...from cooking pepper jellies in my kitchen to the Grand Ballroom at the Disneyland Hotel!
One day, 6 years ago, I literally burned my hands right through my gloves making pepper jellies in mason jars for friends and family with habaneros from my vegetable garden in the heart of Temecula, CA. (Sour cream works to stop the pain, incidentally). Today, June 7, 2019, our little pepper jelly business is being recognized as one of 12 honorees by the U.S. Small Business Administration's Orange County/Inland Empire District at the Disneyland Hotel Grand Ballroom.
Pinching myself as I’m met in the foyer by a poster of my picture and the words:
“Micro Business of the Year 2019”
In a Cinderella moment, I turn to Mr. G and whisper,
"How in the world did we get here?"
We are so very grateful for friends and family supporting us from the beginning, and for excellent advisors from the SBDC OCIE District (Read their Press Release here), SCORE San Diego and support from our local Temecula Chamber of Commerce. We are especially thankful for our loyal customers and our retailers that carry our pepper jellies; our local vendors for production and marketing; and of course, our CEO. We consider our business a gift from God, and we are stewards of what we've been given, acknowledging where the recognition really belongs. We are grateful for the opportunities and guidance we have received and look forward to what's ahead!
MRS.G'S began with a small vision to be a quality local Temecula product, selling at the Temecula Farmers' Market and local retail. We knew little about the food industry or launching an artisan food product, but with the help of good advisors, we kept moving ahead, saying "yes" to baby steps along the way and our vision grew. What looked overwhelming in the beginning is now normal and we are excited to take the next steps that we never would have envisioned from the beginning!
Business Milestones and Favorite Moments
- Driving to the farmers' market before the sun came up with Mr. G, anticipating the day and strategizing.
- Collaborating with, and meeting other makers in a kind of "secret society", knowing how hard and how rewarding it is all at the same time.
- Working with a food technologist for MONTHS to make my pepper jellies EXACTLY like they just came out of my kitchen.
- Watching our jelly jars being filled, capped and labelled automatically, traveling on a conveyor belt to packaging area for the first time.
- Seeing MRS.G'S hot pepper jellies on retail shelves for the first time.
- Growing with the business, learning not only about the food industry, but regulations, insurance, bookkeeping, packaging, shipping, branding, marketing, social media, customer service, and Amazon fulfillment (I could write a book on the last one)
- Writing a check to Seeds of Hope Homes, an organization that fights sex trafficking, from the proceeds of a collaboration with D'Liteful Chocolat, a local chocolatier, that produced the most delicious pepper jelly-filled chocolates I've ever tasted.
What We've Learned (So Far)
- Never ever compromise on quality. Period.
- Excellent branding is critical. Protect it and stay true to your target market. Don't take on the entire population.
- When something isn't working, stop it. Redirect.
- Welcome people with integrity, skills and good work ethic to partner with you, and be teachable.
- If you're working with your partner, don't quit on the same day. Take turns.
- Take a day off once in a while.
Takeaways from the Awards Ceremony
We are humbled and honored to represent our community of Temecula and the artisan food community, which is comprised of some of the most passionate and hard-working people I've ever met.
The stories of the award winners were inspirational and motivating, particularly the mother/daughter team of Techniglove who forged ahead after the death of their husband/father, to fulfill his dream of success; and the CA Small Business Person of the Year, who admitted he had been afraid his business would outgrow his ability to lead it, but then found the resources and support in the organizations represented to get behind him and help him succeed.
We were amazed at the over 550 business owners, legislators and administrators present at the luncheon, representing resources for small businesses in our area. We left with an appreciation that we are not limited by our individual abilities, but have a rich supply of resources available for our Micro Business of the Year!