Description: Salsa manufacturer
Founders: Randi-Kay, 33, and Gerald Metivier, 39
Location: Winooski, Vermont
Startup costs: $10,000 from savings and a family loan
Estimated 2005 sales: Close to $1 million
How they got started: It's a familiar story: Gerald liked to make salsa, and his family and friends all told him that he should jar the stuff and sell it. That is, everybody but his wife, Randi-Kay, who didn't particularly like salsa and didn't even sample it for the longest time. Finally, to see what all the fuss was about, she tried it, and her taste buds were impressed. She soon realized that her family and friends might be onto something.
With Gerald's blessing, Randi-Kay started making the salsa, putting it in jars and selling it. While Gerald continued working at his full-time day job at a plumbing and heating supply company, Randi-Kay took food-preparation classes and turned their kitchen into something on par with a four-star restaurant's kitchen.
But because Randi-Kay is a full-time mother of two little girls, she ended up packaging the salsa in her spare time and at night. In the months before and after The Startup, she found herself in a tight spot--successful enough that she was spending every free hour on her business, but not successful enough to hire any help. Gerald gladly kept volunteering to quit his day job, but Randi-Kay insisted he stay put to bring in consistent income and to keep the family's health benefits.
How the company evolved during their stint on AOL's reality program, The Startup: Of all the entrepreneurs, the Metiviers arguably benefited the most from being in the AOL spotlight. Their online sales spiked more than 100 percent during the weeks they were featured, forcing the Metiviers to abandon their dream of turning their garage into a commercial kitchen. Instead, they found an existing commercial kitchen to operate out of. Once they had better infrastructure, they were able to keep up with demand.
They also found an exporter, who learned about them by reading The Startup on AOL. And at press time, their product was poised to get into Wal-Mart stores. We don't want to overstate the publicity, of course--all the articles in the world wouldn't have helped if the salsa didn't rock and if the Metiviers hadn't toiled so hard to make their business work.
What's next? The Metiviers are planning on opening their own commercial kitchen, where they can help others grow their businesses by leasing space to them and helping pack their products.
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.