it never snows.  It snowed a lot at one An Affair of the Heart, so I was able to make a full on snowman!

Do you have any big 2020 goals or resolutions when it comes to PDQ Meals?

My goals are to provide wonderful customer service and a quality product to every customer this year.  I also want to hopefully interact with every customer in a way they don’t get at any other venue of shopping. 

Show’s tagline is “find something you love.”  What’s something you love?

My life every single day.  Being able to do what I love every day of my life.  Every aspect of my business from creating new recipes to customer service to helping my sales team. I’m so blessed to love every day of my life in this business.