Business Name: David and Sons Fine Condiments
Founder: Debbie and David Fitzerman
Founded in: 1995
In ten words or less, what’s so special about your products?
We create gorgeous tasty condiments with local ingredients.
Intriguing. Tell us more.
We’re David and Sons Fine Condiments. The business got launched in 2017 with a barbecue sauce that we had created just for us as a family. People who tried it kept on saying “you’ve got to sell this”. One day we thought “why not”, and the rest is history.
After a few months of sales, we started getting requests for a less spicy version and soon after our second flavour was conceived, maple root beer.
To everybody who’s out there dreaming about starting a food business, how did you launch yours? What’s the story behind your business?
Both my husband and I have a background in chemistry, so we’re familiar with the processes of creating things – and that translates really well into the world of food.
Back in the ’90s, there weren’t nearly as many great options on the market as there are now and we couldn’t find a barbecue sauce we really loved. So we started playing with different ingredients until we had a sauce that had a real depth of flavour, different layers of complexity that worked well together.
Like so many food entrepreneurs, we created our first products to scratch our own itch, and it grew from there.
How expensive was it to start your food business? How did you fund it?
We bootstrapped the business, started small and humble using our own money. We had moved from Toronto to Frontenac, where the cost of living is much lower. This made it possible for us to take a bit of a risk.
We figured that if we could not sell any of our sauces, we’d just have enough to last us for 20 years. But thankfully they started selling pretty quickly, so we were spared that fate.
We knew we had a business when we received our first retail order from Glenburnie Grocery. It was a great moment.
Did you receive any help from Frontenac Business Services?
At the time there was a pilot project available to help people start food businesses in Frontenac, which we also took part in. They helped with everything from writing a business plan to giving us access to commercial kitchens.
The biggest support for us, as newcomers to Frontenac, was how well they connected us to people who could be helpful to us. In food, it’s all about building community and Frontenac Business Services helped us immensely in that respect.
Did you launch your food business from home, or from a production facility?
We knew we wanted to sell to retailers from the start, so we rented a commercial kitchen as quickly as we could. An added benefit was that we didn’t have to purchase many tools, the kitchen was well equipped. We also made sure that we took all the necessary courses and had the right qualifications, like the Ontario Food Handler Certificate.
To keep costs down, we tested the original batches at home, to make sure that everything was perfect. But when it came to production, we went professional from the start. If you don’t get this right, you’re not actually allowed to sell your food to the public. It may sound a bit daunting, but it’s actually quite straightforward.
Where are you now? Where is business going?
We’re thinking about exporting our sauces. One of our sons is living in Germany and suggested that we start selling there. We’ve been learning a lot about that over the last year, taking courses and keeping up to date with developments.
We’re also currently looking at working with a distributor, to help us reach more stores and expand our sales.
What’s so special about doing business in Frontenac?
It’s so much easier to start a business here than in, for example, Toronto. Here in Frontenac, small businesses are the lifeblood of the local economy and you get a lot of help and support from agencies like Frontenac Business Services. It’s just a much, much nicer environment to work in. People are invested in helping you be successful.
Frontenac Business Services are really attuned to our needs, and they react quickly to allow us to take advantage of opportunities.
Finally, do you have a checklist that you could share, your top three tips to keep in mind when starting a food business? Things you wished you would have known yourself.
Of course. The first thing you should do is make an appointment with the team from Frontenac Business Services. Find out what help and advice they have to offer. It’s a free service and they will try and support you wherever they can. It’s a great point to start off from.
Number two, don’t expect that you’ll be able to sell products you’ve made in your kitchen at home.
You need to learn about things like shelf stability, how long your product can last. Does it need refrigeration, does it need to be consumed within I a specific period of time? This is really important to get right. You don’t want things to go bad or lose flavour. This is really important to retailers who will want to know for how long they can safely sell your product. It’s one of the first questions they ask us when we introduce our product.
Number three, expect everything to cost at minimum three times as much as you think it will cost and take a lot longer than you had planned for. Don’t expect to make money right away and be sure to have a financial cushion at the ready to see you through the first couple of months.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.