I’m not sure what time my mother got up each Sunday to start the sauce that bubbled on her stovetop all day. Everyone in the house dipped and tasted until finally dinner was served and we’d rehash why my mother was the uncontested winner in the family sauce wars. When I had my own family, I continued the Sunday sauce tradition—with my modern updates (less meat, less sugar and more fresh, local ingredients). Our many Sunday dinner guests shared rave reviews, so I started bottling some, tied with a pretty ribbon. The jars made inexpensive hostess and thank-you gifts. That broadened my appreciative audience, and before long, people were urging me to sell them jars on a regular basis. No time, I thought as I sent out resumes, trying to break back into the corporate sales world around the time my youngest son entered kindergarten. When the callbacks didn’t come, I started to think creatively about launching my own business. Using the sales and marketing skills I’d acquired from my pre-mommy life, in 2008 I started my sauce business as a club. I invited a bunch of women from my town to a tasting party and introduced the club structure: Members could pay annual dues or order sauces on a monthly basis.
Each week, I’d deliver a fresh sauce to their front steps. That first party brought 27 clients; they told their friends, and soon I had 60 clients. Before long, I was renting a commercial kitchen and developing a full-fledged business.
That’s when something unexpected happened: I sent a jar of sauce home with my son’s friend as a thanks-for-the-playdate gesture. The boy’s father, a prepared-food buyer for a top supermarket, passed it along to his panel of tasters. Before I knew what was happening, I’d struck a deal to provide the store’s private label sauces. It’s their brand but my recipes. I had to learn a lot fast but was adamant about what was truly important to me. Quality is key—I don’t want your family eating a sauce that’s inferior to the sauce my own sons scoff down. So I use the same top-quality ingredients—no sugars added, no additives or preservatives—and it’s bottled in BPA-free plastic containers.
Now I’m moving into my own brand extension with a private label: Randazzo’s Honest to Goodness Sauces. I’m starting locally. My sauce will be sold in places like D’Agostino’s New York City grocery stores and in northern New Jersey–based supermarkets like Kilroy’s. My own kids have inspired new sauces (their favorite is the pizza variety). These days, when I’m not driving carpools, I’m doing tastings all over the tristate area convincing buyers and supermarket customers that my sauces are something to swoon over, the way my family has every Sunday for as long as I can remember.
1 Have a thick skin.
Things don’t always happen right away. It’s important to be patient when dealing with setbacks.
2. Differentiate business and family time.
This can be tough when your office doubles as the living room. Set up boundaries to separate your work and family lives.
3. Operate with integrity.
From the start, don’t cut corners. If you’re starting a cash business, pay your taxes, and don’t forget to get licenses and permits.
4. Believe it will work.
Being optimistic will give you more energy. I have high expectations because I laid a strong foundation.
Rochelle Randazzo, 43, founder of Randazzo’s Honest to Goodness Sauces, Glen Rock, NJ; mother of Ty, 10, and Jack, 8