Many advocates of pink Himalayan salt believe in the health claims that it reduces signs of aging, improves sleep quality, regulates blood sugar and, among other things, improves respiratory diseases.
Those claims may not have been evaluated by the FDA, but Patti Janz, owner of Pink Fusion Spices of Kaukauna, has discovered many personal benefits from her own use; those experiences have led to her business startup. And it all started with a salt lamp.
“Before starting this business, I was retiring and thought I was too young to sit at home,” Janz said. “I fell in love with pink Himalayan salt lamps and started selling them at home parties.”
But that venture was short-lived. Home parties were becoming passé, and as larger retailers began selling the lamps, it was no longer a profitable venture.
That led to experimentation with recipes that included the salt, and as Janz used it, she believed that it improved the quality of the food.
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She said: “I love cooking and I loved the salt. I am a salt-a-holic. I took a cooking class where it was used and discovered that this salt doesn’t make a person thirsty or swollen; it regulates fluid in your body.”
Pink Himalayan salt is less processed than table salt and contains trace minerals. It is extracted from a salt mine located near the Himalayas in Pakistan and is hand-extracted and minimally processed, with a pink color. Janz explains all of this on her website where she also features a product list that continues to expand.
She attributes much of that growth to what she learned by participating in the E-seed Entrepreneurial Training Series for Veterans (there are also classes for non-veterans) at the Venture Center at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton where Amy Pietsch is director.
“When I started thinking about this business, I knew I needed to do something,” Janz said. “I had been out of school for decades when I heard about the E-seed program. Even though I thought that business classes didn’t sound very interesting, that changed when I met Amy Pietsch. She made it exciting.”
Janz also learned a great deal. She said that the courses explained all of the primary business processes. She learned how to form an LLC, apply for a commercial kitchen license, and met with bankers, lawyers, other business owners and marketing people.
“You learn a little about each step of the business and the channels you are going to take,” she added.
In developing a business plan, she was able to define her niche. Pink Fusion Spices would feature Himalayan salt and spice blends and all products would be organic, clean and gluten-free without fillers and anti-caking agents. Each batch would be hand-mixed in smaller quantities to ensure freshness.
The business launched in mid-2018 and debuted at local farmers markets. The reaction was encouraging. First-time customers became repeat customers, and there were calls for additional spice blends.
“At first, I didn’t try for the bigger markets,” she said. “I wanted to see if this would fly and was doing six smaller markets a week. Every day, I was going to a different city and getting feedback from customers. I didn’t have any people coming back and saying they didn’t like it.”
By 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, Janz graduated to larger markets. Because the markets were outside and people wanted to have someplace to go, the business flourished. With more people cooking at home, the sales of salt and spices skyrocketed. She developed a stronger ecommerce section on her website, and those sales grew as well.
Now active at Green Bay and Appleton markets and with a good ecommerce site, Janz is turning her attention to retail shops. The products are in several stores (listed on her website — www.pinkfusionspices.com), but she would like to add to that.
“I’m trying to focus on getting in more stores,” Janz said. “I’m looking at meat markets and smaller stores. Cold calling has been hard for me, but I’ve been going into a store with a few samples, my business card and a wholesale list. If people come to me, I can talk to them all day, but going into stores is not easy.”
Yet, she is facing her fears and putting together lists of potential businesses to target. There have been other challenges, as well. One of the most difficult has been finding commercial kitchen space to rent. Several local kitchens are no longer available, and she feels fortunate to have recently found a new place to mix and blend.
In addition to the blends, customers have requested individual spices that are natural and organic. Janz has added many to the product list and is continually creating more. The list now includes 30 spice blends, more than 40 single spices and six herb-flavored salts.
For a “retired” person, Janz is very busy. The growth of the business has her looking forward to being able to hire a co-packer in the near future. She looks back at the progression from producing only pink Himalayan salt products to making dozens of others, and credits groups like the Venture Center, Fox Cities SCORE, and her friend, Hippie Wayne, a local entrepreneur, for their mentoring and guidance.
“Check out those sources,” she said. “At the Venture Center, you get so many resources and Amy will always be there for you. I thought I was going to just start a business, but I learned there was so much I didn’t know I needed to do. I’m glad I learned all of that.”
And, while the journey hasn’t been without mistakes, Janz looks at those setbacks as learning experiences.
“It fits into my favorite quote,” she noted. “I found this one when I first started, ‘Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.’”
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.