I enjoy taking time every year to reflect on the past 12 months, and then setting goals for the next 12 months. I thought I'd share with all of you this year. ;)
2020 was NOT the year we (or anyone) expected. We did not intend to start this business at all. You see, Tony went to culinary school at The Art Institute of Nashville in 2008-2009, and started to develop our Original blend thereafter. He played around and tweaked it little by little with each meal, until it was finally perfect, and tasted good on ANYTHING! For the last 12 years, we've been cooking with it, and sharing the flavor/taste with friends and family whenever we cooked. We have had many people over the years tell us we should sell it, and if I'm honest, Tony (the dreamer) wanted to do so right away. I (the realist) brushed it off, and decided that our "real jobs" kept us busy enough, and told him we could just share it through our love of entertaining and cooking for others.
Things changed in April 2020. Although I was still employed, I am in sales, and about 25% of my income is commission. I sell limousine services to corporations for their executive's travel, so business was almost ZERO since mid-March. This meant a big loss for our family income. Tony immediately suggested selling our rub (still without a name) to make up some of our income loss. I thought it was a good idea, and told him since we already had a perfected recipe, we could just make it at home, and sell to friends & family only, so that we don't have to go through the whole process of creating an official business with health department guidelines, etc. Tony came up with the name "That Rub," I posted an announcement on my Facebook page, and immediately we saw support from friends/family ALL over the country! We were selling and shipping all over, and the feedback we received was SO positive. Everyone loved it as much as we do!
Fast forward to June 1, 2020...well, actually May 29. I received a call from my CEO telling me that he was so sorry, but effective June 1, he couldn't continue to pay me my salary while business was non-existent, especially with no clue on when business travel might resume again. While I didn't lose my job, I was furloughed for an undetermined amount of time. Tony and I chatted and knew immediately that now was the time for us to officially make That Rub a business. I spent the entire month researching and doing all of the necessary things to legally create a food business. We created an LLC, got our food manager/food handler permits, bought liability insurance, opened a business bank account, obtained a FEIN number & a state sales tax ID, leased a shared commercial kitchen, and received health department approval to sell in stores. Whew! A lot of work, but well worth it. Tony also developed Master Blend, our All-Purpose seasoning in June, for those who preferred a less sweet seasoning.
I feel like the ENTIRE month of July was spent learning how-to and then actually creating our website on my own. It was difficult and frustrating, but so satisfying. This allowed us to transition to payments being made online, instead of Zelle & Paypal, which were our only options when we first started.
In August, we quickly learned that streamlining our orders and payments into one platform through our website was so helpful. This was also the timeframe when Tony created the additional blends: That HEAT and Keto Blend. At the end of the month, we decided to try a local outdoor event called "A Walk Through Old Town" to see how selling our product in this format would work. We were concerned that as summer ended and grilling season slowed down, that customers wouldn't see as much of a need for our product; however it turns out that educating our customers about how our seasonings are great for indoor cooking as well was all they needed. Outdoor events were an amazing fit! By the end of the month, I knew I needed help with the social media and graphic arts for our business, as this is not my strength, and I'm very thankful we found 114 Oak as our creative agency! Their team has been amazing at covering everything media & marketing related, and assisting us in growing our business over the past 5 months. We look forward to continuing to work with them for years to come, and I highly recommend their services to anyone who may need help in this area.
I can sum September and October up as OUTDOOR EVENTS. Since we learned they were such a great fit, and allowed us so much visibility in our community as well as additional sales, we booked as many as possible. This was such an incredible part of our year, as we met so many other awesome vendors and small business owners, as well as so many great customers.
November brought more outdoor holiday markets, along with an INCREDIBLE Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday weekend. We were truly blown away!
December was super fun with our 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways, where we featured a local small business each day, along with a giveaway from that business. It engaged so many of you on social media, and I loved reading everyone's responses and sending out the gifts! Please follow us on Facebook and Instagram if you don't already! We ended the year on a high note with our best sales of the year, at the Chris Kringle Market in Ottawa, IL. This event attracted over 12,000 people in one weekend! If you didn't know about it or have a chance to go, join us next year...it is such a cute market with so many great businesses!
As a whole, we cannot complain about 2020 at all. It brought many unintended blessings. We are so thankful for all of you who have supported us, purchased for yourself or for others, or even just stopped by our booth at an event to meet us. You truly blessed us this year.
Now, just a few snippets about our goals for That Rub in 2021.
❤We intend to do a couple of collaborations with other local small businesses, so keep your ears open...this will be exciting!
❤Tony would like to create 2-3 additional blends during 2021. These will include a blend that has no onion, as well as a low sodium blend; as we've had several requests for both.
❤We will be doing several weekly Farmer's Markets this summer (probably 3-4) in addition to lots of weekend outdoor markets. This platform was so successful for us, and we want to expand our territory outside of Roselle/Bloomingdale.
❤We would like to add 12 additional retail stores this year that carry That Rub on their shelves. (We currently have 5). If you know of any good fits/contacts for small businesses, please let us know!
❤We also have a brand new retail partnership to announce! It will begin on January 8 with Plant Chicago's Firehouse Market. This retail space in the Back of the Yards neighborhood of Chicago offers a variety of different products, from food & beverages to home and garden goods, all made locally, with circular economy principles in mind. Which leads me to our last goal for 2021: to become a more circular economy focused business. A local circular economy is a collaborative economic practice sustained by local circulation of materials, nutrients, knowledge, and money. It is empowered by transparency, diversity, and inclusion. I have applied for Plant Chicago's Circular Economy Leaders Network, which brings together local small business owners to cultivate these principles. I'm looking forward to hearing back from them in January!
From us to all of you, THANK YOU for a great 2020, and cheers to a great 2021!!