A Mother-Daughter Duo’s Recipe for Small Business Success

Running a salsa business with her mother showed Cindy Pickering the challenges of starting a food business, including getting permits and paying for kitchen space. That’s why Pickering and her daughter Jennifer Palmer opened a new business — Your Pro Kitchen — in 2008. Inside this 3,500 square foot space, Florida’s aspiring foodpreneurs get access to a commercially licensed kitchen, help with the permitting process, and much more.

In honor of Mother’s Day, Pickering and Palmer showed us how they cooked up a successful business on a tiny budget.

ISBB: What was your inspiration for Your Pro Kitchen?

Cindy: My inspiration was I wanted to help people get into business. I’d started a small food business about 10 years ago with my mom and it was so hard. The overhead, the permits… it really bogged you down and kept you from focusing on your business. I wanted to show people how to do this and give them kitchen space.

What was the biggest challenge in getting started and how did you overcome it?

Jennifer: One of the biggest challenges was money. What we are most proud of is that this business was started with our own capital. We had a very small budget in starting this business. That is one of the biggest reasons that the business survived. We have built the business the right way by not over-extending ourselves.

C: The biggest obstacle was finding that banks don’t loan money. It was a big risk because there’s no other type of business like this in the state of Florida. Some of the capital I got from selling my salsa business.

J: There were many times when we were not sure that we were going to be able to make it but I give a lot of credit to Mom. She was out there getting clients.

C: We started with one client, and now we have 47 small businesses that are fully certified and fully permitted through the state of Florida. The first one that we signed on is still with us.

Have you noticed a rise in foodpreneurs over the last few years? What do you think is driving that trend?

C: I think the economy. I’m finding that people have no job security and people are not sitting in cushioned job. There’s no loyalty from employees to employers. As people go into the second phase of their lives, they’re done with corporate America. I think it’s also because they’re passionate about food. They’ve got their grandmother’s recipe that they want to bottle. I’m finding that people who go into the food business are not doing it to get rich. They’re going into it to make money and be happy.

What is it like working together as mother and daughter?

J: Working together is fantastic.

C: We communicate very well. We don’t hold grudges. We talk about everything. I don’t make a decision unless I run it by Jen. We want to clue the other one in.

J: We make sure that we keep family time as family time and business time as business time. We keep them separate.

Any plans to expand? What’s your goal with Your Pro Kitchen?

C: We just expanded two months ago. There was a space next door to us. It had presented itself to us before but the timing wasn’t right for us. A couple of months ago we thought this would be a good time to expand. Now we’re at 3,500 square feet. I just looked at another kitchen about 45 minutes from this kitchen so we may be looking at another location. It was a catering company that went out of business, so the landlord approached me. But it’s going to cost about $10,000 out of our pockets to bring it up to our standards, so this may not be the right time.

J: My mom and I have had this conversation several times. Our goal is to leave a legacy for my daughters. One is 12 and one is 14. Day to day, our goal is to set an example for them. We want to show them that women can make it and succeed in the world.

About Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in writing about business and personal finance. Her articles have appeared in or on The Boston Globe, Dance Retailer News, GetCurrency.com, Mint.com, PARADE Magazine, WomenEntrepreneur.com, and other places.
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