High-quality ingredients paired with the ease is a winning combo for sisters-in-law, Melissa and Laura Vitelli. They created Jar Goods with one simple mission: Offer delicious, simple specialty foods in jars, stock-able in any pantry and ready in a pinch.
But launching a new product in a highly saturated market of pizza and pasta sauces is no easy task. So as a part of our Fuel Your Mission series featuring entrepreneurs, we sat down with the co-founders to learn what makes them tick and how they’ve become successful in the specialty food space.
You guys started Jar Goods with only a $150 investment. What did that money go towards?
We used that initial $150 to purchase ingredients and raw materials for our very first batch of Classic Red, and also for our first farmer’s market. We maintained a healthy margin and just kept going and boot-strapping and self-funding. Once we were at the point of launching Classic Spicy and Classic Vodka, we needed more money. At that point, we did our first Friends & Family round. Most of those Friends & Family came back for a second round – it kind of means the world to us that they trusted us initially and then trusted us a second time!
How do you differentiate yourselves from mass market sauces?
We differentiate ourselves by our quality. Our sauces are 72% tomatoes, which is exceptional! We also differentiate our sauces by their versatility. From pizza to meatloaf to tomato soup to shepherd’s pie, our sauces are for so much more than pasta. When we started Jar Goods, we asked ourselves “Does everyone use tomato sauce in literally every recipe / meal like we do?” We strive to help people understand how versatile it is and how much incredible flavor it can bring to the party.
How long did you sell at farmers markets and street fairs before you were able to get on store shelves?
It honestly wasn’t that long – I think about five months from our first farmer’s market to our first shelf. Early adopters were these great mom-and-pop grocers in Jersey City and Hoboken, and of course, Whole Foods.
Where and how do you source the best/highest quality ingredients?
It would probably be super easy for someone to figure out our recipe – there’s really no trick to it, but the best produce! Our tomatoes come from California, and everything is so fresh. We make zero allowances when it comes to our ingredients – only the best, tastiest, freshest!
As successful entrepreneurs, what advice would you give to other women starting their own business?
One thing that continually frustrates us is this sexist knee jerk reaction we have received from men and women alike. When we tell them we are food entrepreneurs and we have our own brand the follow up question most often asked is, “Oh, cool, do you make it in your kitchen at home?” The go-to assumption is that this is a pet project or hobby. We know they don’t mean harm… but that knee jerk reaction is frustrating. Our advice to women starting a business would be to challenge that knee jerk reaction… with grace, of course 🙂
I’m sure I am not the only one, but when I was pregnant with my daughter I was insatiable. There just was never enough food! I enjoyed many a grilled cheese dipped in Jar Goods. So, so good. You can make Jar Goods into a classic tomato soup or just take the easy way out and dip your grilled cheese straight into the jar. My daughter, Vivienne, has a huge appetite and is quite fond of Jar Goods and grilled cheese herself!