Local minority business owner Juanita Bass is WISE Women’s Business Center success story
Juanita Bass of Juanita’s Soul Classics Inc., located in Frankfort, N.Y., is a minority-owned, local business success story that has emerged through the ongoing efforts of WISE (Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship) Women’s Business Center. WISE is an entrepreneurship product of the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University.
Bass launched Juanita’s Soul Classics in 2004. As a former restaurant owner, she developed several of her business’s most popular items, all-spice seasoning and barbecue sauce when cooking at her restaurant/bed and breakfast, The White House Berries Inn, known for its classic American soul food. Her items could be categorized as soul food cooking “shortcuts,” and can be found in local retail grocery stores.
Last year, Bass came to the WISE Center to apply for a microcredit loan to enable her to display her business and products at a national level by taking part in the Fancy Foods Show—the nation’s largest food show— in New York City. Through WISE, Bass received assistance writing a business plan and providing financial statements necessary to receive the loan. As a result, she was granted a $5,000 loan and attended the national show, where she made a substantial number of contacts and received many inquiries regarding her business and products.
Since attending the show, Bass has received ongoing assistance from the WISE Center and its resource partners, including one-on-one counseling to develop a plan to follow up with national retail leads from the Fancy Foods Show. She was also selected to take part in the Venture Accelerator Program run by the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises at the Whitman School. As part of that program, Bass received counseling, direction and assistance in developing the infrastructure necessary to develop Juanita’s Soul Classics into a national brand.
“Through the efforts of WISE and the Whitman School, local entrepreneurs are receiving the help and support they need to help grow their businesses,” says Joanne Lenweaver, director of WISE. “Ultimately, it comes down to the passion of the entrepreneur. Ms. Bass is a success story because she has so much passion and love for her product.”
As a result of her work with WISE, Bass has increased her company’s product lines, adding several new items to her mix of offerings in the past year. She now produces pecan pies, sweet potato pies, spicy and regular barbecue sauces, all-spice seasoning and fish coating. Upcoming products will include hush puppy mix, tartar sauce and a fried chicken coating.
One of the services provided to Bass last year was the support of a consulting team made up of MBA students in the Whitman School. This fall, as a result of the efforts of that team, Bass’ products have been accepted into the national military catalog of food products. This milestone will provide national exposure and large institutional orders for the company. In fact, Bass recently announced to her counterparts at WISE that she will be fulfilling an initial order of over a million sweet potato pies to the U.S. military for inclusion in soldier meal kits. After the initial order, she will be filling additional, monthly orders for the military.
In addition to the military catalog, Juanita’s Soul Classics are available in six new locations this year. These include Nice ‘n Easy stores and Big M markets, with negotiations under way for retail distribution in New York City and Cooperstown, N.Y. With these accomplishments, Bass’ revenues have doubled since the prior year.
“The Wise Women’s Business Center was there when I needed guidance and financial assistance and has gotten me to where I am today,” says Bass. “I have never met a busier group of ladies, with so much energy and pride for what they do. I want to thank them for everything they’ve done for me, and continue to do for all who step through those welcoming doors. I just love them all!”
The WISE Business Center is an exciting resource for women entrepreneurs at all stages of business development. The center provides expertise and support to business owners, enabling them to achieve the next level of success. WISE also offers counseling, coaching, consulting and training as well as opportunities for networking and mentoring. WISE is located in the South Side Innovation Center, 2610 S. Salina Street, Syracuse.