Jennifer Herckis Behar mortgaged her home 17 years ago and launched her artisanal breadstick and flat bread company, Jennifer’s Homemade, which now employs 20+ people.
She said, “I began in an untraditional way. I made breadsticks for dinner parties, and friends suggested that I sell them. I said ‘Never’! Then I moved to Florida and found myself baking all the time with my young daughter feeding the neighborhood. I had an epiphany that I could do this – take my advertising and marketing background and desire to give back and start a business. That day I drove myself straight to the grocery store, started baking and I never looked back. The first year was crazy. I would tuck my daughter in bed, bake at night, take her to school in the morning, then sell and deliver.”
After going through a divorce and difficult times, she knew there were other people struggling even more and wanted to help. She headed to Feeding South Florida food bank and declared to donate a portion of proceeds before she ever made her first sale. She exclaimed, “I think they thought I was crazy. After that, I went to a local gourmet market and made my first sale, and that was the beginning. Now we are selling nationwide to stores like Whole Foods, Publix, Kroger, Albertsons, small gourmet shops and online.”
Her line includes Original Breadsticks, Rosemary Breadsticks, Salt & Pepper Breadsticks, Original Flatbread, Rosemary Flatbread, and Salt & Pepper Flatbread. They are vegan, all natural, made with extra virgin olive oil. In Atlanta, at Whole Foods, Kroger and Sprouts, they sell for approximately $5.99-$6.99 per five-ounce box.
Behar attended Riverwood High School and earned a bachelor’s in communication from Boston University. She was an advertising account executive in New York City on the Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo account and launched Acuvue contact lenses internationally, all which led to her expertise in marketing her own company. She was recently the featured speaker for Goldman Sachs at Miami Dade College.
The lessons Behar learned in business and life:
Don’t take more than you need.
When I started, I rented space in different commercial bakeries, and then I ultimately built out my own space. I set up a relatively large facility thinking I will grow into this; I will need this. And while we used it, it was more than I needed. When things got tough, I ended up downsizing, taking what I needed. That turned out to be a good move.
Don’t think you can do everything yourself.
While I can do everything, I have learned that I will never grow the way I want to grow if I try to do it all myself. I realized there are people that are smarter than me in different areas of the business.
Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer!
No to me is “maybe!” I have had plenty of people say, “we are not bringing your product,” and I take that as a “not now.” Build relationships, and you keep moving forward. Eventually, if you have a good product or service, it will turn into a “yes,” which is happening to me now. People are coming back around years later. People whom I met years ago are now customers.
Don’t tell everyone your dreams.
Not too many people can see what you can see. When you are building a business, you are doing something that has never been done before in some capacity. Some people are either not going to support you or don’t have your vision. It is a different mindset being an entrepreneur. People said to me “Get a job; you can make more money.”
I heard that a lot. I would say, “I have a big goal in mind. I’m building something. It ‘s not about the salary I am taking today; it’s about the brand I am building and something bigger down the road.” Ultimately, it would be nice to make a ton of money, but it is more significant than that. You need to share with certain people who can help you, but not everybody will be able to do that. Sometimes you need to keep your circle tight.
Believe in yourself and in your product, believe in what you do.
When things get tough, think about what I need to do to figure it out. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I can be a perfectionist but being perfect can work against you. You want things to be as good as they can, and then you need to move forward.
Dealing with all the challenges is tough. You think that things will get easier at a certain level as you grow, and in my experience it doesn’t. The problems are just different, it doesn’t necessarily get easier. Being able to roll with the punches is critical. Owning and running a business is not for the faint of heart!
Behar adds, “At Jennifer’s Homemade we take love seriously. Taste The Love is not just our tag line it is our core business philosophy. I believe the love we put into our product has an impact on everything including how we run our business, build relationships, and treat employees.”
For more information, visit www.jennifershomemade.com.