Targeted Business Training for Growth-Oriented Companies
Being able to participate in business training led by professionals that understood the food and beverage industry was the driving factor for Cass Cannon, founder of Peg’s Salt, to apply to the first cohort of the Food and Beverage Accelerator Program in the spring of 2021. The program was the first offered by the Virginia Small Business Development Center and Cureate Courses. Cannon was among ten companies selected, five from the Shenandoah Valley and five from the Charlottesville region.
The free, intensive 6-week program is designed to help the founders and CEOs of growth-oriented food and beverage producers acquire the competencies required to grow and scale existing operations. It also helps entrepreneurs to consider the next steps needed for strategic growth opportunities through wholesale, retail, and direct-to-consumer sales channels. Cannon was looking to explore new avenues for expanding her business and scaling production, and felt the accelerator was a great way to explore her options.
Acquiring Tools for Taking a Legacy Product to the Next Level
Peg’s Salt was originally created in the 1970’s by business founder Cass Cannon’s mother, Peg. Peg gave her signature seasoned salt away to friends and family throughout her life, a tradition that Cass carried on when she passed away. Once people tried Peg’s Salt, they didn’t want to cook without the versatile, flavor-enhancing mixture that made home cooking ridiculously easy: just add Peg’s Salt. What Old Bay seasoning is to seafood, Peg’s Salt is to every type of food.
Cannon launched Peg’s Salt in October 2012 and it is now a household staple in thousands of homes. The magical thing about Peg’s creation — besides the unique effect it has on food — is the way people share it with friends and family, just like she shared it in the very beginning. Skilled and beginner cooks alike will discover a sense of confidence and deliciousness that will transform all their culinary creations.
Cannon says the training and mentoring that she received during the Food & Beverage Accelerator allowed her to objectively consider all the decisions that need to be made when expanding. She adds that the program “…helped me take a much harder look at our audience and to identify those consumers’ needs and desires. Our marketing has changed a bit to target those individuals and speak to what they care about, like entertaining at home.”
Connections Made, Collaborations Born
The Food & Beverage Accelerator also offered participants the unique opportunity to connect with other producers and form collaborations. Cannon swapped ideas and site visits with two other Shenandoah Valley entrepreneurs, PrePOPsterous founder Tisha McCoy-Ntiamoah and Jon Henry General Store founder Jon Henry. As a result, Jon will be stocking Peg’s Salt in his store and Peg’s Salt will be producing Peg’s Popcorn Salt very soon.
The Ultimate Value of SBDC Business Training
For business owners like Cass Cannon, the ultimate value in participating in SBDC programs like the Food & Beverage Accelerator is a greater sense of confidence. Cannon explains: “I am a lot more comfortable with the way I speak and think about Peg’s Salt and its future. The homework assignments made for good discussions and further inquiry with my partner, Michael, and it helped me be more objective about decisions, especially ones that expand our capacity.”
In the Works, Where to Buy
In addition to Peg’s Popcorn Salt, the Peg’s Salt team is working on selling Peg’s Pink Salt in pound bags and launching a no-salt version called Peg’s Salt-Free. Peg’s Salt products are available on the Local Goodness shelves at Food Lion stores and in Whole Foods markets throughout Virginia as well as in specialty grocery or gift shops that feature local products. You’ll find an extensive list of stores that carry the company’s products at https://pegssalt.com/pages/find-us, and can also purchase online at pegssalt.com or on Amazon.