By Alexandria White, SMARTACUS Creative Group
About four years ago, Susie Kerr was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a girls’ weekend. On her trip back to Saratoga, she stopped at a spice shop -- her favorite spice shop. She went in. Garlic, pepper, basil, rosemary, lemon. Overtaken by the variety of smells in the store, she began her exploration of the different spices they sold. Suddenly, this thought occurred to her: “For all of the great foods sold in Saratoga Springs, there are no spice shops.”
When Kerr returned to Saratoga, that thought still lingered. Maybe she could open her own version of that spice shop in Saratoga, she mused.
When Kerr ran the idea by Barb and Clint Braidwood, founders of the Saratoga Olive Oil Company, they responded enthusiastically, encouraging her to launch the business on her own with their help. They advised Kerr to test some of the spices in their store to see how they sold. Lo and behold, the spices started disappearing from the shelves.
“Sometimes you just have to trust and go with your instinct," she smiles.
Helped by Her Family
In December 2015, Kerr launched her first three products: Midnight Red, Greek Seasoning and ground cinnamon.
Kerr's three kids -- all students at or graduates of Saratoga Springs High School -- have pitched in at various times and in various ways.
Her middle son, Jake, who was class president at SSHS in 2016, travels a lot and has tested spices on his travels to New Zealand, hiking around the U.S. and now in Norway.
Her oldest son, Casey, made Saratoga Spicery a case study in coursework he performed at Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management in the spring of 2016. He currently works at Synchrony Financial.
Kerr now is selling 15 spice blends and her business is growing -- but it hasn't been easy. The business was complex and required “breaking it down into all of its myriad details," she says. These included the design of a logo, the selection of jars, the labeling of jars, an analysis of the competition, and the procurement of spices she would combine in creative blends.
"Overcoming those challenges actually became the most rewarding aspects of the launch,"
Most of Kerr's customers find her products at the Saratoga Olive Oil Company's downtown store and at the Saratoga Farmers Market, where customers can enjoy sampling her offerings.
Kerr's business fits well in these venues and appeals to customers as her spices are fresh and locally made.
“The minute a customer smells the spices, I can see the lightbulb go off," she continues. "'Oh, my gosh, this smells like...,’ they'll say, and then they'll tell me their story. Food generates memories. They start opening up to me to and we have a conversation, a little matchmaking to see what they need. It goes on from there.”
With ambitious goals, Kerr is taking steps to better target her customers. One big market: young people in their late 20s and early 30s who are stocking their first real kitchen and getting into food. Another is families, which she finds chiefly at the Famers Market.
The Online Experience
Another top priority: Upgrading her website. Because "there's no scratch and sniff button on a computer," she wants to offer the next best thing: an “interactive experience that engages customers and helps them find what they need."
Kerr also wants to make her enterprise more green and organic without substantially raising her prices. One big step she has recently taken is to use jars that have metal shaker lids rather than plastic. To go organic, Kerr is working with West Coast suppliers that are organic and vegan.
"I love the challenge of finding the perfect lid or designing the box to make shipping most efficient," she says. "These are tasks I never thought I would enjoy."
A true entrepreneur, Kerr constantly experiments with new business ideas and thrives on daily challenges turning them into opportunities. Her energy and excitement are contagious as she explains the multitude of ways her products spice up peoples’ lives. This is how she feeds her soul and shares her passion with others.
A senior in Jill Cowburn's journalism class at Saratoga Springs High School, Alexandria White will attend Skidmore College in the fall. She plans to prepare for a career in business or law.