“If we’re not in the factory making sauce, we’re in a meeting somewhere.”
Want to catch entrepreneurs Freddie and Deborah James on any given weekday? You’d better be on the move.
Partners in marriage and in their ownership of Freddie Lee’s Gourmet Sauces, Freddie and Deborah are always on the go, but typically in different directions. Freddie oversees production, delivery and hiring; Deborah tackles the computer work, paperwork and marketing.
Marketing expertise was exactly what Deborah was seeking when she attended the 2016 Inner City Capital Connections program in St. Louis. The only cost was a day of her time. Other than that, this high-impact business training program, which traces its roots back to Harvard and connects business owners with nationally recognized educators and experts, is tuition-free for qualified entrepreneurs.
Deborah’s one-day investment paid dividends beyond the couple’s greatest expectations.
She almost didn’t go. She’s incredibly grateful she did.
“I was hesitant about going because it was early in the morning, and I needed to take our granddaughter to school,” she said. Freddie lent carpool support so Deborah could participate. She was impressed by what she experienced that day.
“If you really want to grow, this is the way to do it,” said Deborah. “The course opened my eyes to a lot of things we needed to be doing in our business.”
Deborah specifically credits ICCC with encouraging her to truly know her business from a day-to-day operations perspective. There’s an analytical approach to nurturing a company, and ICCC focuses on action items that entrepreneurs can implement immediately. Deborah also notes ICCC helped her with managing both her business and her personal time.
Following the seminar, Deborah excitedly shared what she had learned with Freddie. “She came home and schooled me on some things,” said Freddie.
Since attending the 2016 program, the couple has doubled its retail distribution, now selling their sauce in more than 600 stores. They have also opened their own manufacturing site, rather than relying on a contract partner. “Now we are our own copacker,” Freddie proudly shared.
They’ve also expanded their employee base to four associates, plus the part-time support of their granddaughter. Business is good and continues to grow.
ICCC is coming back to St. Louis in 2019. This is a program that works to level the playing field for companies in underserved communities. Qualified applicants can range in size from small businesses like Deborah’s and Freddie’s – or larger companies that are working to reach the next level of success.
Beyond the all-day, intensive training and coaching that will be provided at the 2019 ICCC St. Louis event on September 10, webinars and follow-up coaching are offered. And it’s all available at no cost to qualified participants, thanks to support from Regions, the St. Louis Regional Chamber and other ICCC sponsors. More information is available from ICCC at this link.
Back in 2016, ICCC organizers recognized the potential in Freddie’s and Deborah’s business. So they invited them to a national ICCC event in New York. There, Freddie and Deborah networked with entrepreneurs and capital providers, showcased their sauce and landed a new retail partnership. Deborah has also participated in several of the post-event webinars and continues to seek advice from her peer coaches.
“They’ll ask me how I’m doing and what I need,” she said. “And if they can’t help me directly, they will refer me to someone who can.”
When asked about the value of participating in the 2019 ICCC event in St. Louis, Freddie eagerly offered this advice: “Take the class. Take advantage. Even if you know it, still do it. The course will give you a different outlook on how to do things.”
Success is an ingredient that makes everything taste better.