This week on The EnTRUEpreneurship Podcast, Wes interviews Pamela Giusto-Sorrells, President at Pamela’s Products. Pamela’s Products was founded out of a desire to offer tasty gluten-free cookies, in a time where these treats were nonexistent. Since its founding in 1988, Pamela’s Products has delivered on its promise and now features a wide variety of gluten-free comfort foods, including cookies, baking mixes, pancake mixes, bread mixes, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, and even Ramen noodles — a line which is currently rolling out.
Over her time as an entrepreneur, Pamela has made a habit of proving people wrong, most notably her father, who told her that a woman couldn’t possibly run their family’s baking business. She also surprised retailers, distributors and consumers, who all thought that delectable gluten-free treats were a pipe dream. But, on the podcast, Pamela explains how her passion for her product allowed her to push beyond the critics and beyond her own fears and trailblaze in an industry that simply needed some freshly baked ideas.
The EnTRUEpreneurship Takeaway:
“I’ve always thought that if my product tastes great, people will want to eat it. And it won’t matter if you’re gluten intolerant or if you just want a really great-tasting cookie."
“I like that I can put food on the market that people respond to because, again, that to me is the game. Will people like it? Because if they like it, then they’re going to buy it."
“When you’re struggling to pay your bills, you’re looking for the cheapest person that you can afford. If I had to do it all over again, I would be more interested in what [my hires] brought to the table, rather than how much they were by the hour."
“That was my biggest fear the whole time I was starting the business. It took me about 15 years, I think, to stop being worried that I wasn’t going to sell any cookies tomorrow."
“It doesn’t matter whether or not you have a problem with gluten; you can still eat [my cookies] and enjoy them… I kind of liked being able to ‘win the war,’ so to speak.”
“The thing that people don’t realize when they start a food company is that the recipe is the smallest part of it. You have to be a packaging engineer. You have to be a graphic designer. You have to understand printing, trucking, supply and demand, scheduling — and that’s just to produce product, not the selling aspect."
“Stuff happens in life. And if you’re going to be a manufacturer, you’ve got to be able to troubleshoot. You have to be able to play the chess game of, ‘I can move here or I can move there. Where can I best move the piece to get the job done?’"
Bullet Points (w/ timestamps) - Highlighting key topics discussed:
3:24: Pamela discusses how organic food entrepreneurship is in her family line and recaps the events leading up to the founding of her brand.
11:06: Pamela explains how her idea for the business was brushed off by her father and how she found success when she took her recipes to a neighboring bakery.
13:17: Pamela discusses how the relationship with her father wasn’t strained because gluten-free cookies were only a small part of his business.
14:12: Giusto-Sorrells describes her earliest marketing attempts — mailing letters to distributors — and how he eventually landed her first big deal.
19:05: Giusto-Sorrells explains the driving factors behind why her business was attractive to the first retailer to take interest in Pamela’s Products.
23:26: Pamela describes how she was able to manage increasing demand for her products, which boils down to relationships and grit.
27:10: Pamela shares how her business was financed in the early days and how fears of failure dominated her thoughts.
29:22: Giusto-Sorrells explains how her love for her business and her product helped her press through fears in her early days.
34:37: Pamela highlights her company’s ever-expanding product line, which will even feature ramen noodles later this year.
37:49: Pamela shares some excellent advice around making smart hires — especially in the earliest days.
Bullet List of Resources –