Like many foodpreuneurs before her, Evangeline Conley liked making her homemade salad dressing and marinade for her friends and family for special gatherings and occasions. Their positive reaction to the recipe gave her the motivation and idea to start her own business.
When Conley founded Greek Goddess Products, Inc. in 2008, she reached out early for guidance on how to get started. She learned about the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Buffalo State College from a friend who suggested she start there.
“The first thing I did was take a course through the SBDC. It was a start-up workshop allowing me the opportunity to learn about balance sheets, profits and loss, and ways to market my business,” says Conley. “As a business owner, it’s so important to learn about managing your finances and how to approach legal fees and trademark laws.”
The Buffalo District office has four different SBDC locations around Western New York and Rochester. “SBDCs are resource partners of the U.S. Small Business Administration and are partially funded by the SBA,” said Susan McCartney, director of the Buffalo State SBDC. “These centers offer valuable free business assistance and the necessary building blocks that small start-ups need to launch and established small businesses need to expand.”
As a result of the assistance that Conley received from the Buffalo State SBDC, she was able to begin bottling Greek Goddess Salad Dressing and Marinade commercially. Today, the dressing is stocking the shelves of local stores, delis and markets in and around Western New York. “It’s a unique blend of of olive oil, vinegar and spices, all natural ingredients” said Conley. “Our customers love using it as salad dressing, meat/poultry/vegetable marinade, and simply dipping bread.”
Conley, an encore entrepreneur, has worked with the center since her start-up, seeking advice and citing it as a vital step to growing her business. She credits her former business advisor John Mckeone of the Bufalo State College SBDC for the success she enjoys today.
“We are seeing more and more encore entrepreneur’s step into business,” says SBA Buffalo District Director Franklin Sciortino. “One in four individuals ages 44 to 70 is interested in becoming an entrepreneur and 63 percent of Americans plan to work during retirement. SBA and AARP joined forces in 2012 to reach out to baby boomers and provide them with the necessary training and mentoring services for older entrepreneurs to start or grow their small businesses and create jobs, just like Evangeline Conley did.”
Looking ahead, Greek Goddess Products, Inc. continues to expand, having products now available in major stores and markets like Wegmans, Lexington Coop., Premier Gourmet, Niagara Produce in Lockport, Derby Deli, Braymillers Market, Lakeside Market and Orchard Fresh. In addition to the retail outlets, Conley also offers her customers the option of purchasing Greek Goddess Salad Dressing and Marinade online through the company’s website.
Conley is extremely proud of The Greek Goddess Products successes and she is serious when she urges other businesses to seek out resources for growth. “Don’t be afraid of rejection,” she said. “Make sure your business is something you love, seek out help and feel good about what you do.”
SBA developed a 50+ toolkit, at sba.gov/encore , that includes an online self-assessment and other free online courses targeted at helping encore entrepreneurs start or grow their businesses. The training courses include profiles of successful entrepreneurs, recommended action steps, and information on licensing and financing.