This story was originally published on inlandempiresbdc.org.
Cindy Greaver and her husband, Kent, began Mrs. G’s over twenty years ago when she started making hot pepper jellies as gifts for friends and family.
Since then, her heady, homemade confections (used on everything from Jalapeno Glazed Brussels Sprouts to Spicy Garlic Lime Shrimp Skewers) have caught fire with customers and fans across the country.
In 2013, Cindy reached out to the Inland Empire SBDC for help expanding Mrs. G’s from a hobby to a professionally branded, artisanal product.
Ever the humble business owner, Cindy says, “I didn’t have a huge vision for this when it all started. I just wanted to make a good, local product that represented Temecula and my community.”
Cindy knew that hard work alone would not guarantee her business’s survival or success. That’s why she reached out to SBDC consultants and food industry experts as soon as she was ready to turn her hobby into a business.
The SBDC helped me with figuring out my business model and navigating the intricacies of the food production industry. It was definitely a steep learning curve for me, and I was very happy and grateful to have their support.
Greg Bell, an SBDC business consultant and food industry expert says that with a product as good as Cindy’s, it was just a matter of getting it in the hands (and on the plates) of more people.
“When I met Cindy, she loved her small-town image but wanted to grow her business. Our focus became broadening her tasting and marketing efforts to a wider market. We worked together to repackage her jelly gift idea for the holidays, included a window in the packaging so consumers could see the product, repositioned her marketing spend and increased inventory. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to see and transform your passion project as an actual scalable business and with Cindy’s product, tasting is believing so duplicating sampling efforts was key,” says Greg.
The road to success
Over three months during the holiday season, Cindy increased her holiday sales seven times over. Now Mrs. G’s, only in its sixth year of business, has increased its annual sales tenfold since its initial launch.
As with every business, there were unavoidable obstacles along the way. But Cindy took them all in stride and refused to give up even when quitting seemed like the easier, much less expensive option.
Paul Nolta, Assistant Director of the Inland Empire SBDC, specializes in strategic planning and financials and says that it was the quality of Cindy’s character that helped Mrs. G’s succeed.
“Cindy’s spirit of entrepreneurship and willingness to take risks make her really stand out. Cindy came into our Temecula Valley Entrepreneurs Exchange outreach office in 2013 and I have worked with her since. Starting a food-based business is a giant hill to climb. The starting point was working through the legal and financial steps needed to bring this idea into reality. We worked together on license and permit requirements, break-evens at different price points and marketing strategy. With Cindy’s determination and a solid plan we continue to execute, monitor and adjust for growth,” says Paul.
Cindy’s hard work and dedication to producing such a high-quality, exceptional product have gained notice not only from customers but from peers in the local business community as well.
Hard work, recognized
In 2019, the U.S. Small Business Administration Orange County Inland Empire District named Mrs. G’s Micro Business of the Year, formally recognizing Cindy during the 56th Annual Small Business Week Awards luncheon at the Disneyland Hotel on June 7th, 2019.
Though proud of earning this award, Cindy says that it is humbling to be part of such an esteemed and accomplished group of artisan food producers.
“I know how hard people in my community work and I feel honored to be singled out from this group. I just want to be the best representative of the Temecula food community that I can be.”
Cindy says the secret is the same for every small business.
“You need to be true to yourself, true to your brand and know exactly what you want. And you can’t let anyone talk you out of what you know you have to do. That being said, I wouldn’t try something like this without mentors who are solidly grounded in the fundamentals of business. They are an invaluable resource and a lot of help when problems arise,” says Cindy.
The jellies, which come in four flavors – Ja-Ha (Jalapeno-Habanero), Jalapeno Garlic Lime, Mango Ginger Habanero, and Peach Habanero, can be found on the shelves of over 20 retail locations across California and Nevada, local events, and online at mrsgsjellies.com and Amazon Prime.