for a taste of success
For some Missouri entrepreneurs,
business begins in the kitchen
and consumer science students at Hurley High School mix ingredients
to make a taco seasoning which the school sells through its business,
Spring Creek Flavorings and Seasonings. The brainchild of teacher
Susan Faseler, the business teaches students how to be entrepreneuers
by developing food products.
It’s not uncommon
these days to find locally made jams and jellies, popcorn and potato chips
and other foods competing with Frito-Lay, Smuckers and other giant food
producers in grocery stores. But for small rural food makers, getting
their products on store shelves is often a nearly impossible venture.
But there are success stories out there including that of a group of high
school students and an 88-year-old grandmother.
Welcome to Mrs. Faseler’s
sixth-hour family and consumer science class at Hurley High School, the
home of Spring Creek Flavorings
“Make sure everyone
washes their hands,” says Susan Faseler as she walks around her
classroom as students bring out mixing bowls and bulk containers of spices
and other food ingredients. Susan has taught home economics, or family
and consumer science as it’s called today, for more than 20 years
at the tiny southwest Missouri school. But this class is different. Though
there are plenty of recipes and the mixing of ingredients, this class
has more to do with business than it does with cooking.
“At first it
was just classroom discussion. It was just something fun to dream about,”
says Susan, as a group of her students on one side of the room begins
mixing together ingredients to make Tiger Taco seasoning while on the
other side of the room another group packages chocolate chip cookie mix.
These and several other products the students package and label are ready
to be sold in gift baskets put together by the class.
Faseler oversees the specialty food enterprises of the Family and
consumer science class at Hurley High School.
foods are one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. food processing
industry and small entrepreneurs, many in rural areas, make up a large
part of that trend, says Susan. Though almost anyone with a kitchen can
fill jars with jams and bags with specialty popcorn and slap on their
own label, anyone wishing to sell a food product has a myriad of rules,
regulations and other concerns to think about, as the students at Hurley
High School have learned.
In 1995 Susan’s
class put together a cookbook, which included the history of Hurley. When
students wondered why there were so few businesses left in the town the
teacher suggested her students try to think of businesses they could start.
Spices, flavorings and bread and cookie mixes seemed like ideal products
to sell, but without start up money the idea remained a dream.
Then in 1998 the Missouri
Department of Education offered a competitive grant to schools to develop
innovative and creative teaching curriculums. Susan applied and received
$10,000. Spring Creek Flavorings and Spices was born.
Susan assigned her
students to find products they could market and then research recipes
they could make or mix in the classroom. She taught them how to experiment
with changing the recipes using controlled scientific methods. The students
researched buying bulk ingredients, a difficult task for small food producers.
And the students learned to design their packaging and labels, following
all federal food labeling laws. It was a challenge.
learned a lot. Take the federal labeling law and give that to a group
of high school students and have them interpret it. They learned the government
is very picky,” Susan says.
Susan also taught
her students how to look at their production costs and come up with wholesale
and retail prices for their different products. Though Spring Creek occasionally
comes out ahead, Susan says the real goal is education
“The kids are
learning so much — food science, marketing and business and working
with the state and federal government,” says Hurley School Superintendent
Doug Arnold. “And the kids really enjoy the class.”
Holterman, 88, successfully created Grandma’s Cool & Zesty
Dressing with the help of her grandson Steve Picker. After four
years of hard work, the pair has their product in 200 grocery stores.
As many entrepreneurs
learn, the difference between the success or failure of their dream is
often pure tenacity. Just ask 88-year-old Dorothy Holterman of Jefferson
City who, with the help of her grandson, has realized a long-held dream
of bottling and selling her mother’s German salad dressing. But
first it took two decades of experimenting to come up with the recipe.
my mother making this wonderful dressing,” says Dorothy, who grew
up on a family farm near Rich Fountain. “I was determined to learn
to make it, but my mother didn’t write anything down. All she knew
was a dab of this and a dab of that. It look me 23 years to perfect it,
but I did.”
On her 84th birthday,
in 1999, Dorothy remarked to her family that she always wanted to sell
her mother’s dressing and the next day her grandson, Steve Picker,
began putting a business together which soon became Grandma’s
Cool & Zesty Dressing. Together, Steve and his grandmother designed
a bottle and label and took Dorothy’s dressing on the road to grocery
stores where, more often than not, the store manager liked the product,
but couldn’t give the tiny startup shelf space.
Grandma’s Cool & Zesty Dressing and products from Spring
Creek Flavorings and Spices are included in the Taste
the Best of Missouri gift box available this holiday season.
Through sheer persistence,
Steve convinced the stores to give him space so long as he delivered the
bottled dressings and stocked shelves himself. That persistence has resulted
in Cool & Zesty Dressing earning shelf space in 200 grocery stores
in central Missouri and St. Louis, where Steve now relies on a distributor.
The dressing has grown so popular the family had to find a large food
processor to make and bottle the dressing. The challenge was converting
a recipe for 15 ounces to make 70-gallon batches. Dorothy did taste tests
to make sure the recipe was right and when bottles of the dressing began
coming off the line, she was emotional.
“When all those
bottles were coming down the line she cried,” says Steve. “‘That’s
my dressing,’ she said.”
After dozens of grocery
store visits and food trade shows, Grandma has achieved celebrity status,
at least in grocery store aisles where her picture can be found on bottles
of her dressing.
“I was working
out at the gym one day and a woman there stopped me and said, ‘You’re
the lady with the dressing!’ Someone once said I’m a show-off
and I am. I love life. I had a dream and getting old had nothing to do
Look for Grandma's
Cool & Zesty dressing on grocers' shelves or order online at www.cool-zesty.com.
For information about Hurley High School's Spring Creek Flavorings and
Spices, e-mail email@example.com.
These products are also available in the Taste
the Best of Missouri gift basket (see below).
that are good eats
looking for a gift this holiday season with good taste and shows
your love of Missouri, then the Taste
the Best of Missouri gift boxes could be what you’re looking
In an effort
being promoted by the AgriMissouri program, 26 small Missouri-owned
food makers have joined forces to promote their products in a gift
box. The producers come from across the state with the majority
calling rural Missouri home.
Taste the Best
of Missouri is the brainchild of Kansas City business owner John
Jungk, owner of Old World Spices and Seasonings who has traveled
Missouri recruiting businesses and promoting the idea of showcasing
Missouri-made products in a specially designed gift box.
in the box make everything from gourmet jellies, salad dressings,
barbecue and steak sauces, meat marinades, pecans and walnuts and
many more food items (see story left). Each product included is
recognized by AgriMissouri for being produced, processed or manufactured
in the state.
Jungk said he
chose the products from a field of 63 applications based on the
taste and labeling and whether the company used good manufacturing
gift boxes are available starting at $40 and going up to $70. Baskets
for $80, the highest priced package, includes food products in a
hand-made basket produced by Quality Products, a sheltered workshop
in Nevada, Mo.
A portion of
the proceeds from sales of the Taste the Best of Missouri boxes
will go toward scholarships for students at the University of Missouri.
A portion of sales will also assist small, Missouri food manufacturers
in the Taste the Best of Missouri program to participate in national
food processing trade shows.
Jungk says he
hopes the program gives these small manufacturers much-needed attention.
He also hopes
people who try these products will like them enough to ask their
local grocery stores to stock them on a regular basis. Jungk says
he would also like to encourage school groups to sell the boxes
schools to take more pride in Missouri products, instead of selling
fruit from Texas and Florida, or cheese and meats from Wisconsin,"
boxes are available in many grocery stores around the state or can
be ordered online at www.tastethebestofmissouri.com,
or by calling 1-800-241-0070. To ensure delivery for the holidays,
orders should be placed by Dec. 1.