Seven years after her now-signature vinaigrette hit store shelves, Tiffany Denson of T’Lish Foods™ will join other successful business people speaking at the fifth annual Food Entrepreneur Conference in Auburn April 26-27.
Hosted by the Auburn University Food Systems Institute in cooperation with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Food Entrepreneur Conference offers aspiring and current small food entrepreneurs practical advice for growing their business and making industry connections.
Conference registration, held at Auburn University Research Park’s CASIC Building, is $150 before April 19 and $200 afterward.
Denson currently sells dressings and marinades in about 1,500 stores, including Whole Foods and Publix, and said her leap of faith into entrepreneurship paid off.
“(Selling my dressing) started out as a need to feed my family,” said Denson, explaining that times were tough after the 2008 housing market crash. Her husband, Rush, worked in real estate, while the stay-at-home mom worked odd jobs for extra income.
In 2010, a friend approached her about selling the signature dressing in a Mountain Brook store. Customers lined up for T’Lish, including one who worked for Western Supermarkets in Birmingham; he later approached Denson about supplying her product for the markets.
After navigating numerous business details, Sweet Garlic Vinaigrette was on Western Supermarkets’ shelves in December 2011.
“I sold out the first truckload in a few days and reordered,” she said. “At that point, I started going door to door (to grocery brokers) around the state.”
T’Lish Foods soon landed in Whole Foods and Fresh Market, and Denson released her second product, Asian Sesame Vinaigrette, in December 2012. She now has a line of five products.
“The selection (of products) has changed so much in the past 10 years. Customers are over-inundated with stores to shop and products to buy,” she said. “You can’t be everything to everybody, and you have to find your niche.”
The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Mac Higginbotham fledgling entrepreneurs to attend the conference and learn from other successful food entrepreneurs, including Alabama-based Wickles Pickles founder Trey Simms, Jay Short of Jala Jala Foods, and Ken and Julie Ledbetter of Firetruck Bar-B-Que.
“Your approach to marketing will make or break your business,” said Higginbotham, the Federation’s Bee & Honey, Horticulture, and Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod divisions director. “This is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to pick up on helpful tricks of the trade so their brand will appeal to consumers.”
See more on AlfaFarmers.org
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