Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Amy Cords, Co-Owner of ManJa Creations Artisan Food Company, LLC, located in Portland, OR, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are ManJa Creations Artisan Food Company. We are family and woman-owned. Our premier product is our original family recipe Marinara Sauce, 'Mama's Marinara' Sauce. It is Vegan, Gluten Free, Low in Added Sugar, and slow simmered for 11-13 hours. Our customer base is wide, ranging from strict Vegans to folks who use our sauce as a base for their own meat sauces or recipes with Chicken or Seafood. Everyone from 5 months to 105 years old loves our sauce!
Tell us about yourself
This business was started for my Mom. By me, back in 2012, after losing both her parents and her cleaning service of 26 years declining. She, at 68, decided she was ready to retire. Her passion, by necessity and a deep love of great food, was cooking. So with all her newfound time, she started making handmade pastas and candies and experimenting with new recipes and creations. We gave them away as holiday gifts that year and, with the encouragement of friends and neighbors, started taking steps the following year to develop recipes and products with packaging. She began selling at a small Farmers market, then a couple of locally owned stores and shops, and we started contacting wineries and wine shops to do FIRST Friday events. One of our winery customers, with who we were doing gift baskets for, asked if we had a sauce to go with the Hand Made Pasta. I, without skipping a beat, said, "Yes, of course, we have a sauce. We'll get that bottled up and have it for you on the next order!" So, home I went and declared to my Mother that we were going to start bottling "The Sauce" for the baskets to the winery...
She said, "What sauce?" I said, "Your sauce, you know the sauce. The spaghetti sauce." so down the rabbit hole I went. We cooked a few batches of her signature spaghetti sauce without the ground beef. I photographed the content for the labels and designed them, ordered the sticker stock, and got them printed. We started bottling pints and quarts, and over the next 2 years, the sauce became our stand out product. My Mom was making all the sauce, 4 flavors of handmade pasta, 10 flavors of hand-dipped chocolate covered Agave Caramels, handicapped plain caramels, and 2 types of pepper jelly. We cultivated a close relationship with the Salmon Creek Farmers Market, Battle Ground Produce, NW BEST fish company in Ridgefield, and Maryhill Winery in Goldendale, WA. 2018 was her most profitable year. I decided at the end of that year to close my Photography and Art business to work with her full-time and develop her company. 2019, working together, we did 63 events in 38 weeks and had a 380% increase in profits over 2018.
2020 we were poised to grow even more. We got a co-packer for 'Mama's Marinara'TM sauce and had 250 events dates booked for the year... and then the shutdown. So 2020 and 2021 brought many changes, travels, and adventures. Sept of 2021, we were finally able to get back to work, and 2022 was our rebuilding year. 2023 is going to. E out. West year yet! We have 1 full-time employee and are looking to hire 2 more. We have 13 retail accounts, including Bob's Redmill Whole Grain Store in Milwaukie, OR.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Keeping our business our own and staying true to the original recipes and overall quality of the product and our public persona and reputation.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Time. Money. Rejection. Balance.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Do the thing that you are passionate about and have a deep love for... but find a way to make it unique in your market. Do it differently and better than your competition. Be prepared for the strife and rejection... don't rake it personally. Learn and grow and keep going. The victories will come. Celebrate them. Get a good support system... even if it's just your pet or an online forum. Ask questions. Build your alliance and network.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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