Guest contributor Lisa Murphy describes her experience turning her flair for ketchup into a real business.
My favorite pastime is without a doubt food. Often, I am either in the kitchen making food or out exploring new restaurants. Since I was a child, I have always loved cooking and experimenting with new dishes, teaching myself recipes from cookbooks and trying to re-create my favorite restaurant dishes. However, as much as I enjoyed cooking, I never thought I would turn it into a business.
It wasn’t until my roommate challenged me to make ketchup to pair with an amazing truffle mustard from France that my food business was born. Instead of simply making a single batch of ketchup, I ended up experimenting with multiple recipes and many different flavors. After getting enthusiastic feedback from friends and family on my ketchup, I eventually decided to launch my ketchup commercially and to start my company, Sosu Ketchup. Since then, Sosu Ketchup is now in five retail stores in San Francisco including Bi-Rite, Rainbow Grocery, Marina Meats, Heath Ceramics, and 24th Street Cheese Shop.
Getting to this point took a lot of hard work and dedication. For the would-be food entrepreneurs out there, here are a few of my tips for turning your hobby into a business:
1. Take the time to test your product and ensure it’s what the market wants, and not just what you like.
We spent almost a year perfecting our first two products through countless hours in the kitchen making different flavors and testing different amounts of ingredients. We started with seven flavors at our first tasting party, and through countless rounds of testing with our friends, we eventually narrowed down our product line to our current two flavors. I learned a lot, including that I love my foods spicier than most people. I reduced the heat in our Srirachup because it was just too hot for most palettes.
2. Work with a financially responsible partner who can be your sounding board.
Cooks can be very passionate about their food (I know I am!) and sometimes emotions can get in the way of clear thinking. However, the difference between a hobby and a business is making decisions that are financially sustainable. Having a partner who can help keep a check on finances is instrumental to the success of the company.
3. Be persistent and network.
Get out there and talk about your product. Don’t be afraid to knock on doors at retail stores and ask them to sample your product. In the food business, no one knows how good your product is unless they taste it, so it’s important to get out there, network, and do samplings. You will be surprised how many people will help you and how many others are in the same shoes you are.
4. Rely on the experts who know what you don’t.
Focus your efforts on what you are an expert at, and rely on others for their expertise. We had a clear vision of what we wanted the Sosu brand and packaging to look like – a simple and clean representation of the high quality ingredients in every bottle. However, packaging design wasn’t our expertise, so we recruited our friend, a talented designer, to help with the packaging. For getting incorporated and handling legal matters, we looked to experts like Rocket Lawyer to help us take care of our legal needs.
And the most important piece of advice – have fun! After all it is a food business!
About the Author
Lisa Murphy is the Chief Sauce Maker of Sosu Ketchup, a local artisan sauce company based in San Francisco. You can find more information about her product at http://www.sosuketchup.com or support her on Kickstarter.