Recipe For Success

It takes more than a little love to make a prized family recipe a winning business. But with pluck, planning and plenty of persistence, it can be profitable.

the product, start-up costs range from $25,000-$100,000 and should cover production, packaging, labeling and advertising. Preparing a recipe for mass consumption requires assistance from food industry experts such as food brokers and chemists, who can help with product formulation, packaging and labeling. Going it alone could mean disaster.

You must be dedicated to making it work. It can take years before a product is ready for consumers and even longer before a profit is made. “When I started, I would have a plant make me a 55-gallon drum of my syrup,” recalls Hoskins, whose product volume fell short of the requirements for many manufacturers. “I would take it home, put it in my basement, and after work and on the weekends, I would go in the basement, hand pour it and hand seal it. It took me about 6 hours to do one case,” says Hoskins who ended up filling 100 cases.

DOES YOUR RECIPE WOW THE MASSES?
While family and friends will rave about your kitchen gumbo and insist your rice puddling it “to die for,” it’s the reception from the larger audience that really matters. While successful products are high in quality and attractively packaged and labeled, most of all, they’re unique. To determine if your recipe wows the masses, take some daily mental inventory.

When enough customers told Sylvia Woods that they’d buy her homemade barbecue sauce by the gallon, the owner of the famous Harlem soul food eatery, Sylvia’s Restaurant, realized the potential success of bottling one of the products on her menu. “For the holidays, people would bring bottles and jars and ask us to sell the barbecue sauce,” says Woods. “Then one night, firemen came in with a gallon jug and said, ‘Can you give us a gallon of your sauce because it’s so good.’”

That’s when Woods and her son Van, president of Sylvia Woods Enterprises, decided it was time to begin developing a line of products using Sylvia’s down-home Southern recipes. Taking customer favorites from the restaurant menu and packaging them for sale, Woods launched her Queen of Soul Food line in 1992. “We first started with the barbecue sauce and from there, Van said, ‘Well, why not the hot sauce?’ Some people liked the collard greens, so he said, ‘Look, let’s put the greens in the can,’ and then, there was the beans,” recalls Woods, 71, who launched her soul food line with about $200,000 in start-up capital. The products are a $6 million extension of 35-year-old Sylvia’s Restaurant, which now boasts a second location in Atlanta and a soon-to-be opened third site in Brooklyn, New York, early next year. The retail food line contains 17 items including Sylvia’s Specially Cut Yams, Kicking Hot Sauce, and Mild & Sassy Original Sauce. The products are available nationwide in such stores as Pathmark and D’Agostinos in New York and Stop, Shop and Save in Baltimore.

PREPARING YOUR PRODUCT FOR SALE: JUST ADD WATER, RIGHT?
At home, your five-pound recipe requires a stick of butter and a half cup of

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