SIMPLY SOUTHERN SIDES L.L.C.
Location: Northfield, Ohio
Founded: April 2007
Number of full-time employees: 3
What it does: Produces pre-cooked side dishes
Revenue Model: Provides pre-cooked sides to retail stores, and on a contractual basis to the U.S. military and food service companies
2010 Revenues: $3.9 million
2011 Projections: $6 million
How they’re making it work: Products sold in 1,000 grocery stores; contracted to produce U.S. Food Service’s private label Southern side dishes;
products served on nine domestic military bases, as well as in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait.
A failed chicken wing restaurant left husband-and-wife team Claude and Crystal Booker with a heap of side dish recipes but famished for another shot at entrepreneurship. So they turned those sides into the business’ main dish.
Simply Southern Sides (www.simplysouthernsides.com; 330-908-0493) cooks and packages Southern favorites such as collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and military bases. But as tasty as the idea was, getting the business up and running wasn’t so enjoyable. The Bookers turned to personal savings and the investments of family and friends to come up with the $175,000 they needed for startup costs such as office equipment and marketing expenses. Recognizing the three-person business could cook and package only so many orders, the duo hired a co-packer—a manufacturing company that takes recipes and creates and packages them en masse.
The business looked good on paper, but they still needed to find clients to make it work. There was a limited budget for schmoozing. “We had depleted our savings because we were recovering from a failed restaurant,” Claude, 43, recalls. Rather than fly to meet potential clients, they saved money by driving 60,000 miles that first year. He insists, “If it took me two days to drive, then two tanks of gas is a lot cheaper than a plane ticket.”
After a few disappointing meetings, it became clear the Bookers had to do a better job of proving to potential clients that such a small firm could deliver products consistently.
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