“Make it delicious and they will come.” – Helen Lampkin
When Helen Lampkin was a young wife in central Arkansas, she made the decision to be a homemaker. She did this at a time when many women were leaving the house to pursue a career.
“I got a lot of grief from other women about staying home,” Lampkin explained. “[Homemakers] were thought of as not doing anything important or contributing to society.”
However, Lampkin had an epiphany related to a Bible verse that confirmed her choice. Colossians 3:23 reads “Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord….” That verse came back to her as she swept her kitchen floor one afternoon.
“I thought, ‘seriously, Lord? I have to sweep wholeheartedly?’” Lampkin said laughing. “And the answer came back ‘Yes, wholeheartedly. It’s okay that you want to stay home.’ From that point forward I felt great about it.”
She had no way of knowing where that wholehearted sweeping would lead her.
For decades, ketchup was the number one condiment used in America. That changed in 1991. There was something new in town – salsa. The category of products which includes several types of chili-pepper-based sauces beat out ketchup by a decisive $40 million in sales that year.
A decade later, Lampkin’s family encouraged her to sell her homemade salsa. It was a variation of a recipe her brother passed along in the late 1970s.
“That first recipe really was from my brother,” Lampkin said smiling. “My whole family loves to cook, loves to share food. As I gave away jars, I would say ‘try my brother’s salsa’.”
That salsa gained in popularity with family and friends during the years she gave it away. In 2003, she finally decided to look into the possibility of making it available to a bigger audience. Soon, Helen was incorporating the name and attending FDA labeling classes.
Today, My Brother’s Salsa is a premium brand available at more than 2,000 stores across the country. It’s a testament to the value of a supportive family and a vision to feed people quality food. The company is run by Lampkin, her daughter Ashley and son-in-law Blake; COO and CEO respectively. One of her strongest commitments is the quality of her ingredients.
“If we thin something down, or use different ingredients to get a better margin, the recipe isn’t going to come out the same as it is at our house,” she said.
That commitment created challenges with some manufacturers, but it’s the key to something Lampkin likes to promote about the company’s products. They help busy homemakers provide a quality meal for their families without a lot of expensive ingredients and preparation time.
“Using the salsa makes cooking so easy,” Lampkin explained. “You don’t need to buy a lot of ingredients, because they’re all in the jar.”
In the early days of the business, Lampkin was her own delivery driver. She’d crisscross the state in the family SUV loaded with fresh batches of salsa. But when she visited the Dallas gourmet food market in the mid-2000s the resulting orders from surrounding states made the SUV delivery method impossible.
In 2011, her son-in-law, Blake, left his corporate job to join the company’s leadership. My Brother’s Salsa became part of the Showcase Events (then called Road Shows) with Sam’s Club – a move Blake believes is the biggest turning point for the company so far. “We were on tour, basically,” explains Blake. “We learned things [a new business owner] would never think about; things like inventory management… we learned so much about our infrastructure.”
It was through those initial meetings with Sam’s Club that that the family made another important choice to stand out in the growing grocery store salsa category.
According to a survey done by Walmart in its stores, 90 percent of female customers indicated they would “go out of their way” to purchase products from companies that are owned by other women. Helen had already started the lengthy process required to be certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) as being “women-owned,” so during one of her meetings with Sam’s Club representatives, she asked if it would be beneficial to the company for them to finish that process.
“They told me if there are two salsas in front of them that are equal in every way, and one is certified, they would go with the certified business.”
She went home from the meeting and completed the paperwork.
Simply speaking, My Brother’s Salsa wasn’t founded because the Lampkin family wanted to own a successful company, but out of a homemaker’s desire to share with her community. Selling salsa is just an extension of Lampkin’s passion for feeding others by sharing family recipes with more people than she is able to cook for in her own kitchen.
“I really do think our company can make a difference in people’s lives. It’s not a company just to be a company,” she said. “It’s more about creating a legacy. It’s about asking ourselves ‘what can we create that other people can come and be a part of?’”
For more information about My Brother’s Salsa, including recipes and online shopping portal, visit the company’s website at http://www.mybrotherssalsa.com/