Ever wonder where I find these amazing guests? Usually I scour the internet, stalk (no joke) and reach out to women I think would be a great fit for you all… until today! A couple weeks ago my sister in law called me to rave about a new brand of tortilla chips she found (and ate the whole bag), and continued to tell me that the founder was a mom who left her job to spend time with her kids — UMM HELLO perfect guest!!!
I am so happy to welcome Jennifer Davidson, Founder and CEO of Capital Chips. Jennifer tells me the story of starting Capital Chips — spoiler, its not because she’s a tortilla chip enthusiast!– and how spending time and finding balance with her kids was her driving factor. She walks me through her early days, which included cooking in her kitchen and selling to local breweries (all delivered by HER!). We then talk about the ‘hows’ that I love diving into; the design, the regulations and the hiring that come with building your own brand, especially a food product. She also gets super honest with me about the loss of her mother and how is affected her decisions throughout her life — this may be the first podcast your girl cries on!
We finish up with her telling us about her podcast, Integrity Nachos! I am so appreciative Jennifer came on, got into some different aspects of her life and business and introduced all of you to Capital Chips. Don’t miss out on these chips — shout out to those who actually utilize the resealable bag and don’t eat in one sitting (ha)! Make sure to follow Jennifer and the Capital Chips team on Instagram and Facebook!
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Dana: Are you dying at the thought of missing a single one of your baby’s first would have no idea how you’d give up the security that your nine to five job brings. My name is Dana Graham and I had no clue how to escape that vicious 40 Hour Workweek cycle either until I did, as the wife of a traveling husband and mom of two tiny humans. The terrifying and totally bizarre thing from Health Insurance Group to successful newborn and family photographer, all with the amazing craziness of a two year old and a newborn and I’m not the only one. I’m so glad you’re joining me as I chat with other moms who took the leap into entrepreneurship and created the ultimate festival worlds life doing it all in the midst of the house.
Hi everybody welcome back to another episode of the Amidst the Chaos, I am here for another exciting episode I say that every single week, but it’s not a lie, but I just want to give a quick little intro and backstory for people who are listening on how I find guests, so I’m basically a crazy person that searches the depths of Instagram for interesting stories, and usually have referrals and people you know guest on the podcast that come on and say oh hey you know I have a friend or I know somebody that’s perfect for this they have a great story. This is not one of those times, this is a time where my sister in law, went to the beach and had some trips and looked at her bag and was like, Holy crap, I just ate all these literally she said it was the best tortilla chip she’s ever had in her life. The girlfriend loves Mexican food so honestly I was immediately interested and then she read your story which is on the back of her chip back and it talks all about how you did this, wanting to spend more time with your kids and she was like Dana, you got to have her. So she was joking. She’s, she’s my new source for So, with that long winded intro and my mouth finally watering. Everybody welcome Jen Davidson to the podcast.
Jennifer: Thank you so much. I am just honored to be here and so excited to, to join you amidst the chaos. I’m just delighted. I’m delighted to be on a podcast where I’m not, I don’t have to be prepared at all. It was great.
Dana: It’s so fun when you don’t have to be in charge after being in charge every episode it’s a whole new world of luxury,
Jennifer: I have notes and there’s nothing there, I’ve just, it’s just pick your brain and get a little nugget I’ll write it down but perfect.
Dana: Well, Jen. So tell us, right now, what is your company look like it’s called capital chips everybody check them out online while we’re while we’re getting started here But Jen, tell us what capital chips is all about right now so that when we back up it makes sense for everybody.
Jennifer: Yeah so, well first I have to ask you, you were taking all of this off of your sister in law’s recommendation you’ve never actually had capital chips.
Dana: No, and I literally said to her, you know where she’s eating this chip. She’s eating this chip and I’m like, stop, stop, I’m like, save me a couple of days like too late that literally I told you that the best chip I’ve ever had. I couldn’t find them here so we got to figure out how to get them to me.
Jennifer: Yeah, there are some spots near you, I think what we can talk about that later, but yeah I will absolutely send you something. So I am, I make tortilla chips for a living. And I am not good about talking about my business, I remember, I have, I think I still have it it’s a post it note on my bulletin board next to where I sit in my office that says elevator pitch, and it was just something I had heard when I was starting my business like you have to be able to talk about your business, and just, you know you have the elevator ride to share and I can’t do that. I just say tortilla chips and people you know are like their mouths are watering, and they try them and they’ll say, Tell me all about it. We’ll try first and then we’ll talk, and I let the product do the talking really, so I make tortilla chips. I started in 2016 I got my LLC, and then by 2017 I was up and running in a commercial kitchen on my property. So we, I ended up buying a 12 by 20 shed to put in my backyard, to be able to produce these chips on little little table top fryers, gonna be there’s no great place to start this story but now I’m in a new, larger commercial kitchen with a giant double fat fryer with four big. I mean it’s just huge, it’s a huge machine and it can churn out a ton of chips, and I still can’t keep up with business so I know all of the best problems of business owners I’m blessed to be busy, I’m blessed to be busy during the pandemic. When everyone is staying home snacking that really worked to my advantage. That’s a perspective I haven’t heard yet so I don’t take it. Yeah, it’s like, I’ve said this this entire rough past year and a half that we’ve had, like, not everyone is having the same experience. I’m a really good example of like, I don’t have a lot to complain about. And that’s, it’s hard when you look around and see so many people suffering,
Dana: and I appreciate that perspective and I think that’s the best that anybody who isn’t struggling can do is to be self aware enough to recognize that not everybody’s having a great year and I think that makes you know things like marketing and social media presence and a lot of those things tough because you’re not trying to be like hey, my business is booming, you know, oh yeah, but at the same time you should be able to celebrate your victories and the fact that you’re doing so well. So Jen back us up, tell me what were you doing before capital chips was an idea did you dream of being a tortilla, or like the backstory here ever.
Jennifer: This is why I think we were meant to have this conversation because it’s like, no one asked me these things.
Dana: Oh good,
Jennifer: you know, capital chips is a means to an end, and it’s the way that I figured out that I could put my own kids on the bus, so my career was a, as an educator, I taught middle school for 15 years. In the middle of that, I got married and I have two daughters that my husband and I are are raising and they’re wonderful, but I was teaching in a different county than the one that we live in. So, we started out as they were growing I was like I want them near me, I just, you know I have to go back to work, and I would bring them to a daycare that was nearby, so I was dropping them off every morning and picking them up and then when my oldest started school, we put her in kindergarten that was in the building right next to where I worked at the middle school, you know, I knew all the teachers and knew she was loved like if this was a perfect transition, but she really struggled with waking up so early to be at daycare, so that I could be at school and outside my classroom door at 730, and it was like this poor kid school doesn’t start for her till 930 Like, she’s getting up at six 630 Like, what can we do, you know, and it’s just life is like that owning your own businesses like that, you just have to look at the big picture and say what’s important here, in that case it was like, is it all about me having her close, or is it about what’s best for her as she starts her day. And of course it was like, well she needs to be able to sleep in, and whatever we do we need to make that decision early on because I didn’t want her to start school out there 30 minutes from home, have a bunch of friends and then middle school decide hey this isn’t, we play soccer with our friends from our neighborhood. Why don’t we go. You know it’s like all that so tough. Yeah, and, and anyway, so then it just became. Let’s have a go to school where we live. And then I was taking her sister with me to daycare and we still did all that, which is probably way more details you can cut this stuff out but
Dana: no it’s important because I think that this is a big deciding factor for a lot of people is the logistics of your life. You only have 24 hours in a day, and if you’re spending x number of them carting somebody around to you know find convenience when really they’re getting cut down on sleep which is one of the most important things you can do and raise your kid get them the proper sleep. This is important. This is a great part of the story that I think is a huge driving factor for so many people so I appreciate it.
Jennifer: Because I can’t go back further to and I probably will because everything in my life brought me to owning capital chips. It sounds like wow that’s really intense but the further part of my story is that when I was 12 I lost my mom, so I don’t say that for pity but it shapes how i Mother, I believe that it shapes. My perception of how precious life is. How much impact a mother can have, and I don’t see that with any kind of judgment for all of the moms who can do it all and do it really, really well. I just couldn’t. I get could I couldn’t leave my kids, because, you know, fast forward that part. We put her in school, where we live, and then I still couldn’t be the one to put her on the bus because I still had to go to work early so my husband was, you know, making negotiations at work to try to let me put my kid on the bus, she’s in first grade, you know, you gotta get here, I mean they’re just there was no flexibility. So when we find someone in the neighborhood, you know, and it just wasn’t ideal and I was like I’m missing this whole part of their day, and giving 100% of my energy to my students, which matter to me and I was passionate about and I was good at it, but I had nothing left for my own kids when I came home and I was like this is not sustainable. This is not what I want and I don’t know that tomorrow’s promise so something’s got to change, and early in my teaching career, you know I was single I lived alone of like rather teachers I worked a second job waiting tables, and I happened at one point to work in a Mexican restaurant and everywhere that I worked I paid attention to different recipes, you know, I lost my mom when I was young so I learned from other people how to cook right, and anything that I could add to my skills I’ve always been that person that’s observing and learning. And so I learned how they made chips and then I convinced my husband, that we should get a deep fryer, which he did not think was a good idea. He acquiesced. And I started making tortilla chips just for parties, and I would make them for staff meetings where we have you know about 75 teachers in the school, and people would fight over the leftovers. Then as we’re still trying to figure out like, well, how can we like just crack this problem that we’re having with getting these kids on the bus and making it an easy thing for our family and it just became like, Wait, could I turn this into a business. And in Richmond, I don’t know what it’s like where you are but I think it’s probably the same all over Virginia and even the whole country but microbreweries were really this was like four years ago, yeah really taking off. And there’s one near our house and we went in there on our anniversary in 2016 and bellied up to the bar and they had somebody craft salsa with storebought chips and I was like, Oh, I can do better, like I’m making some this weekend because I got family coming in and they were like, well bring us some, and I walked in there with tortilla chips oil leaking out of a brown paper bag. And they were like me you got to do something about the packaging, but these are good like how much is a bag, how much is, and I was like, I don’t know, I just brought up a great question. Just, are you serious, like, but I wasn’t surprised I think I was like are you serious, but I knew, because I had been getting that same reaction from people. For years, so I was like, oh my gosh this is a thing I could do this. So he did, it’s just, it became this leap of faith that I had to take it didn’t make sense to do it other than the way that I did it, which was I took one final year to get the infrastructure, I kept teaching and trying to get my commercial kitchen space, and all the legal pieces to fall in together. And that was exhausting. I believe it, but once I was up and running, instead of driving 20 minutes to work, I walked 20 steps out my back into my little 12 by 20 shed which is you know a commercial kitchen I was approved by the Virginia Department of Ag and off I went,
Dana: wow okay so first off, so many questions are answered. It’s perfect. I love to hear kind of the step by step and what you were thinking at the time because I know that that can be such a blur, and I feel like there’s so many little steps that lead up to it and then all of a sudden you’re here, but at the time it felt like it took forever I’m sure that you’re just kind of dragged on and on with you trying to jump through all those hoops so what did you do during that year, who did you lean on what were the resources because if you ever had any business experience before. The Department of Ag like it’s casual plant, you know, I have no idea I would have no idea. So, what did you do to really figure out how to make the legal side of the business work when you had no prior experience with that.
Jennifer: So I started talking to people about it. And like any great idea you have, sometimes the easiest way to kill it is to start talking about it and get everyone else’s opinions. There’s, there’s value in that I, I, I have leaned through this whole process for myself I’ve leaned on what would I tell my students, you know, which is the same as what would I tell my kids, and I would tell my students, you don’t know what you don’t know or you don’t even know. So, there are times where you just have to ask as many questions as possible. You have to anticipate as much as you can, and that was what I did I was like, I don’t want to be caught with some hoops that I didn’t jump through. And this all comes crashing down on me because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. So it was a journey of let me talk to a bunch of people and some people was like I was making these chips in my kitchen. Right, and naively I thought, well, I can just keep doing that. And then someone said well you probably can’t do that, I mean you’ve got to have like the health department or someone’s gonna come in here and inspect and do and I was like oh geez, and then I, so I went and like did some research. And sure enough, I couldn’t do it in my kitchen because we have pets in our home. So legally if you’re serving food to people, and hopefully there’s no one listening who listen is like, oh, but now once you become aware you never become aware but yeah if you have pets in your home, at least in Virginia. You have to be able to completely close those pets out of that cook space, even when you’re not cooking, they can’t ever come in there, we have three different entrances to our kitchen. So, I wasn’t going to put in a bunch of pocket doors that wasn’t happening. And that’s the heart of our house, and it does, it just didn’t make sense. Anyway, I, you know, when I cook there’s, there’s just steam everywhere and my husband was like you’re gonna ruin the ceiling. So, how to be somewhere else. So, this is the funny part of the story that I never tell anyone, but we, we happen to be watching Breaking Bad at the time. And so, when I called the Department of Ag or the zoning people or whoever it was, I was like, What about if I got like a trailer or an RV or something that already has like a school bus. Like, if you don’t move it, I guess, but it ended up that I got this like rent to own building which was perfect for me not having any revenue you raised to go, you end up paying a little bit more but I didn’t have anything and I didn’t want to ask for funding from anyone, everybody’s business solution is different I got some loans from the bank but that was how I pay for the plumbing and the electrical, and the insulation and in those kinds of things and my husband and I did the drywall ourselves, it was just like a blank building we figured all that stuff out, and they put up McDonald’s faster. This was a small, tiny little shed, and it took 11 months to get. And I was teaching full time so this was like I was doing dry last night.
Dana: So, until at this point, how old were your girls, they’re 12 and 10.
Jennifer: Right now, so this was four years ago I’m horrible at math, that was the only I should have said that when we first started talking like don’t ask me any math questions. So yeah, they were, what is that so yeah mentary school both of them for sure they got to see this, this thing that I’m building, they get to see the tremendous work ethic. They know that it changed their lives that they didn’t have to go somewhere else. And this is, you know, pre pandemic, obviously, but, Yeah, that was the best part of my day. Being able to like, cook them breakfast and talk to them about whatever bigger little things. I have two daughters, but they’re very different. For any, any of the moms listening I have, I think, what are referred to as a dandelion and an orchid child, so your dandelion child can thrive anywhere. The Orchid child needs everything to be just so you know like the perfect leading the perfect, like an orchid, you know, but
Dana: I love that analogy I’ve never heard that before,
Jennifer: it’s the whole book that I have not had time to read but yeah, it’s like the dandelion in the orchid child but I have one of each, so they just require different things and all of the energy that I was putting into my students, I just, it’s pours out of me into them, and, and then they go to school, and I get to work, and it is such hard work, but it’s always for the purpose of being able to have that time to be that long. That’s why I’m so excited that we talk because people say to me all the time like, Oh, so cool. You must be so passionate about tortilla chips and like, do you hear yourself. That’s not a thing that is not a thing to put my kids on the bus like that’s, that’s what I do this for.
Dana: I think it’s so interesting because you put this on your bag, I was like if she doesn’t say yes to come in on this podcast I don’t think I’m going to get any more guests for the rest of this because you put it on your bag and I think that’s so so cool and it caught our attention for sure to you know to moms who have similar Viewpoints is us like okay we have to take advantage of this time, but I love your perspective because your kids are older than mine so mine are two and four, so I’m still in, when I started my business. Yeah, my, my son was weeks old, and for me it was a panic of. Oh my gosh, I only have five years, and working with each of them until they’re in school, and then I only have mornings and evenings, and that was like in a hormonal spiral of, don’t panic about time because it goes by so fast and you only have those five years but for you, you’re like, hey, we’re already in school, we’re here, but for me I need to be able to be present in those mornings and evenings and honestly like when you’re at that point in your life, and the kids are have their life and their school time and, you know, that’s their main focus and priority through the day, it’s their nine to five, but you need to take advantage of every hour on either end that you possibly can and I love that you’ve, you’ve built this business to take advantage of that. So, in building this business okay so we’ve talked about the shed and I think that’s so amazing I’m harga for and I know so many photographers who have done the same thing but for studios, and they’ve got studios in a shed but commercial kitchen. No, first time I’ve ever heard it so just a great, great problem solving. So how did you go from putting that first you know, dirty, oily bag, and in the brewery to branding and packaging and shipping and getting into stores, how is that side of the business come about because again, you’re a teacher, like, Unless you taught marketing what. How’d you figure this out?
Jennifer: No I didn’t. But, I taught social studies. And part of what I taught, I taught eighth grade civics, and economics.
Dana: Ah, yes.
Jennifer: Yeah, so it’s the economics piece that gave me, I think a decent Foundation. And then, of course, understanding government and understanding there’s got to be some rules and regulations, I just need to find those days and connect with earlier, I think, I don’t know that I fully answered. The other part of your question about like who would you ask where do you go how’d you, you know, I definitely searched the state websites, and then I think I, I got some good advice that someone said you need to just establish that business, so that then you can start rolling and I used LegalZoom, or to just establish the entity the business entity is an LLC, and LegalZoom did I have to give them credit that they, they sent me like a whole packet of, here’s all the things that might relate to what you’re doing, and all of the different regulations that could be people that you need to call and check in with on the federal level and the state and the local level that resource was invaluable in at least getting me started that jumping off point.
Dana: Well in your kind of specific situation too because there are 1000 photographers right here in Northern Virginia. I don’t know any tortilla makers in Richmond, other than you, so like I feel like there, it’s not something where you can just pull the community and be like Hey, what did you do for this next step, you know, it’s a very specific business, you know, out of your home in the shed like it’s, it’s not something that’s run of the mill and I think that that’s great advice about the local governments and and that’s really good to know about legal stuff and I feel like that’s probably really helpful information for somebody listening that’s going kind of down a different route to from from the normal.
Jennifer: Yeah, I would recommend it I would say, And if they hear this little plug for them there, they might not like this last part so I was convinced them that I had to maintain my relationship with them in order to maintain the legal status of my, of my business, and that’s not true. So you need to have an agent of record. But that person can be you, it doesn’t have to be legal right, so all I had to do was, and I had to speak to a lawyer to get that information, they were like, it was just a family friend so it didn’t cause me. Right, we’re like, they’re just opening your mail and forwarding it to you know, like, you can be the agent, you just change that, and then you quit paying them, and raise take yourself out of that but I think I paid them for a whole like, second year and I didn’t really need to so it’s like, those are lessons that I learned the hard way, and I have no problem passing them on because that’s just how I am. I know I should learn from all of the mistakes that I made, but yeah, I tried really hard to find a mentor because again I was like, I don’t know what I don’t know and there’s somebody who is even in the adjacent business, that would be willing to share and not until my product was on the shelf, did, did someone like that emerge. And then they connected me with some other people so now then I became part of this like community of food producers in Richmond, which is very supportive, and it’s, it’s like, I won’t say a fraternity or sorority because it’s just a mix of men and women in it so it’s very nice and it’s nice to that, that there isn’t, I don’t have a lot of competition on the local level, although capital chips sit on the shelf. And there, there are tons of other tortilla chips, and I always say there’s plenty of sunshine for everyone.
Dana: Well and I’m sure that goes back to your product too, I mean when you’re just starting out and making them out of your kitchen you have people raving about them I feel like having that confidence in that aspect of your business which for you I think is my meat and potatoes not, it’s the chip, but it’s the meat and potatoes of your business is the actual taste and how great your product is so I think having that confidence probably helps helps you.
Jennifer: The only thing I have confidence in. Thank you. I’m growing and I’m learning to step into that but yeah, my brother’s is a broker of sorts, he, he deals with financial products but I told him, beginning I was like yes, it’s just a product that sells itself and he was like, that isn’t a thing that doesn’t exist, or product sells itself you have to sell you have to, you know, when he had that sales background I was like, I don’t know I just think it’s gonna be okay like everybody loves them. I just sit back and do it. Find me now. And I’m really knocking on anybody’s door, And that is not that I know that, so I am blessed in that way again and I’m humble about it, but the trust in it and sometimes I have to remind myself of that, because there are low periods where it’s like, oh, this is a little bit of a swamp and I get nervous because it’s not, you know it’s not the steady paycheck that education was. But yeah, it’s not.
Dana: So how did you do this so now you have released places coming to you but how did you originally get it out there and how did you decide on packaging and branding like that’s a step that I think is a big hurdle for so many people and to get it right. I think it’s hard to.
Jennifer: Yeah, I played around with some different ideas, honestly, and if you died in my Instagram you’ll see the entire journey because that was like, hey guys I can’t decide between the black bag which I thought was awesome, and the red bag, and I have someone in my life who was like, don’t ever put food in black and I’m like, I don’t ascribe to all of these rules but briny right, red is a powerful color when it comes to appetite so I know that from my dining room, like it’s painted red. And I was like no, everybody seems to like the red and I know psychology says that red is one of those colors that does make people hungry so I, maybe I don’t know if that’s when, but it’s not. Yeah, it’s a beautiful bag and it’s had some evolutions but yeah just somebody suggested and it was like again, just trying to talk to different people in them saying well this is, this is great but you need a sealed bag and this is how it works you know, I remember the person who talked to be about that. And he was like they make stand up pouches like then it’ll stand up because I liked my first version of the bag was like this craft style bag that had a window, but that’s more of like for coffee. And then the oil the oil and the chips was coming through so I that was like a problem I had to solve. So then, you know there’s such a thing as a vapor barrier bag that holds back that oil so it’s like all this, even just words that I had to learn,
Dana: Yeah, I’m like, I’ve never heard of that in my life and I’m sure you haven’t either.
Jennifer: I mean it’s definitely, Yeah, so my bags now are sealed, and they’re resealable which your sister in law may or may not have noticed if she never put the bedding down, and a lot of people say yeah, why do you have that zipper thing on there and I’m like, well cuz some people like they just take a little bit and then they don’t have control. It’s not us.
Dana: Okay, so they’re doing all the testing you’ve found so do you have a manufacturer that’s, that’s near you that makes your bags like how did you even find somebody to figure out the packaging.
Jennifer: So the bags were bags that I bought from a company online. And then I separately. My husband and I separately designed the logo and stickers, and all of the rules that I read explained that you had to have the net weight has to be on the bottom third of the bag and I have picked a bag that had a window, which meant that I couldn’t have the logo at the top part of the bag, and the net weight on there I had to have a separate sticker, and then I needed the nutrition stuff on the back, and it had to be a certain size, like all of that is based on federal regulations, and not everybody does it but I, again, didn’t want to make a mistake, that was I do my entire plan like it was so important. And so, so we have, we have three different stickers that were designed for that original bag, and we would sticker the bags and try to have enough bags for whatever was, you know, going out that week, and eventually had to switch because I was paying someone to put stickers on bags. At one point I was like, These bags are getting expensive. There’s a better way so pre printed bag is what we, what we do now and I had to work with a designer, and the company that makes those bags to get all of that stuff and the art, it’s like a whole thing it’s just, we have two sizes so we have a nine ounce bag and a three ounce bag I say we, but it’s really in the test gonna say, Yeah, it’s me and two other people, and my husband helps. Right now he’s helping because I’m a little bit short staffed, but I finally found someone to cook, so up until just a few months ago. Person cooking. So, I say that because so many of I’ve listened to so many episodes, and so many of the entrepreneurs that you’ve had. Sounds like they’re, they’re running the business, doing all the admin things but like I want my business card to say just owner, but it currently says owner operator because I’m doing all the things I’m wearing all the hats. It’s just a lot.
Dana: Well it’s interesting and I appreciate this because I think that, you know some people are in an area or are surrounded by people who have a ton of resources, maybe they have a ton of grant funding or whatever to just be able to kind of do that and to jump that far really quickly and I love that this is kind of a, an in between where you are both and I’ve been that way and I think that this is a really realistic conversation for somebody who has just an idea that isn’t, I don’t know being a photographer, honestly, like, like the 30,000 other people in Northern Virginia, you know, and I love that this is something that you knew you did well, you had a taste with good people told you it was great and we just, you figured it out, and I, and I think that’s hearing these intricate details of this business I think it’s really going to help multiple people but I guarantee at least one. That’s why I’m so detail already, but I love, I love this and honestly this is how I envisioned this podcast meeting because for me, when I first started my business, I just didn’t know what I didn’t know exactly like we’ve talked a few times and yes I’ve had people to reach out to, but it wasn’t on a personal level where you’re hearing okay and then I did this. When I envisioned this to me okay somebody has a cool idea. That’s different works for her at first, but second off built it by herself and is done, don’t always make it happen and I love that you have, have this full story so tell me about your first set of bags that went out officially branded that got into a store, what store was it. How did you feel.
Jennifer: Yeah so, I remember the day that we had just gotten back from vacation. So we’re coming up. And she came in to inspect my kitchen in my shed, and she was very complimentary but I had worked in a restaurant so I knew them with the flow should look like I knew how to organize so she was a teacher’s pet I felt good when she was like signed my stuff filled everything out. She said your stuff, and I was like, That’s it, she goes, What do you mean, that’s it. Didn’t you work really hard to get here, and yeah, you pass like you’re good, you’re set. You can, and I had bags ready because that was part of what I had to show was, what’s that end product going to look like so I had cooked earlier that week and I had bags ready and she said, Yeah, you’re good. So, you have asked how do I find accounts my original thought was that, okay, well, here’s all these microbreweries and breweries that have this salsa that they’re carrying store bought chips, I should just slide into that space. And so I was just targeting breweries all around the Richmond area, and I sent out letters. And, you know, just wanted to get on everyone’s radar, and I got very little response back, except for those folks right down the street scene belt beer works, and I just kept going in there with chips. I just don’t forget about me I’m still working, here’s what the bag is gonna look like and they were like Oh this looks good, you’re coming along, you know, we’re like this, this feature here, you know, What do you think your price points gonna be, or, I mean all these different details that they were able to give me feedback but they, I think we’re probably the first account that they took them as soon as I was ready and everything was up and running. So, and that felt really, really good but then I found myself kind of being steered towards some of these smaller markets. And while it felt like, oh, well, how come I couldn’t get into all these breweries, the markets had a steady or business has worked out, even better, because some of the folks around the city that shop in those small specialty food markets, they show their shopping every day they’re going in there and grabbing and grabbing their dinner and their snacks. You know a few times a week and the business was just super steady and rapidly growing, but my plan and go beyond. Okay, I need to replace this teaching salary. And I’ll do whatever I have to, to make that happen and here’s how many accounts I think I’ll need, and then I’ll just be good. And I had no plan, no preparation and no idea this is probably the biggest gaffe that I made was being naive about the fact that how quickly this business needs to grow, and when I left that shed. I hate to call it a shed, but that’s to give you a realistic picture. It’s like the art studio on our property now. I do like cricket stuff out there. You know he purse capital chips shirts, I don’t. I do my own brand, and my kids have their little art pieces because I want them to just have a creative space. It’s so by the time I was moving away from their larger commercial kitchen, I had a waitlist. I was like, handle your business right now, But I promise I Andrew, I’m making moves to get into bigger space, and I will call, and that’s what I had to do. Wow, now I’m just like, sure, sure, sure, because every time that I have found myself overwhelmed, I figured it out. So now in this business is growing organically. I need to start to be ready for bigger and trust that if I need to hire another coach, then able to afford that person. cuz that’s my fear is like, I’m not leaning on anything else I’m trying to pay off the debt from right from that second move and buying that giant fryer that’s been worth it but yeah there’s no, there’s no fallback plan. This has to be self sustaining so
Dana: right so you move into this bigger we’re trying to keep up with demand and you’re keeping track of all of these orders, plus all of the orders that you’ve had to turn down plus just your normal bookkeeping marketing I mean every you’re doing everything, Doing everything, so before you hired out how were you managing your weeks and your time because that’s a lot of different hats to wear, but it’s also, you have to do it in different spaces because I assume you’re coming up for, I don’t really know how it works but in your commercial kitchen I’m assuming you’re not, that’s not where your office is, you have an office.
Jennifer: So, my office is five or six minutes my desk and I have my printer in there to print invoices. And so, I was building orders in that commercial kitchen, building the orders, invoicing, printing them, and then I deliver the chips to have. Yeah, like that’s the whole piece. So I, when I started out I was delivering three days a week, I had to make a map of the zone of where I was trying to like, have all these accounts, and then where they were and then I’m like okay well you’re a Monday, you’re a Wednesday or Friday, and then I needed more production time so then it was, I don’t even know where it switched to but now I just deliver one day a week. I had, I was renting a van, because I deliver these giant again with Costco, but these giant black boxes that have the yellow lids. A lot of people are familiar with those, so I, I own a lot of those. And I can fit a bunch of bags in there and so I deliver those so my little shed was like before delivery day just piled to the ceiling with those. And then I would have to walk them down the steps out of my building into the van that I had backed up into our yard and load them one at a time. So now I’m in a space where I have a box truck now, and I back my box truck up to the front door, I put four, four of those bins on a dolly and crank come in, yeah my box truck has a, has a ramp so it’s gotten a lot easier, but I’m still the one I shut down production, so I can deliver on Wednesdays and service my accounts because having someone else on my insurance as a driver is a big expense, and I’m this when I was in that little ship cooking, like especially in Virginia heat in the summer. It was like my one day a week that I could get out and like see and speak to adults. Husband notwithstanding, but like, that’s how I got to see my product. Like there was so much value I got to this is anyone who’s listening who is a teacher in a classroom with no windows will get this, I got to see the sunshine, and like the beautiful day with my wind of a town delivering. I was like wow look at all the people that are a little of the day, because, you know for 13 of my 15 years of teaching I taught in a classroom with no windows, and it, it definitely allowed, but even in that little shed I have windows and I could see, I just love, right, like, change my quality of life, just that, just being able to see outside.
Dana: I think a lot of people will relate to that, especially this year with a pandemic and, you know whatever closet they’re working from in their house to avoid their kids, you know, they’re not they’re not seeing the sun either okay so you have all of these different set days. So what made you realize that it was time to hire somebody else to come in and help you with this because that’s a big step.
Jennifer: Yeah, so my first helper is someone packaging. He wanted to help me get out the door. Seems like he would wake up at three the package, because the chips need to rest a little bit. So he was like, I’ll wake up at three and then he’s packaging from three to six two so I can get evidence like that craziness. So yeah, hiring someone to package, what I cooked yesterday when I’m cooking today was where it started and that made a huge difference and that person I hired during the pandemic, so that was a game changer. To be able to have that person there, and then they would sometimes if they ran out of stuff to package come in via support to me, because there’s like a whole. I’m very particular withheld information, it’s part of, you know, the trade secret stuff but I love it. It’s like the exact amount goes into the fryer every time so there’s the consistency is really kind of king when we’re doing production.
Dana: It’s so interesting and and building that team takes a lot of guts, but I think that it’s one of those things that like okay this is a scary leap, but on the other side of it you’re like, oh my gosh my whole world changed,
Jennifer: and it’s, like. Oh, gosh the dishes already yes like that’s, yeah I don’t have to do that so for me, I was a school teacher for 18 years, there is an aspect of the charge of your classroom. That is very for me it’s very fulfilling and that easily translates into running new business but it also means that like, as a teacher I was never very good at leaving lesson plans for a sub, because I needed every day, it was like, I need everything to go exactly like this. It’s just easier for me to not be out tomorrow because it’s too much work to be gone, and I’m too stressed, thinking about someone else doing it. So, you know the first time that I had my production assistant helping when my new fry cook was there and I had nothing to do. Like, they were looking at me and they were like, you’re not gonna handle this are you and I’m like, I feel like I should be doing this trying, I’m trying. Yeah, like, I’ll just do invoices, I guess I’ll just invoice everybody and get that sorted for this week, but there’s always something to do. But yes, it feels really good to be able to turn some of that over and it’s rewarding that I’ve not had any feedback with someone else cooking, because that to me is like, because I’m a teacher, I can teach you how to do it, it’s just chips, it’s not rocket science, it’s not brain surgery. And as big of a deal as I think it is to do it my way, he, he has done a phenomenal job and, and nobody knows. Nobody. Nobody knows the wiser. Yeah.
Dana: So talk to me. How has your family life changed, obviously, there was a period of hustle right where you and her husband are working till midnight and then starting at 3am and that was definitely probably a season, right, that could have its own chapter in a book.
Jennifer: But yeah, you know, there were moments where I was like I gave up my career. Like, yeah, yeah, no thanks Mom. Maybe you should go back to TJ you don’t see it, but there was definitely a hard a hard season in there and there’s still times when I feel like, still struggling to get it all done and you know I gave up my summers with muted and very true, when they, when we first started the transition was Well, again, I’m in control of the time so I would get up at like four to cook so I could take them to the zoo, you know, at least get something done with them because they were used to me taking them to rain or taking them to the zoo and we just had. We had so much fun and I didn’t want to miss that stuff but they’re a little bit older now and we’ve put them in camps and things like that in the summer we make it work but yeah it’s gotten better I’m, I have more energy to come home now and then make dinner and step into those things, like so many of your guests I’m blessed with a partner who is 100% supportive, and, and I will say too he happens to be an analyst so he works with data all the time. and that has been a big key to my success is that I’m able to say to him, I don’t know how to do it, but here’s what I want to see. I want to see the numbers for this I want to see, and anyone who knows me would is probably laughing if they’re hearing this right now because I do not love the math I do not love numbers, it’s not my thing. Even you asked me how old my kids are like they were a little bit not little bitty like. But yeah, I can look at Capital chips, sales, I have every single week, all my numbers plugged into these products that he’s made just using Excel which now I understand a lot better. And I can track all of that I can predict now after four years of data, where things are going where my busy season is like I just, I had kind of a rough, January, February, and I was like is this. Now the impact of the pandemic. And almost all of 2020 I really didn’t feel it. But now my plan is, let’s, let’s predict that, that’s going to happen again. And let me see that as a gift, let me make sure that financially we’re set business can weather it just fine. And I can see it as a gift that I have a little more time I have some projects planned during that that are gonna fill my time instead of being like, I don’t know, panic, exactly because you know you don’t know if it’s gonna turn around, but dad tells me that it’ll be just fine.
Jennifer: But yeah, you know, there were moments where I was like I gave up my career. Like, yeah, yeah, no thanks Mom. Maybe you should go back to TJ you don’t see it, but there was definitely a hard a hard season in there and there’s still times when I feel like, still struggling to get it all done and you know I gave up my summers with muted and very true, when they, when we first started the transition was Well, again, I’m in control of the time so I would get up at like four to cook so I could take them to the zoo, you know, at least get something done with them because they were used to me taking them to rain or taking them to the zoo and we just had. We had so much fun and I didn’t want to miss that stuff but they’re a little bit older now and we’ve put them in camps and things like that in the summer we make it work but yeah it’s gotten better I’m, I have more energy to come home now and then make dinner and step into those things, like so many of your guests I’m blessed with a partner who is 100% supportive, and, and I will say too he happens to be an analyst so he works with data all the time. and that has been a big key to my success is that I’m able to say to him, I don’t know how to do it, but here’s what I want to see. I want to see the numbers for this I want to see, and anyone who knows me would is probably laughing if they’re hearing this right now because I do not love the math I do not love numbers, it’s not my thing. Even you asked me how old my kids are like they were a little bit not little bitty like.But yeah, I can look at Capital chips, sales, I have every single week, all my numbers plugged into these products that he’s made just using Excel which now I understand a lot better. And I can track all of that I can predict now after four years of data, where things are going where my busy season is like I just, I had kind of a rough, January, February, and I was like is this. Now the impact of the pandemic. And almost all of 2020 I really didn’t feel it. But now my plan is, let’s, let’s predict that, that’s going to happen again. And let me see that as a gift, let me make sure that financially we’re set business can weather it just fine. And I can see it as a gift that I have a little more time I have some projects planned during that that are gonna fill my time instead of being like, I don’t know, panic, exactly because you know you don’t know if it’s gonna turn around, but dad tells me that it’ll be just fine.
Dana: Yes and having that predictability and being I think that’s a benefit of being, you know, several years into this now it’s nothing you know not 15 years and like you were teaching where it’s very predictable at that point for you but you are enough. Thank goodness you are not teaching during a pandemic because that was not predictable. Yes, but for the sake of this company now I think that having that and knowing that okay these are the months where I know that we might take a little bit of a hit but you’re ready for it, I think, in a mindset shift kind of a way that’s really important and it’s true for a lot of businesses I mean for photographers too it’s, it’s, you know you have a big jump in the spring and then you’re pretty steady during the summer and then you have a huge jump in the fall and then nobody except for newborns are around from the day after Christmas until you can hear some birds and some trees somewhere, and that’s pretty much how it works. So, think that knowing that is May my subsequent years in business after that first, a lot easier just being ready for that and knowing that it’s pretty normal. Okay so we’ve covered so much and I’m so excited and I’m like, I looked at, I was like oh my gosh I’ve been talking to her for almost an hour so
Jennifer: I’ve been doing all the talking. I’m so sorry I’m alone.
Dana: No, that’s the whole point of this podcast I love I love hearing your story and what you were thinking during all of this so, but I do want to say you have a podcast as well so tell us all about that.
Jennifer: Yeah, so, for me, I had trouble going from being a teacher, where I felt so much a student, and got so much esteem. I felt like I’m doing good stuff here, people would tell me, oh you’re a teacher and I’d say yeah, what do you teach. I teach middle schoolers, like straight to heaven them yeah, you know, and now it’s like what do you do I make tortilla chips and ironic. People get more excited about that but I don’t because I’m like I make a snack food. Right. My podcast is called integrity nachos, and it doesn’t have a format per se, but what it really is I think it’s kind of an open secret at this point is it is it is my way to touch that part of me that still cares about sharing what I’ve learned, sharing the journey that is constantly evolving for me, both as a business person, but as a human being, and the struggles that I’ve been through that I’m comfortable speaking honestly about and living just living a life of integrity, and, and I think even just attaching that word to it is a way to hold myself accountable, just like in my classroom being honest with students and expecting that from them was like it was good for me to, I mean it’s just all of that, it’s a way, it’s an extension of my classroom, but, but really the open secret is, it’s something that God forbid anything were to happen to me. My girls would have something to listen to, to know what I cared about and what mattered to me and what I thought about things. So, my listenership is is small, but I just, again, I’m shaped everything I do is so impacted by that major loss that I had, and I I just can’t predict, it’s just feels morbid sometimes to talk about it but God forbid anything were to happen to me I just, I want to be able to leave something for them that I didn’t have left for me.
Dana: Okay, well you’re gonna make me cry on about, I’m like, I talked to so many people about how there are so many benefits that of things that have come from this podcast that I never predicted, and you just brought another one that I still have not thought about until right now in this moment and I am like, like literally a wave of like, oh my gosh, What are healing that you’re doing. That’s right, I’m like, oh my gosh this is amazing, like I that my kids will have this to listen to, you know forever and I, and I have said before that, this is fun for guests because, especially for those earlier on in their business like you’re getting going to get to remember all these things and in 15 years are going to slip your memory, I mean it’s gonna you’re gonna have this and be able to listen back and I love a podcast because it’s memorialized here forever, but I not think about the impact that it would have on my kids in however many years when, when they’re probably laughing that their parents had a podcast like
Jennifer: VHS tape. I don’t even know how to play it. What are you talking about, to get to it. Yeah, that’s what I was the internet.
Dana: Yeah, it made me tear up I also had to laugh because you’ve picked up thing, to name your podcast with integrity and something sweet, I picked chaos. So, if that tells you what phases of our life we’re at I have toddlers.
Jennifer: Yeah, no I remember I definitely remember but there’s some new chaos in having a middle schooler. That doesn’t matter that I think I know everything about this age. Nope, I don’t like my baby’s gonna do some of those behaviors but, yes, it’s like as your kids hit these new ages, it’s like, I don’t know how to be a mom to a 12 year old, like, I don’t know how to be a mom to a 13 year old like we’re walking this walk together, and can we just not, I mean, unfortunately my, my oldest has to listen to I think it’s a little bit of guilt and manipulation on my part but I’m like look, I didn’t go through this with my mom, can you and I just skip all the hard parts, because I don’t even know what it looks like from the other side. Well you deserve that so you know why you play it, I just hear that it can be really rough, and I don’t want to do that with you. Can we just not.
Dana: That is amazing. Oh, Jen, Thank you so much for doing this, this is like the, just the greatest I read you know for, for those listening I know I’ve said this but I read that my sister in law sent me a picture of the back of the bag and I was like, she has a podcast, she started her business to spend more time with her kids, their tour to, like, she’s got to come on and this is the most this is like my ideal guest and I’m so thrilled that you were here and we were able to find the time to do this crazy, hectic day is kind of a thing so I’m really really excited and honored that you that you join me and I am so excited for everybody to hear this but in the meantime, tell everybody where we can find you online your website your Instagram, Facebook, all.
Jennifer: Thank you for asking. So, on Instagram and Twitter. The business is at Capital chips I’m also on both of those formats with my podcast it’s at Integrity nachos and the website is capital chips llc.com So, it’s, it’s pretty easy and you can find me on Facebook too but the website has got a map of retailers, and I keep that pretty updated because my center of my target if you will, my bull’s eyes is the Richmond area and then I’m kind of expanding out from there. Yeah, my sister in law found you in Duck North Carolina so that’s pretty great. Yeah, it’s growing quickly, but again I’m, I’m blessed and humbled that so many people enjoy the product but I’m just happy that it enables me to have a little bit more of a balanced life which most entrepreneurs laugh when you say that like oh yeah we know that, Thank you so much Dana for having me.
Dana: No thank you. This was great, it was such a pleasure and I’m so excited to be friends with the chipmaker This is the greatest day ever
Jennifer: It has its perks for sure.
Dana: All right, Jen. Well thanks so much and we’ll talk to you soon.
Jennifer: All right, Take care. Thank you.
Dana: Thank you so much to. I am so honored you spent any minutes of your day listening to me babble about living this entrepreneurial life amidst the chaos in any mom’s normal day to day. If you love what you’ve heard, any more snippets of knowledge about this mob boss life, head over to our website at amidst the chaos podcast, calm. For show notes and links to anything mentioned in today’s episode. If you’re really feeling inspired, it would mean the world to me and my family if you take the time to rate and review. Thanks for joining me, amidst the chaos.
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