This week we meet Cory Neil, owner and CEO of Mr. Pete’s Cajun Spices, as he tells us his story of how he got his business started and shares his advice to new business owners.
What inspired you to start your business?
Mr. Pete’s Cajun Spices was originally owned by my father. As a child, I can remember as it neared dinner time, I could hear the sounds of the pots and pans clashing, smell the different aromas coming from the kitchen, and recognize the hard work involved in preparing meals. I became interested in learning the art of preparing fine dishes, and assisted my father in the kitchen as often as I could. Over time, my father took his culinary skills and opened his very first authentic seafood restaurant. I was able to get involved; and more experience provided me with the same skills that my father possessed. Unfortunately, after many years of success, the restaurant experienced devastation when it was stricken by fire. My father decided to accept his fate, and he moved on incorporating his love of cooking in a different undertaking.
Throughout the years in the restaurant, my father and I would blend spices to give our dishes just the right flavors. After much thought and plenty more mixing, my father decided to offer his authentic flavors as a wholesale dealer of spices to local supermarkets. This way, he was still able to bring his essence into the very kitchens of his customers. Recently, my father had decided that the business had become a bit overwhelming and approached me to purchase the company. He knew that I would continue to offer his true blends and create new flavors to accentuate his product line. I was truly honored by my father’s faith in my abilities to continue his legacy.
In July 2011, I purchased this company from my father and jumped in feet first. His hard work and dedication has inspired me to also embrace my love of food and its delectable flavors and to produce only the finest blends that I also serve in my kitchen today for my family.
What sets your company apart from its competitors?
My company is much different than the competitors in that I offer authentic flavors. I do not add fillers or load my products with unnecessary sodium to be financially competitive. In fact, I can include all of the delicious spices (which are more costly) and still offer my products at competitive prices, because I do not have the overhead that our competition has. My company is a family-based company that is run solely by our family. From the mixing to the distributions, myself and my wife handle all affairs with Mr. Pete’s Cajun Spices. Therefore, we are able to keep costs down and pass the savings on to our customers.
My products are also enhanced by the packaging labels, and as one of our customers describe “unique”. We design a separate label for each of our products. The graphics are very colorful and are eye-catching to potential buyers. We take pride in knowing that each design truly represents the product inside the packaging.
Finally, my company is also incomparable when it comes to product satisfaction. I guarantee that my products are of the very best of quality. Our goal is customer satisfaction, which begins at the creation of the products. I feel that if I can get you to try it, you’ll ‘Get Hooked On It!!!’
What is your favorite part of running your own business?
My favorite part of running my own business is the results, of course. Not the results of profiting, nor the results of business growth. It is the seeing the satisfaction on the customers’ faces. It is hearing the feedback from the customers. Each weekend, my wife and I go out to the supermarkets that carry our products to demonstrate our flavors. We like to gain a response from the customers and hear their reviews. I like to tell this story, because it just feels so satisfying to experience it. As I am cooking, my wife serves the customers. We watch them take samples and continue walking down the grocery aisles. Then, it hits them… the flavors. They turn around only to come back and ask about the product. They become interested in reciprocating the same great tastes that we serve to them. Witnessing that fulfillment provides me with gratification in knowing that I am achieving my goals and ultimately my dreams.
What lessons did you learn along the way that can help new businesses just starting up?
Although my business is still fairly new under my ownership and I am learning something new each day, I would suggest to new business owners to complete a lot of research. Begin with a business plan. Set goals for yourself, and then determine how to carry out those goals. Research the market industry, your competition, and your customers. Don’t make hasty decisions. Instead, make educated decisions. You must also have the heart for your chosen business. If it is not something you yourself believe in, how will you make others (your customers) believe in your product(s) or service(s)?
How do you use social media (Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc.) to promote your business and engage with customers?
Social media has been a great influence in my business. When my father had the company, he relied solely on word-of-mouth. Even though that may be a large part of marketing, I was able to take my business a step further by offering my products on line through my website. However, I was not seeing the visitors I was hoping for. Incorporating social media has allowed me to introduce my company to so many more people from all over the world. Social media is also an excellent outlet for others to share my products with their family and friends. I like to inform my customers of new products, events, or simply give them a recipe to follow using my spice blends. Even though my website features these topics, I can share them through more channels to gain more visitors and ultimately customers. I also use one specific form of social media for professional business contacts. I have been able to locate and instill interest with major supermarket networks. I have also been contacted by distributors and other types of business that can help in my company’s growth. I would highly recommend any business owner to take part in social media. After all, that is where your potential customers are congregating.
What are some new or exciting things we can look forward to for your business in the near future?
My business is growing beyond even my own belief! I will be introducing many more products into my line in the next couple of months. I am also marketing my products to more grocery chains, so that I can offer my Cajun seasonings in many more areas. Look forward to Mr. Pete’s Cajun Spices possibly sitting on your local grocery shelves!
Anything else you’d like to share?
I think that by managing my own company solely without the use of employees at this time is my best quality, as I am able to offer my customers the personal service they have come to appreciate. I believe that the personal service, as well as the competitive pricing, gives me a step up to the competition, which ultimately gains success. I wouldn’t have been able to manage my own website, as I am not technology-savvy to say the least. Intuit has made this task accommodating and enjoyable. I am able to provide an accurate depiction of my company by customizing my site in a Cajun theme, and it is fun to be able to observe my very own creative works.
Thanks, Cory! Check them out at