By Marcia Heroux Pounds
Entrepreneur Jilea Hemmings doesn’t tout her success. She spotlights her failure.
Hemmings, the creator of Greenie Tots, wants other newbie entrepreneurs to understand the pitfalls of starting a business — the things she learned the hard way.
She and her husband, Jamie, started Greenie Tots in 2009 to sell a frozen meatless entree aimed at children. The Plantation couple managed to take the business national, but it died six years later, even though they took many of the right steps to succeed.
First, Hemmings test-marketed her products, which experts recommend.
After creating meatless meals for the health of her children, Hemmings tried them out on neighbors and got rave reviews. Then she sold her vegetarian entrees at a farmer’s market in Plantation, where the couple lives with their three children.
“Our customers started asking, ‘Are you available in stores?'” Hemmings recalls.
So the Hemmings came up with frozen versions of the entrees and began marketing them to local grocery stores.
They didn’t quit their day jobs — initially. The Hemmings worked by day at their jobs in the pharmacy and health insurance industries, working by night in a local commercial kitchen.
“We had a niche,” she said. “The product was in high demand, but [we] couldn’t keep up with it,” she said.
Greenie Tots gained entry into Whole Foods Market in Florida and later in its stores in California and New York, as well as Publix Greenwise in Florida and other grocery stores in the Northeast. At the height of Greenie Tots’ production volume, sales reached about $100,000, she said.
To take their products national, the couple outsourced their production to New Jersey to produce the meals. They both joined the business full time in 2013.
“We were expanding too fast because we thought we had an investor,” she said.