Two years ago, Lynnae’s Gourmet Pickles was nothing more than a figment of Lynnae Schneller’s imagination.
She had been making pickles with her great-grandmother’s recipe for her friends and family over the holidays for years, but it wasn’t until 2011 that she decided to take their advice and begin selling them.
“I just had the idea one day and then the next day I just decided to start taking action. I came up with name and logo and called the Department of Agriculture,” Schneller said.
At the time, she had two kids at home and was tired of commuting to Seattle, where she worked at Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s corporate office.
“My background is in business and sales, nothing to do with food,” Schneller said. But Schneller told herself she could learn and got right to work.
With her sister-in-law Aly Cullinane and several other relatives, Schneller rented out the Fircrest Community/Recreation Center for $50 per day to start making her pickles.
She set up shop at local farmers markets and approached coffee shops and small businesses to see if they’d carry her products.
Within a few months, the pickle company outgrew the recreational center and Schneller began looking into other options. She considered renting her own space, but, rather being tied to a lease and utility bills, Schneller opted to buy a trailer and convert it into her own commercial kitchen.
“I didn’t want to have a lot of overhead,” Schneller said. “We only spent like $6,000 total (for buying and remodeling the trailer), and that lasted us a whole year to do production.”
Looking back, she realizes this is one of the smarter decisions she made.
“Our biggest thing has been keeping cost down,” Schneller said. “I did know going in that the majority (of food startups) fail, so I did my research.”
In her first year, Schneller sold between 7,000 and 8,000 jars of pickles, bringing in about $30,000. In 2012, she raked in $144,000 in revenue, selling 50,000 jars, and, this year, she’s selling an average of 8,000 jars per month and expects to make about $280,000 in revenue.
With production up, Schneller and Cullinane relocated to a Portland facility, which they share with a fruit company.
They’re currently selling in 26 states, but Schneller said she hopes to be in all 50 by the end of the year.
Despite the success she’s achieved, Schneller still participates in farmers markets and festivals, where she first sold her products.
“We just try to be at everything, just to introduce ourselves and be there, so then, when they see (our products) in the store, they’ll remember us,” Schneller said.
Schneller has stuck to keeping costs down too.
It’s still her and her sister-in-law packing pallets, and she’s the company’s one-woman sales team.
“As long as we can get away with doing that, we want to put our money into growth,” Schneller said.
Looking back, Schneller also credits her success to a six-month public relations campaign in which she sent out about 1,000 jars of pickles to top writers and editors across the country.
“We were featured in The Wall Street Journal when we were only two months old, because some lady just happened to try them,” Schneller said. “Over the last year, we’ve been featured in more than 150 magazines and articles. It has helped (us) get into that shelf space. We knew it was an investment.”
If you’re interested in reading about another local food startup that’s seeing success, check out our story about Madyson’s Gourmet Marshmallows in Sumner.