What It's About
Portlander dishes out pozole to the people, bringing in multiple six-figures.
Words of Wisdom
When we asked Chris what kind of advice he had for others looking to do something similar, he said that you should build a solid foundation as soon as possible so that you don't have to piece together elements of your business on the fly. He also advises you to judiciously survey the market and ask yourself where your business fits in the larger space.
Although it has certainly reached some impressive heights, Pozole to the People started as a bike-powered cart serving fresh soup at public events. Now it’s a growing retail brand that can be found in locally run grocery stores in Portland, Eugene, and Seattle!
Notes from Chris
Chris Bailey remembers his father’s pozole with deep nostalgia. A traditional Mexican stew made with chilis, hominy, and spices, his dad learned to make it during childhood in Arizona, and even though he later raised his family in Hawaii, he kept the tradition going. Those Sunday pozole dinners are some of Chris’ favorite memories growing up, and years later he wanted to keep the tradition going for his family. Except, it wasn’t easy. It had to be made from scratch, and it took a long time. He searched and searched for pozole soup starters in stores, but came up emptyhanded. So then, as the story often goes, he decided to make his own. Or in this case, he would take his pozole to the people. Chris had moved to Portland, Oregon a few years earlier for college. He became a micro-enterprise developer for the region’s only Latino market hall and business incubator. He’d seen—and helped—dozens of new businesses grow. Now it was time to build his own. He started creating large batches of his pozole recipe in a shared commissary kitchen. He then bought a food handler’s license and purchased a bike-powered cart that he could take to the local farmer’s market and other public events. It took several months to put these first pieces together, but when he set up at his first event, the public responded positively. It was cold in Portland in the Fall of 2015, and Chris’ hot, savory pozole was just the thing to keep people cozy while they were enjoying an event outside. For months, Chris drove his cart to various events and sold out, generating thousands in sales—but he dreamed bigger. He was going to get his pozole starters in stores. One big step was enrolling in the Getting Your Recipe To Market program that was run by the city’s Small Business Development Center at the beginning of 2016. There he learned more about setting up his business, getting his products in stores, and marketing. Over the course of the 14-week course, Chris created that brand: Pozole to the People. At the end of the course, the entrepreneurs were able to pitch their products to New Seasons Markets, a regional grocery chain. They loved Chris’s pozole starters, filled out a purchase order, and tested the product out in a few Portland stores. Three stores became four, then seven, then ten. Chris spend a large portion of the week making his pozole, but he always saved some time to pitch his product. Pozole To The People, over the next several months, found its way into the local stores Food Fight!, New Foods Market, and Elephants Delicatessen. Growth was slow but intentional. Chris didn’t want to risk losing quality in his product, so he kept making it by hand, ensuring it honored his memory of Sunday Night Dinners. In 2017, Pozole to the People had its first $100,000 year. In 2018, the brand generated nearly $250,000. But Chris isn’t settling down yet—nor is he hoarding the success for himself. He’s looking to develop a manufacturing facility of his own to help scale his production properly. But he’s also hoping to use that facility as a job training site for creating opportunities for people who dream of starting their own food businesses. It was never just about the money. It was about bringing his nostalgia—and the nostalgia of the Mexican community—to life, and using that experience to uplift others.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Pozole to the People: Give the people what they want—pozole mix by the jar! Learn more about Chris' product over on his website
- Salesman’s Spicy Side Hustle Serves Up Serious Sales: After hosting a popular Super Bowl party, a St. Louis salesman brings his fiery-hot, yet extra-flavorful hot sauce to the market
- Blogger Turns Leftover Cherries Into $5,000/Month Income: After being diagnosed with diabetes, a food blogger creates a sugar-free line of ketchup alternatives
- NYC Banker Launches All-Natural, Drinkable Pickle Brine: When a NYC banker sets out to create a drinkable pickle juice, it turns into a big dill. You’ll relish the lessons from this story!
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