by Eric Monson
Posted 11/25/2013 12:00 am
Updated 9 months ago
WooHoo! snack mix is founder Melinda Smith’s second foray into the specialty food industry after her accidental debut. Smith was working as a travel agent when she adapted one of her mother’s snack recipes to make it spicier and sweeter. Her friends loved the mix and, on a whim, Smith borrowed kitchen space from a local catering company and put together 500 packs. The Conway native sold everything in one day and orders kept coming in, so she sold her agency’s client list and started a snack business.
After building up and selling that first company, she has found herself drawn back into the trade. Smith, who lives in Little Rock, is working out of a 5,000-SF facility provided by the Business Support Incubator at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
She noted that the boost from UAPB mirrors the support and collaboration she has found in Arkansas throughout her time as an entrepreneur. Of her first business, she said, “I got a lot of help from non-competing businesses. We became a unit where we would help each other out. … We really did lean on each other.”
Now, with WooHoo!, she is benefitting not just from UAPB’s incubator, but also from the Small Business Administration, which she says has been instrumental in introducing her to contacts at larger companies that now sell her products.
With the local support and her own seven-day workweeks, Smith and her staff of five are selling WooHoo! throughout Arkansas and in nearby states such as Virginia and North Carolina. In January, she will fly to San Francisco to attend the Fancy Food Show, a bi-annual event and North America’s largest specialty food marketplace, with the hopes of introducing WooHoo! to a national audience.
Backed by an investor, Sands Rogers, Smith has plans to open a commercial kitchen and warehousing operation in Pine Bluff in 2014 and hopes to have 10 to 15 employees by the end of the year. For more information and to find where WooHoo! is sold, visit WooHooMixes.com.