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Dishing It Out

Help yourself to success as a specialty food entrepreneur.

When Terry Brown left upstate New York for the West Coast in 1986, he had no problem saying goodbye to his family and friends. But buffalo wings he just couldn't live without. "I grew up around the Buffalo area, which is how I became familiar with buffalo wings," says Brown. "But when I moved to California, I couldn't find any wings or wing sauces, so I said, `I'll have to do it myself,' because I live on these things!"

Over the next eight years, Brown perfected his recipe for buffalo wing sauce in hopes of making the unique flavor available nationwide. In 1994, he started Wing-Time, an all-natural buffalo wing sauce company he operates from a second bedroom in his Davis, California, home. Last year, Wing-Time sauce was sold throughout the United States, Japan, Germany and Hong Kong--generating more than $120,000 in sales.

If you have an outstanding recipe that appeals to a wide audience, owning a specialty food business can be a culinary dream come true. But the transition from kitchen to marketplace is not as simple as serving treats to friends and family.

While your kitchen may be a great place to fine-tune your favorite recipes, it's not the best place to generate consumer-targeted food products. "You can make food legitimately [at home] to sell at a church bazaar, but it's not legal when you're in commercial sales," says Shermain Hardesty, a private food marketing consultant in Davis, California. State health agencies require commercial food to be manufactured in licensed facilities that meet strict sanitary regulations.

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This article was originally published in the April 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Dishing It Out.

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