Success Story: Cheri White
Cheri White has always had a knack for making her culinary ideas pay off. She started out in Seattle, Washington, making a beer mustard she crafted for her children’s fall festival. One day, she sent the mustard to the president of the beer company. He loved her product and pushed her to start a business, going so far as to print her labels for her. The mustard ended up in 14 stores in the Seattle area.
Then life intervened. Her husband got a job transfer, they moved, and she spent many years after that being a mom, a country club chef, and every other role her life called for. When her husband retired, they decided to move to San Antonio.
Cheri felt restless after the move. All her children were grown and, “I had empty nest syndrome,” she says. “I was bored stiff. And then my eldest said, Mom, you need to do your sauces. Start your sauces again.” So, she started Deep River Specialty Foods and set up a stall at the farmers market. The demand grew and grew and one day someone told Cheri she should join Break Fast and Launch (BFL), LaunchSA’s culinary accelerator. She didn’t feel like she was just starting out, because of her years of industry experience, but she thought it couldn’t hurt.
She’s glad she took that chance. Says Cheri, “I cannot tell you how incredible it was. The networking alone with other chefs and producers was beyond what I expected. The mentoring from people in the community opened another avenue for me to examine if my business was viable to move from a farmers market experiment to a real business.”
She made real connections with some of her cohort. “They’re some of my best friends,” she says. Some of them worked next to her at the farmer’s market and, if she missed a day, they’d say “Well why didn’t you call? Someone could have taken over.” Her BFL cohort also gave her real, insightful feedback on her ideas when she brought new products for them to try. Says Cheri, “I’m the kind of person who’s driven with everything I do. I’m always creating new sauces and the people at BFL gave me good feedback, not just like ‘Oh, it’s nice.’”
After going through the program, Cheri was ready to move Deep River Specialty Foods to the next level. She began to expand and outsource some of her labor. “I used to do all my own accounting,” says Cheri. “I don’t like spilling everything to a stranger, like, what if they tell me I’m doing it a harder way or the wrong way? I was nervous.” One thing a mentor said stuck with her. “Find your weaknesses, and hire someone to do it for you,” she said.
Cheri has expanded a lot since her beer mustard beginnings, adding new flavors, grilling sauces, and sugar free jams. Always experimenting, she’s currently working on perfecting her vegan fish sauce and Worcestershire. She now says, “Don’t be afraid to ask for the help, to look at someone not as far along in their business and see them as innovative and in-touch with new business environments. In this industry, you have to be able to spin on a dime. That’s what BFL helped me do.”