Aiken Area SBDC client Belinda Smith-Sullivan, or Chef Belinda as the cooking world has come to know her, has gone from food writing and being a personal chef to building a spicy empire, Chef Belinda Spices.
After starting her company, Chef Belinda realized she needed a little guidance on the business development end. She found the Aiken Area SBDC and met Laura DiSano, who became her private consultant. Chef Belinda had three food-oriented businesses going at once, but she wasn’t sure where to focus her energies. To determine which of her businesses held the most potential, DiSano gave her an assignment to write about the money, time, energy and financial benefit involved in food writing, being a personal chef, and creating and selling her spices.
“Laura was a godsend,” Chef Belinda said. “She helped me focus on what was going to get me the farthest. I know I can always call Laura and if she can’t help me she will find somebody who can. The entire SBDC family has been great. They give great encouragement.”
Often the SBDC uses a team approach to counseling and Chef Belinda’s project offered the opportunity to bring in consultants with different areas of expertise. While Laura DiSano helped with business focus, Tom Lauria of the Charleston Area SBDC looked into exporting into Canada and Nancy Williamson worked with her on her website and social media.
“I had three phases of a business and wasn’t sure where to focus. But after I completed the assignment, product development and the sale of my spice blends was the clear winner,” Chef Belinda said. Happy to focus on inventing spice blends, she started with four savory blends, Everyday Blend, Mediterranean Steak Spice, Grains of Paradise and Grilling Rub. She later added four more herb/spice blends to her product line including Herb Sea Salt, Blackened Spice Blend, Seafood Spice Blend and Greek Spice Blend. Her newest addition to her product line is what she calls warming spices, which include three varieties of coffee spice blends with international flavors like Turkish and Moroccan.