By Allie Gross Detroit Free Press
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Scott Owens and his wife Suzi, owners of "Scotty O' Hotty" hot sauce celebrated the brick-and-mortar opening of Feast LLC, a new initiative aiming to help Michigan food entrepreneurs boost production and grow their businesses.
Detroit Free Press
In 2012, Scott Owens and his wife, Suzi, began playing around with a hot sauce recipe they had been making over the years.
The experimenting in the kitchen started out as a hobby -- Owens, 40, was working in the automotive industry at the time. But as the car industry became rockier and the prospect of losing a job became more realistic, he began considering other options.
Fast forward five years and Scotty O'Hotty hot sauce is now sold in 32 states and found in stores like Meijer, Kroger and Whole Foods.
Getting to the stage of national distribution is exciting for a fairly new start-up like Scotty O'Hotty. It also, however, comes with a set of major challenges.
"Either you have a million dollars in your pocket to open a manufacturing space, or you go with a co-packer out of state, but then you're not 'Made in Michigan' and a lot of their minimums are way too big for a smaller company," Owens said. "There is no in-between."
Luckily, for Owens, an organization has debuted to help provide that middle ground.
On Thursday, Owens was on hand to celebrate the brick-and-mortar opening of Feast LLC, a new initiative aiming to help Michigan food entrepreneurs boost production and grow their business. A co-packing program developed by Eastern Market Corp., Feast LLC is co-owned by Owens and the owners of two other local food businesses: Marcia Nodel and Michal Nodel of Marcia's Munchies, which makes pickled items, and Amit Makhecha of M&R Ventures, which makes chutneys. The trio of businesses have hired a staff of six, which will make up the Feast LLC team and work to make and package their goods in a 14,500-square-foot facility. While the Eastern Market Corp. was initially hoping to find a space in Detroit for the initiative, a location in Inkster was ultimately donated by Garden Fresh Gourmet founder Jack Aronson. "It was too good to pass up," said Marica Nodel. Makhecha chimed in that since the spaces was previously a manufacturing space, they didn't have to do nearly as much work to set it up for Feast's goals. The merging of three very distinct mom-and-pop companies -- who now co-own a manufacturing business -- is unique. "I don't know of a similar setup like this in the state, there could be but I'm not aware of it," said Micah Loucks, an Innovation Counselor at Michigan State University's Product Center, which advises local food entrepreneurs including the three behind Feast. "I applaud them for being able to work together to get to this point." The owners were giddy about the new business, as well as the synergy that has taken placebetween so many different people and their varied products. "That's one of the most beautiful things. We're a diverse group, but we work well together," said Makhecha. The space comes with a commercial kitchen and a food processing center; local entrepreneurs who have ideas for shelf-stable products are also welcome to pitch their ideas to the trio to see if the Feast team can make their product as well. "The goal is to help these three companies ... and then we have other companies who have expressed an interest, so co-manufacturing those products is the next step," said Mike DiBernardo, Director of Food Innovation Programs for Eastern Market Corp., who helped imagine the program. For Owens this idea of giving back is awesome. "We're just happy to have a home now and we're going to be able to help other entrepreneurs because we just went through the struggles, they'll never have to have the struggles that we had," Owens said. Contact Allie Gross: [email protected] ___ (c)2017 the Detroit Free Press Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.