Before starting Keep It Savory Salt Company, Johanna Thompson did not have a formal culinary training, but she loved cooking magazines. One day she saw a recipe for lime salt, which she adapted and gave as a holiday gift. Soon, friends and family began asking for more and in 2013, she made her first sale.
Today, Keep It Savory Salt Company offers 10 flavors of hand-cured culinary sea salt, from Rosemary Sage to Vanilla Salt. Johanna operates out of The Hatchery, a non-profit food and beverage incubator co-owned by A4CB in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood.
In 2021-2022, Johanna participated in the sixth cohort of A4CB’s Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab (NEL). “Having been a teacher my whole life, I knew basically nothing about running a business,” Johanna said. “The one-on-one coaching, the workshops, and the knowing I could call someone for resources and advice–that has been immeasurably helpful.”
Through NEL, Johanna connected with other entrepreneurs and advisors to help scale her business. “I’ve gotten so much out of the program—from my project strategist to the expert mentors, to the workshops and classes–it’s been a treasure trove of resources,” she said. “It’s been especially wonderful to get to know other small business owners.”
In addition to the coaching and connections Johanna received through NEL, she also received a $20,000 grant to help grow her business. With these funds, Johanna rebranded her business from Pixie Dust Salts to Keep It Savory Salt Company.
Beyond providing fresh salt, Johanna is dedicated to uplifting the community. “I’m interested in business models where the business acts as a good community member,” said Johanna. “As a teacher for my entire career, making the world a better place has been a big part of why I have gotten up each morning.”
Keep It Savory actively invests in the local economy by purchasing ingredients as locally as possible. Her business is also committed to giving back by supporting organizations such as Equiticity, Free Spirit Media, and North Lawndale Employment Network, which are all working to reduce the legacy effects of racism and disinvestment on the West Side.
Looking forward, Johanna hopes to grow her team, expand her selection of flavors, and continue making the world a more savory place one jar of salt at a time.