Back in 2009, I was looking for a change. I enjoyed my job as a Product Manager with an IT Supply Distributor but I just needed something different. I had a 1 ½ year old son and between the hour drive to and from the office, I was only getting to see him about an hour a day by the time he was ready for bed. It was not the way that I had envisioned raising my children.
My husband was very supportive with my decision to leave my job and set out on my own. He knew that my hours were putting a lot of stress on me and ultimately on our family. So I took a leap of faith and quit my job, leaving behind a steady paycheck and set off to find out what I really wanted to do with my career.
My father, who had recently retired, was also looking for a new opportunity. He wasn’t quite ready to leave the workforce completely and wanted the challenge of growing a business from the ground up. Between his accounting and financial expertise and my marketing experience we were ready to get started…but get started doing what?
One day I was watching TV, one of those rags to riches shows about how a simple food product that this couple’s family used to make, was the start to their family business. It was in that moment that it “clicked” for me…my mother’s zucchini relish! There was nothing quite like it on the market and everyone that tried it absolutely raved about how wonderful it was. I called my Dad and asked what he thought and he said let’s go for it.
We were new to the food industry so before we began actually making anything, we did a lot of research, I mean a lot, a lot of research. The rules and regulations were overwhelming especially since we did not have a food background. Because of this, we made the decision to use what we in the food industry call a “co-packer”. We were able to find a small co-packer about a few hours away from us that didn’t require a minimum order of thousands of jars. We gave her our recipes for the zucchini relish and a few pepper jellies and we were off and running.
Our priority with our products was using fresh ingredients, free from any sort of artificial preservatives, flavorings or colorings. That was very important to us right from the beginning, if it wasn’t something I would feed my family then I wasn’t going to make it and try to sell it. The store’s shelves are already stocked full of food that is loaded with these things, I wanted to try and make some sort of a difference in the food industry and offer only foods made with great ingredients. Sure, we use sugar, I will never say that we produce a “health food” but we use real ingredients, nothing fake! Because we use fresh ingredients, we may not be making our food the fastest way possible but we are making it the best way possible and I am extremely proud of that.
Before we knew it we received our first order of Zucchini Relish, Sweet Green Pepper Jelly and Raspberry Jalapeno Jelly from our co-packer. We applied the labels by hand and got to selling. The support that we received from local stores was really encouraging and were in absolute disbelief when the first couple of stores placed orders immediately. We were in business!!
We used our co-packer for about a year and then decided that due to a few quality issues we began working on opening our own facility in Washington, MO. We found a building right on the riverfront in downtown and began piecing together what we needed for our kitchen.
Opening our own kitchen was a big and scary step, but this gave us control over our own products and allowed us to quickly create new products and grow our brand. Once our kitchen was open, in 2011, I did find time to have my second son! He was able to hang out with me at work for the first three months or so before my Mom started watching him. I was so lucky to be able to bring him with me to work, while he napped, I worked and we still were able to get our bonding time in! It is a special thing that my kids can come with me to the office and see what I do all day and what I am working so hard to grow for them.
In April of 2014 we purchased another small specialty food company, Liz & Linda’s from Harrison, AR. The products fit so well into our product lineup, it was such an easy addition to our company and we are so proud to continue the tradition of making these products. A few weeks after we purchased the company, my husband and I welcomed our sweet little girl into the world! Between the three kids, myself and my husband we stay a busy family but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
We are currently working to establish a retail shop in our space that will be open at the end of May 2016. This will give us an opportunity to sell directly to the community from our kitchen and sell the products of our co-packing customers by giving them another retail presence.
If you find yourself in Washington, MO, be sure to stop by and see us, we will have lots of yummy foods for you to try!
UPDATE 8.9.16: Our shop is open!! We have been open for a couple of months and have been getting a really great response from the community. We offer samples of our products daily and also offer some home and kitchen decor items with plans to expand our offerings to kitchen gadgets and other fun items! Stop in and see us!