While most high school students have little aspiration beyond receiving a college acceptance letter, Matthew Sharpsteen aimed his sights a little higher. At age 16, he established his hometown of Brevard, North Carolina’s first walking food tour. Now, as a student at UWF, he is bringing the concept behind Brevard Bites Food Tours to our very own downtown as
Pensacola Food Tours.
Sharpsteen is a freshman majoring in Political Science with a specialization in Pre-Law.
He has always had a passion for entrepreneurship, but after serving as a tour guide in both Chicago and his hometown, he decided to combine those experiences with that passion and his love of food to revitalize his hometown by showing off its charming restaurant seen.
He hadn’t originally planned to replicate his business while attending college here, but upon getting to know more about Pensacola, he knew he had to.
“Once I saw the unique quirkiness that Pensacola has and its truly unparalleled hospitality from anywhere else in the Gulf region, I knew quickly that this would be a fun [endeavor],” said Sharpsteen. “[It has an] unparalleled food scene when compared to small towns and even small cities across the U.S. A food tour is a perfect fit, we’re very much a tourist-oriented city.”
Sharpsteen plans for Pensacola Food Tours to open sometime this May. Each two and a half hour walking tour will focus on six to seven of the finest local eateries and breweries that line downtown’s historic Palafox Street.
Each tour group of ten people will also learn more about the restaurants and Pensacola themselves from their guide, which could be Sharpsteen himself.
“From a perfect food tour, I want folks to be able to get a sense of what it is to be a local Pensacolian,” said Sharpsteen. “A food tour is a fantastic way to meet locals, try out new places and discover Pensacola in a way that you can’t really do by others means.”
Starting food tours for two separate cities has expectably been a challenging task. The greatest difficulty for Sharpsteen in managing his businesses has been balancing his thriving enterprise with academics, a difficulty that has only increased with the rigors of college and the distance from home.
Sharpsteen is also starting from scratch in the Pensacola business scene. In Brevard, he had known most of the restaurant owners prior to creating Brevard Bites Food Tours. In Pensacola, he had to introduce himself and his ideas anew to every restaurant owner.
But the challenges pale in comparison to the rich experiences Sharpsteen has gotten out of running his business.
The friendships he has been able to establish with local business owners and visiting tourists, along with having the privilege of showing Pensacola off to both locals and tourists alike, has made all his efforts worth it.
But the challenges pale in comparison to the rich experiences Sharpsteen has gotten out of running his business. The friendships he has been able to establish with local business owners and visiting tourists, along with having the privilege of showing Pensacola off to both locals and tourists alike, has made all his efforts worth it.
If you are just as motivated as Sharpsteen was to dive into the world of small business this early, but don’t know exactly how to start, he has some advice:
“If you want to do something, find a passion,” said Sharpsteen. “[It’s about] finding a niche, finding a need within your community and going after it with everything you have.”