Britt shares her difficult experience with taking over her late father’s seasoning business and how this experience helped her recognize opportunities for restaurants and food trucks to productize their brand, food and ingredients.
Ken: Welcome to the Physical Product Movement, a podcast by Fiddle, we share stories of the world’s most ambitious and exciting physical product brands to help you capitalize on the monumental change in how, why and where consumers buy. I’m your host, Ken Ojuka.
In this episode, I talk with Britt Whidden, Co-Founder of Gimme Some, a business with the goal to represent and distribute culturally relevant flavors and food products to grocery stores. She talks about the difficulty and strain of taking over her late father’s seasoning business. She describes how this tough experience helped her recognize the opportunities for restaurants and food trucks to productize their brand.
Food and ingredients. It’s an interesting episode with loads of great advice for food entrepreneurs, looking to take it to the next level. Hello. Hello, Brittany. Thank you for joining me. Welcome to the podcast.
Britt: Thank you so much for having me
Ken: Thank you so much for taking the time. Uh, we’d like to kick this off by maybe hearing a quote, uh, that you’d like to live by or something that’s been impactful to you.
Britt: Quote that I like to live by show the fuck up. It’s from a mentor that I had. It was the first time that I went to my professor in college and said, I don’t know what else to do. And that was his response. And it stuck with me ever since.
Ken: Can you just tell us a little bit about yourself?
Britt: Yeah. Uh, I’m Brittany Whidden. I go by Britt, um, two teas. I always finish the syllable and I’m based outside of Nashville. I’ve got ties to Central Florida, came up in the food world, uh, left and went to marketing and social media and PR, and then came back to food products. I’m a cat and a dog person. Uh, I don’t care what kind they are, as long as I can have them.
And I just started my tomatoes for the season. Super stoked about that.
Ken: Nice, nice. A cat and a dog person you’re not messing around. Are you?
Britt: Everybody needs love, except for bird people. You can, you can, at me, I’m not a bird person.
Ken: Why don’t we, uh, just learn a little bit about your business and you’re currently running a business called gimme some.
Um, but you also ran a business called Longhorns signature syncing. What can you tell us about those businesses?
Britt: So I left the PR marketing world to run my family’s seasoning company. My father passed away unexpectedly and he had immortal dad’s syndrome. So he never wrote anything down. He had one of those brains where he could remember.
Your phone number, your face, the, the job you had the name of your first house, right? Where your streetwise, but he never wrote anything down. So I decided to leave marketing my siblings. Weren’t interested in running the company, but I was ready to get out of. Technology startup planned and do my own thing again.
And I started taking over his, um, with the seasoning and three years later, now, here we are with gimme some and it’s gimme me some was started by myself and another partner, uh, who has a product. And we had the same stories. We had wildly different routes of getting to these situations though. So we decided to create, gimme some as a way to advocate for ourselves.
So Rhonda, my partner would say, Oh, let me talk to my distributor at, gimme some Brittany I’ll be in touch and I would do the same thing. Reverse. Let me talk to Rhonda at my distributor. Let me see what our warehouse space looks like. And we’ll go from there. And it worked for us while, like w it was just whatever we need it to be.
Give me some was there. And Our slice, the pie got bigger and then we made the other pies and it was awesome. It is awesome.
So let’s go back just a little bit. LA horns, signature syncing. So that was your dad’s business. And then you took over.
Correct? Yeah. He was a classically trained chef and he worked in a really big hotel out in Denver called the Brown palace and was in charge of commissary from what I’ve been told.
I was not there. I don’t think I would have enjoyed the eighties in Denver personally, based on these stories I’ve heard, but here we are. And he was just really bad at firing people. So he came in. Week after week losing revenue. I was like, I’m going to create this base blend to put on everything. And if people don’t mess it up, then we’ll get them promoted.
Because most of his kitchen staff, it was their first job in the United States. So they could speak English. They maybe couldn’t read it, or if they could read it, it was really broken and they did more with, uh, better with like pictographs or infographics. And that was 20 years ago. Um, then we had a restaurant and central Florida and it was the only thing my dad used.
And in 2008, when the economy tanked the first time, we relied pretty heavily on tourism outside of Orlando. And this guy from Hormel meats came in and we didn’t know who he was. The guy asked for like a pound of the seasoning that was on the father’s day special. Prime rib or whatever steak it was. My dad laughed him out.
He’s like, it’s a thousand dollars. And this band started taking out his checkbook. And my dad’s like, no, no, that was, that was Floridian for it. You should go. And we got a call from his sister who we went to church with and. Learned that this guy worked for Hormel meats and like was really nice. And my dad met him at the cell phone waiting lot of air Orlando international airport with two pounds of seasoning, two gallon, like Ziploc bags full and said, just let me know what you think.
And six months later, the restaurant closed and my parents decided to pivot and open the seasoning. And it was a wild chapter ever since.
Ken: Okay. So how did you guys distribute the seasoning? I mean, how did you run that business? Did you have a website where people were buying for, or was buying from, or is it mostly wholesale to restaurants and other places like that?
Britt: All right. We are at the height of everything. We were an, probably about 1500, 1700 Kroger stores and their repertoire everywhere from King Soopers to Kroger itself. And. We did online sales. Now we still I’ve. I’ve closed the website. We’ve got to close my father’s estate this year, um, for the sake of my own mental health.
But with that, we decided to close the business. So we’ve liquidated our inventory. To gimme some. And we currently sell the remaining inventory on Amazon only. Um, but when we decided to close the business, we decided to close all the wholesale accounts, uh, at the end of the day, I think when I took over our wholesale is about 85% of the business.
And I think I grew, e-commerce probably to about 75 or 80% wholesale versus. Where it was so like,
Ken: Like direct to consumer?
Britt: Yes. That’s the word?
Ken: So I, I guess I don’t know too much about the seasoning business, you know, and I, and I, I would guess that the, the listeners also, you know, don’t know too much about that type of business. So, you know, how would you go about getting some of these, you know, these wholesale accounts getting into Kroger, for instance, maybe, maybe even just telling us the story of how you guys ended up in Kroger, you know, would be helpful to those that are, you know, maybe looking at this type of business, um, and how they go about it?
Britt: Yeah. So first of all, when it comes to being into the seasoning and any really commodity space, it is not lost on me that I am a white woman with a seasoning company, like know your truth, know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing and what you’re not supposed to be doing. And then find people who will help you source is ethically, right.
As possible. Um, that’s step one, step two for getting a wholesale accounts is showing up, like show up all the time. Every time I have a very distinct memory of my last year at college, um, my dad decided to, instead of just letting our broker at the time, Pitch the seasoning. My dad decided to drive to Cincinnati and pitch the headquarters in person.
And he picked me up on the way I was in college at Gainesville university of Florida. Go Gators have to do it. We’re not going to have a great year this year. I just, I can feel it. And we literally in front of Kroger headquarters in downtown Cincinnati had a portable grill, had our little butane things and we cooked an entire spread for a 10 minute pitch.
And. We had the bike cops coming around. Like when I say show up, I mean, figure out whatever it takes to make an impression, but just don’t be rude about it. Like, if you can bring something that you actually made and show that it works.
Ken: Yeah. That’s pretty awesome. And I guarantee most people wouldn’t go to that, that kind of trouble. So how did the spread turn out? How did the pitch go?
Britt: I mean, obviously it went pretty well. We started off with 500 stores originally and activated some more DCS and Texas, uh, with Walmart, which inspired Kroger to do more distribution through the Midwest, eventually leading out to Denver and it, as long as you can keep your production on time, it works.
Ken: Awesome. What about, uh, you know, the seasoning business? You mentioned that your dad had the one seasoning that he put on pretty much everything. Uh, did you guys, uh, expand skews? Did you, you know, offer additional products on top of that or? No,
Britt: He did at, when I took over, we didn’t know what was going on at the time.
It only made sense to produce what was in stores for the sake of cashflow, for the sake of everything. Because being a small business owner, his personal social security number was attached to everything. So the second that death certificate went live, everything froze, and I had to be a cash only business and a credit only industry.
And there’s only so much you can do. Um, when you run your skiers. Now, if we had owned our own facility and we weren’t co-packing, I probably could have kept up those skews, but we, our primary sellers were the original and our Hickory blend. That capped out most of the bills being paid.
Ken: Okay. I see. Um, so what are the plans for the business?
Uh, now, um, you mentioned you’re still selling some on Amazon. Are you just going to sell through the inventory or are you actively producing more or what’s the state of the business right now?
Britt: The state of law horns is that it is no more. We’re closing it out. I’ve had to go through the estate. Um, my condolences to anybody else who ever has to deal with probate court than business of death is humbling and will inspire a level of grief that you didn’t know as possible in the middle of trying to run a business.
But the. The plan for gimme some right now is to become the advocate that Rhonda and I always needed and getting. Products into supply chain, by people who are already in the food and beverage industry, Asians and Pacific Islanders. Few identify as that. We want to know, so we can source your product to restaurants and like pitch menu items, and kind of create this limited supply chain with as few steps as possible.
Ken: So I’m wondering if you could expand a little bit on that and maybe even telling us a little bit about how you pivoted or you transitioned from Longhorns, uh, to give me some the, you know, the, the inspiration, how you teamed up with Ms. Rhonda and kind of how that all
Britt: Came about. Yeah. So I had actually pitched Rhonda when I was still in PR and marketing.
And so that, I don’t think that we, I should work for you, but I, I know that I’m going to need to be friends. I just had one of those woo woo. Moments of. This is going to be an important person in your life.
Ken: How did you meet her?
Britt: We met through networking groups in Nashville. I think it was probably handshakes and high heels or one of those like fun alliteration groups where everybody’s a sassy business owner and like shows up and. I know it wasn’t ladies get paid, cause she’s never come to one of those events with me, but that’s how we met.
And so we, we talked on the phone and we met at Starbucks, uh, once upon a time because there was not a great coffee shop in our neighborhood and just kind of. Hit it off. Uh, she has a product called perfectly cordial and she’s also a full-time nurse and she’s a mom of two, like stupid and intelligent young men.
And I was just inspired by her. And six months after that coffee meeting, I took her to the seasoning and. I had just gotten off the phone with a co-packer who was demanding that I pay cash in advance for a PO that didn’t exist. And I said, well, what do you want me to do? I billed for $40,000 as a freelancer.
And as in copywriting and PR writing press release says, I know how to run a business. I’m telling this to the co-packer, what do you want me to do? And his spot response, like deadpan was just run the company like your father was,
Ken: Huh? Yeah. What do you mean? What do you mean by the, the appeal didn’t exist? Had you not play it or was it not there?
Britt: So they were still using a dot matrix printer. And I could not email my POS from Kroger to their system. I had to email it to my sales guy who couldn’t confirm whether or not they’d be able to make the product. Like they wouldn’t be able to, they couldn’t tell me how much they were being able to yield out of the PO right.
I said, well, I’m not going to turn it into PO unless you can tell me exactly what it’s going to be for. Because again, cash only business. I can’t run on. If I need to place an order for 2000 units and you can only make 50, I’m putting my budget forecast and to those 2000 bottles becoming a physical thing and they’re going to be inventory.
Ken: Yes. So you’re taking a risk. You know, unnecessarily if they can’t produce.
Britt: Exactly. And these were they’re really well-known co-packer and they just been bought out by an investor firm for the first time. In like 70 years, someone in the family wasn’t going to be running it. And it was beautiful that they had scaled, but they also just shit on so many makers who relied on their services.
And for this guy’s response to be, just do things the way your father did knowing full well that one, the man is dead. I can’t ask for his advice and two, he didn’t write anything down. So how, how am I supposed to run a business? Like he would, if I can’t see what needs to happen, like make it make sense.
And I called Rhonda because this woman is a, our house and she pre-sold 11,000 units of her cordial. I fund women without anyone ever tasting a drop. I was like, if somebody is going to know what this person meant, it’s going to be her. And. She had a very eerily similar story where she said she went to a co-packer and the person, I was like, these orders don’t exist.
They’re not from a store. They’re just, it was before e-commerce was a big to-do right. When it was still, you had to think about using Etsy in order to buy a gift. Right. It wasn’t. The maker movement really wasn’t heading full force in my opinion. And so she had the same story and that’s how we came up with.
Well, what if we had a company that sent our co-packers these purchase orders, would that give us more credibility? And it did. The second I could turn logistics over to our coordinator. I gave me some, which is really a guy that my mom tutored. Um, when he was in high school, there just happened to own his own truck.
Brokerage, like shout out to Larry Kendrick or appreciate you buddy. Like the world changed, suddenly everything shifted. We were taken more seriously and we could do more events. We could get into the lobby of. Women’s business centers and say, Oh, this is what we’re doing. Here’s how we do it. We were typically asked to show up to be the product people at like technology, networking things, healthcare networking, things like, Oh, product doesn’t have to be hospital equipment product. Doesn’t have to be SAS. Wow. We had no idea. This is so cool. And it went from there.
Ken: Yeah, that’s a very interesting, um, uh, origin story. Um, I have two questions. So the first one is why do you think that that, uh, co-packers response was the way it was? What do you think was behind that? You know, just run the business, like your, like your father ran it, you know, what was going on there?
Britt: I think it, some of it was my own bias. Right. I working in technology with all kinds of people working in all, like all of the different skill levels that I’ve come into contact with all the different verticals. I’ve always expected that everybody could tell you what happens before they start a role.
And what happens after, like where are they in the machine that makes the company run because. Well, like when I was with, um, the technology company, or even when I was writing card games, I knew that I needed to talk to the graphic designer to find out what font they were using, how big the words could be.
Like, how many lines could it be give or take for me to write? So I didn’t write this chapter for a card when, you know, I could edit it ahead of time and it wouldn’t be. Unnecessary work for somebody else. I thought that everybody had that approach and coming into commodities and spices. No, that person knows who their bosses and they know where it is and the timeline, but they could not tell you who’s in charge of the timeline before it’s their turn.
And that was, that was really devastating. I hope it’s a unique experience. I hope nobody else has ever had to feel that way. Another layer to it was. They were used to doing things the way they were. They were used to saying, this is the bottle. This is what we put it in. If you don’t like it, you can go.
And when I ask questions of why use probably purpling, if more and more recycling centers, aren’t accepting it. How do I make sure that this is a sustainable practice? What are you, what are you paying? People that farm your garlic, like where is it coming from? And the guy just couldn’t tell me he just shut down and lashed out of only tell me what you need me to do.
And don’t ask things that I don’t know the business about. And that kind of gave me the full perspective of. This guy really only shows up for one thing and while that’s great for him, I’m sure it made him happy. I could not in good conscience run a company like that ever again.
Ken: Right. Interesting. Yeah. And it sounds like he was, he was just showing up just, you know, don’t, don’t rock the boat. Don’t change things on me, you know?
Britt: Exactly. Also my dad’s a chef and I. I have no interest in going to cooking school. I don’t, I thought I wanted to own a food truck once upon a time, but I just, I don’t have any desire to be the chef driven company.
Right. Like I just don’t have that level of ego that I think he was used to dealing with
Ken: Okay. I understand. So, um, you mentioned that, uh, that things got better. Um, once you, you launched, um, gimme some, and you were able to advocate for some of these, these orders that had come in. Could you explain that a little bit? And why do you think it got better? Why do you think you were treated differently?
Britt: Uh, I think it was treated differently because on paper we made it. So that gave me some was 51% owner. Rhonda she’s a black woman with a product. And when we showed up and she was the one that started talking, people listened.
And they could see that we were more than just what we were asking for. Like we had the forethought, we had everything figured out. We just needed a place to showcase all of those emotional and laborious experiences in a productive way.
Ken: Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. So you’ve mentioned, you know, restaurants and food trucks, and I know gimme some, uh, on your website, I believe it says creating sustainability and passive income streams for restaurants and food trucks.
Could you explain a little bit about how you do that? You know, and, and how somebody would actually engage with you guys.
Britt: Yeah. So the passive income streams are my pet project within gimme some knowing that the seasoning was created in a restaurant, knowing that it was my entire FA, like my father’s entire livelihood for 10 years before he passed, I knew that.
Having a product that was approachable and accessible coming from a food world that could be propped up by a restaurant was. Great. Like if you can afford to make it, you can afford to make sure that you always have income coming in without sacrificing your labor force. So my goal is to go to restaurants that are regionally irrelevant. Uh, so like Bolton’s in Nashville is hot chicken. I never in my life wanted to put my name on a hot chicken recipe, as long as Bolton’s exists. It’s the reason for hot chicken, you know? And they’re just an example. We’re not working with them yet.
Ken: So somebody’s listening, you know, reaching out.
Britt: Bolden Matthew, if you hear this, please return my call now, anyway, I want to make sure that they have sustainable income. So my pet project is to license their business name for regionally relevant food and those food sources and make sure they have a product to share with their customers. So their customers are always bringing home their favorite flavors.
In addition to that for more. High-end or culturally repetitive. That sounds mean, I don’t know what word I’m trying to say for like the white guys for like people who don’t have the additional boxes to check when it comes to their restaurants, they make these open commitments to diversity and equity and inclusion.
Great, fine dandy. And then they want to talk about it. Well, I don’t think you have to talk about it in order to be about it. I don’t want to speak for Rhonda, but she also is of the mindset that why reinvent the wheel. If I can find it, give me some confine, you an ingredient that sourced from a black woman versus an indigenous person.
Like, it’s not the struggle Olympics to decide, like it really comes down to, did you even know these companies existed? Did you know that you could source these ingredients from the people who are responsible for making sure that your ancestors learned about it? It’s a little so boxy. I admit, however, we’re making an app with a catalog that allows businesses in food, service and hospitality.
To really commit to their supply chain. Give me some audits. We interview, we do, we do all the DEI work ahead of time to make sure that we’re not giving you somebody’s chocolate. That’s re that’s made in Haiti and then repackaged in the United States for the sake of import, you know, like we’re not that kind of shell company.
Ken: Right. So yeah. Tell us a little bit more about the app. You said that you’re launching that soon. Do you know when that’s going to happen?
Britt: Yeah, we have a baby prototype up where we are currently hiring somebody to go through all of the language and make sure that we’re talking about people and their experiences and the way that they find respectful, or you’ve got open products emissions.
If you have a product or have an ingredient that you want to source and get out into restaurants, it’s free, there’s no distribution activation fees or anything like that. It’s just us. We’re just here to make sure that people can advocate. So you can go to gimme some.biz/app and get started that way. Or just give me some dotbiz and the get started button.
We’ll get you to the app interface as well.
Ken: Okay. Awesome. Give us the address for the, uh, or how to find the, the app again. Could you give it to us one more time?
Britt: Yes. G I M M E S O M E dot B I Z forward slash app, which is app. And you can get started from there. Okay.
Ken: Very nice. So, uh, wanted to transition a little bit to the quick fire round.
Do you, uh, you ready? Okay. Okay. Name one tool or resources helped you the most, um, in your current position?
Britt: Oh, that one’s easy. The notion, notion.io. It’s a database that I basically put all of my brain into. So. If I die unexpectedly, people will know how to unlock the secrets of my mind.
Ken: That’s a pretty big promise.
Britt: It’s accurate. It’s they’re so cool. And there’s so many things that I don’t know how to do, but you can do them.
Ken: Yeah. Notion. Pretty awesome. Yeah. Um, what is one book that has helped you throughout your career?
Britt: Uh, the first one that hit my mind was the great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. Another one is let’s pretend this never happened by Jenny Lawson. Pretty great. Yeah.
Ken: Okay. And what is the one piece of advice that you would give to your 21 year old self?
Britt: Maybe don’t get into IPA’s. I think that would be a good one for my 21 year old self and also
Ken: True. There’s a story behind that.
Britt: Several, uh, go Gators, you know, just to come full circle. And I’d also say just chill out. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t even have to go into advertising if you don’t want to. That’s. Yes, that’s it.
Ken: All right. And is there a person and I guess it could be any person that you would love to take the lunch.
Britt: Ooh. If I could take anybody to lunch, it probably be Carla Hall. She is a chef. She’s on the bite. And she was in chopped. Uh, she’s a chef Carla hall. She’s really cool. And I like her and I liked that she put sweet potatoes in her potato salad.
Ken: Would you, uh, would you require her to cook if you were,
Britt: Oh hell no. Hell no, you can. If she wants to, I’m not going to stop her. Sure. However, that’s a meal for somebody else. To take care of, we just need to sit and enjoy.
Ken: Cool. Cool. So, uh, you know, with, with restaurants and, uh, you know, food trucks and just, you know, everybody dealing with this whole COVID situation, you know, what’s, what’s your outlook on, you know, sort of post COVID in the restaurant industry, you know, w what do you think are some of the changes that, that might be lasting?
Britt: I really look forward to proprietors and owners taking responsibility for their stash and the mental endurance. It takes to operate a customer facing business. I have that same professional trauma that a lot of people had, but I’ve, I’ve never had to deal with that in the middle of wondering whether or not I was going to get sick.
And so I think I would really, I would really, really in a perfect world, um, or even just slightly less than perfect world. I love to see. Mental health coming to the forefront for restaurant employees. I’d love to see some kind of family meal that isn’t just for the people on staff. Like it’s, you, you literally take care of the people after they leave your four walls.
And those are the things I want to see the most. Yeah, that’s pretty cool. And also concerts. I want food trucks, every concert I ever go to forever.
Ken: Yeah. I think, um, you know, not all restaurants obviously, um, been okay. Some have done surprisingly. Okay. You know, by shifting things around and doing more to go orders and drive-throughs and things like that.
But, you know, All in all. I think that the industry has been hit pretty hard, but I, I I’m very much looking forward to after we get past this, I just think there’s going to be just a ton of great, great businesses open up and you know, just the excitement of, okay, we can get back together. We can go to concerts, we can do all the things that we love to do.
And hopefully these businesses will do really well coming out of this.
Britt: Absolutely. I think it’s going to be a Testament to human ingenuity. You know, cottage laws became really popular after 2008 crash. What’s going to be this I’d like it for, to be passive income. I would love to have produced an item of swag that pays for.
A company’s entire payroll and like, whatever they do on top of that, like, it’s just done. It’s just icing on the cake. They can give it to their community, you know, reinvest it in, hiring more people, all those things. Yeah. I think I liked the world that we both just described. I like that sounds good.
Ken: Sounds good. Well, listen, Brittany, I appreciate you taking the time and, uh, you know, sharing your story with us today. Um, is there anything, um, that, uh, maybe some closing words that you’d like to give, you know, those people that are, you know, kind of in the, in the struggle right now in this, in this type of business and the physical products world, um, trying to figure out how to make it, um, what, what would you say to those people?
Britt: I would say that pay people for the time. That they put into your product. You don’t go see anybody. And if you go somebody don’t be surprised that they send you an invoice for the time that you missed. I think that’s more than appropriate right now. I also think that we need to do a better job in consumer goods and packaged goods of supporting the people that are already in our category already.
In our vertical. There is enough for everyone. To succeed. We just have to be open to sharing those barriers. I don’t care if we have the same bottle. I don’t care if we have the same label company. Like none of those things are a secret. I cannot patent a recipe. I can only trademark the name and how it looks.
Other than that, we should just be working together. We should just be talking and creating new standards of. Ethics and how businesses can operate in a traditional manner.
Ken: Well, fantastic. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. And, um, I guess just, uh, let’s close on that note. Um, if somebody wanted to reach out to you, uh, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Britt: They can go through the website or they can email me reference this podcast. So I don’t. Get freaked out and paranoid that you know who I am in the subject line. Uh, but my email is B as in boy, w at gimme summed up. Yes.
Ken: Okay. Awesome. Thanks you take care,
Britt: You too. Thank you, Ken.
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