I have to admit, this interview made my mouth water!
I love hearing about the stories behind businesses – the struggles, the hopes, the hard work, and the never-wavering belief that success is just around the corner. Entrepreneurs are some of the most interesting people in the world to me! For this post, I interviewed Linda Putnam, a determined grandmother who stumbled into the salsa business when trying to figure out what to do with some leftover tomatoes. Over the years, she’s managed to get her product in carried in 45 stores in three different states! She’s determined to keep her business growing and evolving, and is teaching herself new things every step of the way.
Read her awesome story below!
If you see Linda’s Salsa kiosk, be sure to stock up!
Tell us about your business in as much detail as you can. What is it that you do and who are your customers?
My name is Linda Putnam and I am the founder of Linda’s Salsa. Linda’s Salsa comes in 4 flavors: Mild, Medium, Hot, and Black Bean & Corn. It is packaged in 16oz jars and comes 12 to a case. Linda’s Salsa has a fresh taste to it and is made with produce grown right here. I have a 98% sell rate – if they taste it, they buy it!
A year ago, I introduced a corn tortilla chip to go along with the salsa. It has taken off really well and they are as addictive as the salsa. Linda’s Salsa is not just for chips, it is great to cook with and use in your favorite recipes. Salsa is also a healthy alternative to many condiments and can replace your salad dressing for a low-calorie, healthy choice.
What made you choose this path? Is it a family legacy or are you a pioneer? Did you go to school for it or are you learning as you go?
Linda’s Salsa came from a wild idea that I had 5 years ago when I needed to figure out a use for my tomato seconds.
They say that to be successful, you have to be passionate. Why do you love what you do?
I love running my own business!
Has it been smooth sailing or have you overcome adversity to get where you are?
I never dreamed that there would be so much red tape to get through in order to make and sell salsa. After a year of research, installing a commercial kitchen, testing, paperwork, inspections, writing an HACCP Plan, and registering the salsa, I invited the town for a taste-testing.
I started out doing flea markets and farmers markets to get the name Linda’s Salsa out there. Believe me, I have given a lot away! I had my foot in the door of a couple of chain stores through selling them hydroponic tomatoes. I got permission to put Linda’s Salsa on the shelf, so we loaded up the car and hit the road. I drove and Roger planned the route and navigated. You see, I have no sense of direction. We continued this for weeks.
I have to admit it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Even though the stores had received emails that I would be coming and that my product was good, it was still up to the individual store if they wanted to carry Linda’s Salsa. They were skeptical. You see, I am not only selling salsa – I am selling myself. To this day, when I go cold into a new store to give them my pitch, I get nervous as hell. Have I wanted to give up? Sure, many times! I went for so long feeling like for every 3 steps I took forward, I got knocked back 10.
What do you do with your time off? Are you familiar with that concept?
I work 7 days a week. Most days I will work 12 hours or more. I go to work when it is dark and return home in the dark. My mind never shuts down on thinking of ways to promote Linda’s Salsa. Market, market, market!
This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?
I use social media daily. I advertise on Facebook with boosted posts. I run contests to win salsa and chips. My online store with Shopify was just started this week and I can’t wait to see the results of it!
How are you involved in your community?
I have rented mall kiosks during the holiday seasons. I set up at a couple of farmers markets and plan on expanding the number of these next year. Word-of-mouth is very valuable and I have done TV commercials that aired locally.
I attend the Illinois Products Expo each spring. This year, I was picked and invited by the Illinois Lt. Governor to showcase Linda’s Salsa in her tent at the Illinois State Fair.
What does supporting local mean to you?
I am a big supporter of small business. Support local! Small business is the backbone of communities.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
I make it, market it, and deliver it all by myself. I am currently in 45 stores in 3 states. I want to grow so much bigger. My biggest fall-back is trying to back these big chain stores by myself. I have a goal to get in at least one new store a week but that doesn’t always pan out.
I feel the sky is the limit. I am growing and there is no stopping me. BEST DARN SALSA EVER! Linda’s Salsa: You won’t believe you ate the whole jar.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
I work hard. I can’t imagine not having my own business. I wouldn’t give the long hours, tears, fears, and being broke all the time for anything.