Today we’d like to introduce you to Cindy Greaver.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Cindy. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Mrs. G’s began over 20 years ago at a Christmas party when I first tasted homemade jalapeno jelly. Having more time than money for gifts, I began making jalapeno and habanero jellies every year for friends and family, mostly supplied by peppers from my vegetable garden. Fast forward to 2013, when my husband, Kent, and I entered the realm of empty nesters, we began looking for something to supplement our other business (selling and servicing chemistry analyzers to clinical and wine labs).
A few of my business-savvy friends (who also wanted my jellies available year round) encouraged me to take them to market. I laughed! I knew how hard it was to start a new business, but agreed to try them out at some local church boutiques. Gearing up production in my home kitchen, I started producing cases of jellies… even burning my hands right through the gloves during a marathon habanero jelly cook (FYI, sour cream works well to stop the pain). They were a hit at the boutiques, so we decided to sell them to the general public. I’m thankful I didn’t know then what I know now because I may not have embarked on this journey!
Coming out of the corporate world and having no food industry experience, I had no idea what to expect. We did run the business idea past our mentor at the Small Business Development Center and agreed we would start local, offering our community an excellent local pepper jelly, taking it one step at a time. All along, it has been simply a series of taking the next “baby step” in faith as it was presented to us, gathering good partners to help us, and persisting.
The plan was for me to produce them in our kitchen under the new California “Cottage Law” and sell them at the local farmers’ market. But no! We learned that, although you can sell regular fruit jam all day from your kitchen, pepper jelly is defined as a “low-acid” product and must be produced under a cannery license (and a lot of other regulations). Having no desire to be a “cannery,” we found a chef in San Diego with the license to be our co-packer and produce our jellies from my recipes, starting with three flavors: “Ja-Ha” (Jalapeno Habanero), Jalapeno Garlic Lime and Mango Ginger Habanero. We began selling them in 2014 in our Temecula Farmers’ Market, adding Little Italy Mercato and North Park Farmers’ Market in San Diego the year after.
Visiting local farmers’ markets when Kent and I traveled had always been a favorite pastime of ours, and it was wonderful to be on the other side of the table chatting with customers and being part of a “family” of local vendors, many of whom in both categories ended up being good friends. The market managers were instrumental in helping us learn the ins and outs of growing our artisan food business. Of course, we are so grateful for our family and friends (some we hired and some volunteered). They have been invaluable, helping us with demos and markets, food photography, advertising, coaching –and moral support!
From these weekly farmers’ markets, many other opportunities opened up. Williams Sonoma events allowed us to sample our products in unique dishes from their kitchen and helped spotlight our product as an essential gourmet condiment for everyday meals, not just for cheese and crackers. Buyers from local independent specialty food stores and grocers began to express interest in our product. In 2015, we made the decision to rebrand. While it was costly, we determined it was essential to explore new higher end distribution channels and increase online sales. We hired a small local marketing company and a third generation printing business in town to accomplish this daunting task. We were very happy with the result… they successfully took our vision and translated it into a tangible brand that reflected exactly what we wanted.
In January 2016, we were jolted by an email from our co-packer that he had suddenly ceased operations. We were just a little panicked. At the time, we were in several stores and had a commitment to two weekly markets. We had to find a new co-packer quickly!
After much searching (there aren’t many local canning licenses), we were grateful to find a local fourth-generation jam and jelly maker who was able to increase our production capacity, significantly lower our cost of goods, and give us consistency in quality while maintaining the small-batch quality we require.
Our jellies are not mass-produced like some, but actually made in smaller steam kettles and are hand tested and adjusted for quality during the cook. I was there personally for weeks with the food technologist, testing, modifying and tweaking the recipes to produce them just like my home recipes – only better. It is not an easy task to produce the same flavor in that quantity. Flavor balances and pectin are finicky! I believe we succeeded… and even exceeded my expectations.
Since then, we have registered our trademark and have been focusing our attention on marketing and distribution channels. We’ve added new retail customers (we now have over 20 in California and Nevada), added Amazon Prime fulfillment and contracted a digital marketing person to increase online sales and presence. We have had so many valuable partners along the way I can’t name them all, but our mentors at the Small Business Development Center and SCORE San Diego were such great resources. They challenged us constantly to maintain good business practices, particularly in the financial area, but also in other areas such as marketing and strategic planning.
So far, it has been quite a ride! Kent and I consider this business a gift, and ourselves very blessed to be able to do it together, and, while it hasn’t always been easy, it has been rewarding… not only taking a tangible product from my kitchen to market, but getting to know the people and local businesses along the way who supported us. It has also been our pleasure to help others along the way as well… not only in the food industry but using our business to support some great non-profit causes. We are grateful.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
There were many!
• The first we noticed was the physical challenge of our “senior” bodies getting up at 3:30 in the morning, hauling heavy product and setups back and forth and standing all day at the markets. We actually had to change our diets, work out more and plan downtime during the week to maintain our health, and to keep peace in our marriage and family.
• Wearing all of the hats of accounting, order fulfillment, warehousing, managing social media, understanding the food industry and government regulations, and being our only sales force, all at once, was daunting. Knowing our strengths and how to prioritize and delegate to others was key. We needed to balance investing personal time versus budgeting for trusted contracted services.
• Losing our co-packer cold and trying to find one at peak season was, honestly, a make or break moment for us. We almost threw in the towel, but got on our knees and prayed instead (a common occurrence at our house), and determined to go on. After the co-packer we have now told me “no” twice because he was too busy, I found and hired the food technologist that worked with him and we were happily able to partner with them.
• The Health Department (and other) regulations were (are) overwhelming and vary from county to county. We had to dig in and understand the regulations better than the regulators – and still need to keep up with the changes.
• Amazon Prime fulfillment – overwhelming! We never anticipated this. We assumed it would be easy and they would be schooling the US in how to ship our product. Selling your own brand on Amazon requires submitting endless documentation, understanding their processes and fee structure and lots of patience, but it is doable and it is profitable with persistence and flexibility.
Our biggest challenge was that they seemed unable to ship our individual jars to customers without breaking them. Undaunted, Kent developed a sturdy mailing tube for packs of two and three jars of jellies that Amazon, UPS and FedEx are unlikely to break. We call them our JELLY ROLLS! Mr. G is a rockstar! That’s the only way we sell them on Amazon now.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with MRS.G’S Hot Pepper Jellies – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Mrs. G’s artisan hot pepper jelly is made with love in small batches using only the freshest ingredients. The jellies are non-GMO and gluten-free, with no preservatives and no corn syrup. Produced in a local FDA-certified kitchen, they are locally sourced and handcrafted to ensure the same excellence in taste and quality as the homemade jellies that first came out of my kitchen.
Our flavors include Ja-Ha (Jalapeno Habanero), Jalapeno Garlic Lime, Mango Ginger Habanero, and Peach Habanero. They are available in 10 oz. jars, a variety pack of 5 oz. jars; and wholesale 24 oz. jars.
They range from mild to medium heat and the flavors in each are complex and unique from other brands of pepper jelly and also from each other. They were crafted to enjoy with food, so none are so hot that you can’t taste the flavor of the jelly and it pairs well with all types of food. We suggest using them as grilling glazes, in stir-frys, in finishing sauces, on sandwiches, in baked goods, as dips and spreads for charcuterie boards, etc. There are many recipes on our website. We get such great recipe ideas from our customers – our jellies just go with everything!
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We have gone down many paths and have learned from all of them. Generally, what we have learned is that our local business is our best business and that it is necessary for “Mr. G” and me to keep that personal connection with our customers, making sure that we have the highest standards for our product and business policies. We are strengthening our local partners and looking for new channels of distribution, always looking for ways to collaborate with other small businesses and supporting good causes along the way.
We are very excited to have recently partnered with D’Liteful Chocolat, a local artisan chocolatier to produce (delicious) pepper jelly filled chocolate truffles, the proceeds of which go to an Escondido-based charitable organization we have supported for years, Seeds of Hope www.seedsofhopecr.com, working with Costa Rican youth, fighting sex trafficking, drugs and alcohol abuse.
We’re also thrilled to again this year be one of the sponsors of Reality Rally http://realityrally.com, a 3-day fundraising event to support Michelle’s Breast Cancer Resource Center in Temecula.
Since we believe that everything we have is God’s gift to us, our business is not simply a venture to do with as we please. We consider ourselves stewards of that gift and continue to prayerfully consider how we move forward, looking for opportunities that will be more than just financially rewarding but positively impact others as well.
- 10 oz. jars are $10.00 each or $35.00/four in our online store
- Variety 4-pack (one of each flavor, 5 oz. jars) are $24.00 on our online store
- 2-pack and 3-pack “jelly rolls” are available on Amazon Prime, $22.00 and $29.95, respectively
- Address: 43980 Mahlon Vail Rd. #602
Temecula, CA 92592
- Website: www.mrsgsjellies.com
- Phone: 9513840234
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: instagram.com/mrsgsjellies
- Facebook: facebook.com/missesgs
- Twitter: twitter.com/mrsgsjellies
- Other: pinterest.com/mrsgsjellies