From her parent’s kitchen to the shelves of America’s largest retailers, Pam Jones has catered to the taste buds of many health-conscious food lovers with her CharBoy’s sauces and restaurants. Currently, Jones’s sauces are in more than 450 grocery stores and retail specialty shops in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Her sauces can be found in Whole Foods and on Amazon
Her business has generated over six figures in revenue, exceeding the $26,000 average annual revenue number for African American businesses. Jones’s gluten-free, natural ingredients have helped her to stand out in the industry and create a product that appeals to people across cultures.
Where did it all begin?
Jones’s passion for crafting flavorful recipes started around the age of 9. “I enjoyed getting in the kitchen helping my mom and dad out and being creative with food. I started serving my parents and siblings to turn my home into the feel [of a restaurant].”
When Jones joined the military at the age of 17, she was exposed to another world of possibilities that connected her to her food passion even more. “While in different countries like Italy, Panama, and Europe, I worked part-time at night in a restaurant. I learned German to work in the bars and taverns, and Italian to understand how they were making the pasta. I would get things for the cooks and get my hands around that [business].”
When she completed her work in the military, Jones took her passion for food to the next level. “I opened a small restaurant with grilled and fried fish and chicken, bought the name to a couple of J&J Fish [locations], [established] some partnerships and opened Chickadilly’s [Charhouse] in downtown Chicago”.
The Journey to Success
Jones has learned that great ideas may come instantly but success doesn’t pull up at your door overnight. After the Chickadilly’s partnership dissolved, Jones took her share of the profits and put her tasty sauce recipes in bottles. The research and development process took two years. “My first launch was 2012. I went door to door with cases [of the sauces]. I visited store buyers and started doing demos at stores. I worked really hard to get shelf space. I finally [made] my way into 30 stores and then I expanded into over 400 stores,” says Jones as she recalls the number of conversations she had with store managers to prove that her product was a hit.
Pam attributes her business growth to the Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream program that supports startup food, beverage, and brewing entrepreneurs. For 10 years, the program has broken down barriers and built a community for craft food, beverage, and brewing entrepreneurs, giving entrepreneurs like Jones access to capital, coaching, and networking strategies to grow a business and succeed.
“I tried to get a loan [from a bank] for the sauces on the shelf and it wasn’t even a conversation,” says Jones as she spoke about the challenges associated with getting a traditional loan as a small business owner. “Sam Adams was able to help me gain access to capital through their partnership with Accion. This helped me to expand. There are a lot of entrepreneurs out there who struggle with [tasks like developing] the business plan but my relationship with Sam Adams allowed me to gain access to money, publicity, and marketing opportunities. I wouldn’t be where I’m at without their support.”
Being a small business owner may come with a lot of bumps in the road but there are rewards for those entrepreneurs who keep going. After decades of experience as an entrepreneur, Jones shares insights and advice to other individuals who want to walk the same path. “You have to believe in your dreams. That vision has to be there. Then you have to build relationships. None of this would be possible without those relationships. You have to get exposed. Get in the right groups. Get certifications behind your belt. Once you’re certified, you have a network of more certified women who are doing things.”