SBDC helps local salsa company plan for growth

Thursday, October 15, 2020

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BURLINGTON – Skagit’s Best Salsa Co-Owner Jill Rohrs has had challenges keeping up with store demand for her southwest-style salsa in stock in 2020 with COVID-19 reshaping the economy.

“In the beginning of the pandemic, people were staying home and cooking more instead of going out to restaurants,” Rohrs said. “Grocery stores remain busier than ever.”

To figure out how to keep up with increased demand, Rohrs and co-owner Kirt Rohrs turned to the local Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC), partially funded by EDASC where it is co-located, for help.

And now, thanks to SBDC Advisor Cindy Brooks, Skagit’s Best Salsa is poised to expand in early 2021.

“The Small Business Development Center has been great in helping us plan for growth,” Jill Rohrs said. “Our Advisor Cindy Brooks helped us understand what it’ll take to grow this business and where it makes sense to grow.”

Rohrs said the SBDC helped educate her on planning for a targeted expansion, rather than growth for the sake of it, helping Skagit’s Best Salsa get the best bang for their buck.

Brooks is one of more than 30 SBDC business advisors working across the state to help Washington business owners start, grow or transition a business.

Locally, Brooks covers Skagit, San Juan and Island County and has provided no-cost advising to well over 200 business owners and entrepreneurs this year.

For planning growth, such as in the Rohrs’ case, Brooks takes a hard look at a client’s business.

“In general, I ask questions about the owner’s goals and what they consider their business growth potential to be,” Brooks said.

For Skagit’s Best Salsa, Brooks helped model growth utilizing a business plan and cash flow.

The business plan tells the narrative of the business, said Brooks, describing the company, its structure operations, marketing strategy and more. The cash flow takes the trajectory described in that narrative into a spreadsheet, looking at least 3 to 5 years into the future to show projected revenue and costs over time.

“Using these tools, we can help a business owner plan when to purchase equipment, when to move into a larger location and when to hire employees or contractors,” Brooks said. “Many potential business decisions can be modeled to gain insight about the likely future benefits before a commitment is made.”

For Skagit’s Best Salsa, Jill Rohrs said they will be adding cooler space to store more salsa to keep up with demand. They will also likely add more employees as production increases.

Rohrs said she is proud her salsa -- available at grocery stores such as Haggen, Fred Meyer, WinCo and Safeway -- has been flying off store shelves this year. It is her own homemade recipe, available in three heat levels: Timid, Medium…ish, and HOT. She uses fresh cilantro and lime juice, and no vinegar to give it its own unique flavor.

“It tastes fresh,” Jill Rohrs said. “Before we started the business, I would make this recipe for potlucks and during the Christmas holidays. People would always come to me and ask, ‘Can I get more?’”

Rohrs said that she sees opportunity despite the current economy turmoil, similarly to when the Rohrs founded the business in 2010 amid the recession.

“For me, I think it’s the best time to start a business or grow,” she said. “Everything from here on out is growth. As the economy recovers, you grow too. If you can make it work, now is a great time to try something new.”

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