Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Shelly Meyer, CEO of Montana Flavor to Savor, located in Hamilton, MT, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is Chef Shelly's Montana Flavor to Savor, a small batch manufacturer of gourmet GRAB-N-SPICE blends that take weeknight meals from bland to chef-created. Our customers are busy parents and professionals who enjoy making healthy and great-tasting food without hassle or worry. Instead of needing 10 different spice bottles to create one recipe, our customers can grab one of our blends and get a balanced flavor with garlic, onion, pepper, citrus, and a host of other all-natural ingredients that enhance flavor.
Each bottle has a color-coded label that's original to the spice industry—inspired by our time in commercial kitchens and as Professional Chefs. We label Red for red meat, Yellow for chicken, Green for herb/veg, Blue for fish & seafood, Grey for blackening spice, and Brown for espresso rub. However, the Salt-Free Modifier is the Revolutionary key to creating Global Cuisine. When you combine this Modifier with the Fish Seasoning and add a little cinnamon - You've created Moroccan flavors. Or the Blackening Spice with the Modifier will create Mexican flavors. Then the Herb Seasoning with the Modifier and Turmeric - you have Middle Eastern. A Salt-Free Modifier that's pulling double duty (delicious alternative to salt AND recipe modifier) is truly where Montana Flavor to Savor brings out the Chef in our customers.
No Fillers - Just Flavor. That's our motto. All Montana Flavor to Savor spices are gluten-free, all-natural, and vegan with no cheap additives that have nothing to do with flavor. Five out of seven have no added sugar; only the Blackening and Espresso Rubs have sugar. So our customers can be confident in their cooking and make a healthy spice choice with tantalizing flavor.
Tell us about yourself
I am Chef Shelly Meyer, a Private Chef in the Bitterroot Valley and TV Host of Shelly's Game Kitchen on Eat This TV, a Roku Channel also streaming on YouTube. I completed Season 2 this spring, where the New York TV crew came to my home in Montana to film. The new episodes are currently airing weekly.
I LOVE to create, and food is a willing vessel to develop an artistic canvas of flavor. It's because of this love of cooking that, even after 15 years of hands-on professional experience, I put myself through culinary school, graduating 2nd in my class at age 49. Just shy of 1st by .03 points. I'm still a little peeved at myself for not quite getting first. The reason I went back to school is to develop my own sense of confidence in what I create and can accomplish. To really dial in on the fundamentals and ratios that are the basis of recipe creation.
Consistency is the key to success in the restaurant and private chef business. Customers or clients will enjoy a meal and want me to recreate that exact meal the next time I cook for them. We all have Food Memories, and part of the challenge is living up to the memory of a great meal. There's a saying in the biz I live by: "You're only as good as your last service."
That's why I've always made my own seasonings and began commercially manufacturing them in small batches in 2020. When the pandemic slowed everyone down and food shortages were at an all-time high, I was frustrated as most people were. I had to pivot and began with market research. Have you read the ingredients in most spice blends at the grocery store? Some have All Purpose Flour as the Number one ingredient. Even gluten-free seasonings still have rice flour or maltodextrin (very difficult for diabetics). These additives don't bring flavor; they just act as cheap fillers. Even the anti-caking elements are a way for large companies to make huge batches that lose potency as they shelf them.
I became more passionate about creating spices that bring Chef convenience to the consumers at home. With restaurants closed then, customers still wanted fast and easy delicious meals. Along with Hunter (my son, who's also a Certified Chef), we devised a business plan to manufacture small batches of the seasonings that he helped create for our restaurant, along with the seasonings I'd developed as a Private Chef. Our Moto is our platform: No Fillers - Just Flavor.
As a consumer myself, I want good, healthy ingredients that I don't need to do an internet search to find out what it is. You can trust that our Montana Flavor to Savor spices are made by chefs, without additives, gluten-free, with just natural flavors that enhance food - not shelf life.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Although cooking for elite clientele has been very rewarding and something I continue to do. I would have to say my biggest accomplishment is being the TV Host and Executive Producer of "Shelly's Game Kitchen." Now I get to share my passion with a national audience. It's a lot of hard work, developing the 12 episodes per season and putting together recipes, but I thrive on the creative process. The show focuses on the best techniques for cooking lean and healthy wild games. I also utilize my Montana Flavor to Savor spices in the recipes and create Global Flavors by combining them in different ways. I'm developing recipes now for season three.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
You have to be the creative driving force as well as the "doer" of ALL things. When we had the restaurant, I worked 80-90 hours a week for 10 years. Success comes with sacrifice; it's never free. What you're WILLING to sacrifice is the hardest decision you have to make. As a Private Chef with a background in event catering, owner/operator of an upscale steakhouse, and with over 20 years of experience, I've discovered the peaks and valleys of the food industry. I love the creative side, and that's my strength. Know and follow your strengths.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- What You Focus On Expands. This is a saying from a leadership course I took years ago, and it stuck. We still say it today in our family and for business. Mostly, it just means not getting wrapped up in what's not working and shifting your focus to how to fix it, the solution.
- What you Permit you Promote. Staffing is the biggest struggle, and keeping key team players is crucial. But know your limits and state them. Don't waffle because human nature is to find the easy way through. If you permit something that's against your SOP (Standard Op. Procedures) for one, then you're promoting others to follow in pattern, and it will snowball.
- Starting is the Hardest Part. If you have an idea or plan, START but have twice as much capital as you think you'll need. Also, nothing will ever be perfect; there will always be kinks to work out. That's why restaurants have "soft openings" to work on those issues before doing 100+ covers a night. Owning and running a business is 24/7. Even when you do take time away, you're still dealing with business. Accept it and have systems in place to ensure you don't burn out.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I've been called a "serial entrepreneur," and I think that explains a lot about my philosophy and running a business. If it's not broken, but can be done better, then you should fix it. There's a FIRST time for everything, and it CAN be you creating the solution. As a mentor of mine said years ago, "You're never given a dream without also being given the power to make it come true...you may have to work at it, however."
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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