Saturday, May 26, 2007

How To Become A Full-Time Salsa Enterpreneur

Ferret hair may not sound like it's meant for dipping. But it sure makes for some good salsa.

Ten years ago, Dan and Sally Homner created Hair of the Ferret Gourmet Salsa in their Crown Point basement, after 10 year of making batches of the condiment for friends and family.

No ferrets are harmed in the making of the salsa, and thankfully ferret hair isn't really one of the ingredients. It's just a catchy name for a product that's catching on with those who love a little heat. "I didn't even know what a ferret looked like," Dan Homner admits.

Now Homner's a full-time salsa entrepreneur, doing business with about 100 stores in Indiana and Illinois, and with online customers from as far away as California and New Jersey.

His first paying customers were at the Crown Point Farmers Market. A few small stores started carrying it. After the season ended, Homner received 200 calls from people wanting to buy his salsa.

"That's when my wife and I both looked at each other and said, 'Hey, maybe we've got something here,'" he said.

Over the next few years, Hair of the Ferret expanded into other stores and other farmers markets. Homner spent several 16 hour days a week making the stuff, struggling to keep up with the demand.

In 2000, Homner quit his job at a Griffith mill-supply company, and started making salsa full-time. In 2001, he outsourced production to a facility near Rockford, Ill.T he four main varieties, which range from Mild to Flaming Hot, feature roma tomatoes, white onions, and up to 12 types of peppers, which include the exotic japones and scotch bonnet peppers in the spiciest batches. Homner also started making a fruit salsa this year, Pineapple Mango Peach.

While Homner's not personally making the salsa anymore, his job keeps him busy. He is still the company's only full-time employee, and makes almost all of the deliveries.

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The Great Salsa Book

Using Classic Salsas To Enliven Our Favorite Dishes