“Allies for Community Business has supported our company with loan payment relief, mentorship, and business to business connections”Pamela Jones
“It all started with a family recipe for BBQ sauce,” says Pamela Jones, owner of International House of Sauces & Seasonings, “a recipe from my father who would not share. I knew I wanted to use that sauce as the foundation for a business, and it was awfully hard to wait until he was ready to let the next generation in on the secret.”
Pamela started in earnest trying to convince her dad to share the recipe when she retired from the military after 18 years. It took four years, during which time she worked for an organization that provided job training for women. Finally, with recipe in hand, she began experimenting with the sauce in her kitchen, changing a few ingredients to lower the sodium and sugars and trying different all natural ingredients to add her own zing to the flavor. Pamela then spent a year in a commercial kitchen and working with a lab. She also perfected other recipes, wrote her business plan, designed the Charboy’s logo, and started offering taste demonstrations in local grocery stores in the evenings and on weekends.
“Sales grew little by little,” Pamela explains, “but I needed an infusion of capital to get to the next level of production. Even with my variety of life experiences, my methodical approach in laying a foundation for a great product, and a couple of years of solid sales, no banker really wanted to talk with me,” she reports. “Finally the Women’s Business Development Center referred me to [Allies for Community Business]. The loan process was quick and easy and soon I had $12,000 for expansion.”
Pamela received three more loans from Allies for Community Business after that. Her $70,000 loan in 2015 enabled her to build the capacity to meet the larger purchasing orders she had with major retailers such as Jewel, Kroger, Mariano’s, and Whole Foods. The Charboy’s brand has grown as a recognized supplier of gourmet and quality products that are lower in sodium and sugars compared to most major brands in its category.
Pamela contributes her business success to having the ability to implement, “Having an idea is easy but implementing is hard,” she explains. While business has been great, there are still challenges. “I’m always looking for employees who are visionary and have a real vision to help business succeed,” she says. Pamela has also realized that in order to be successful an entrepreneur has to recognize their limitations. “You can’t do it all; you need to realize your limitations and collaborate with those who have the expertise you do not have.”
Pamela continues to grow her business, making critical connections via mentoring and business coaching opportunities. In 2018-2019, she was a member of the second cohort of Allies for Community Business’s Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab, a program which pairs entrepreneurs with investors and advisors who work as a cohort for nine months to grow their businesses.
Currently, Charboy’s sauces are available in over 450 major grocery stores across the Midwest and online via Amazon. Charboy’s relies heavily on grocery store sales, typically boosted by live food demonstrations. However, when the pandemic struck, Charboy’s was unable to conduct onsite food demos of their product in many grocery stores. “Without the demos, we have pivoted into other alternatives to sustain sales,” Pamela said. This pivot included conducting more cooking video demonstrations, creating an online Amazon store, and increasing sales through its existing social media platforms.
Throughout the pandemic, Allies for Community Business has continued to work closely with Pamela. “[Allies for Community Business] has supported our company with loan payment relief, mentorship, and business to business connections through the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Program,” Pamela said. While Charboy’s continues to find ways to innovate during these trying times, Pamela’s drive remains stronger than ever.