Jennifer Juarez is the CEO and Co-Founder of Snacks on Racks, Inc. Based in Parkville, MO, Jennifer has strived to lead this company from a local start-up, to a national leader with their variety of services and products. Previously, Jennifer has worked in Tokyo, Japan teaching English at international corporations and as a project manager in logistics for Sprint. Jennifer holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Lake Forest College.
Jennifer is married to her husband, Jesse, for 22 years and has 3 children. Jennifer enjoys time with family, traveling, and mentoring. She is a member of the Parkville Chamber of Commerce, Central Exchange Kanas City and Helzberg Entrepreneur Mentoring Program. As well, she mentors high school students through Northland CAPS (Center for Advanced Program Studies).
Brad Burrow: This is the In a World with Real Media podcast. I’m with Jennifer Juarez. Now your title Jennifer says, Head Snacker, Marketing, Supply Chain. This is from your LinkedIn profile. Thanks for joining us by the way.
Jennifer Juarez: Thank you for having me.
Brad Burrow: Head Snacker, tell me what that means.
Jennifer Juarez: Well, Snacks on Racks is your full-service distribution company. It’s my privilege to taste all the snacks before we start to distribute them. I would technically be the Head Snacker.
Brad Burrow: That’s your job description?
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah. 18 years of trying all kinds of goodies, treats, trail mixes, nuts and all those.
Brad Burrow: All right, so that immediately makes me want to know how this business came about. How did you come up with the idea to do this?
Jennifer Juarez: Snacks on Racks actually 18 years ago, my husband and I were looking to purchase a business. We didn’t know what we wanted. We just knew we didn’t want to work for somebody else forever. It actually was an existing business called Hopkins Distribution, had a nice little business. We watched it for a good two years though before we really got involved in purchasing it.
Jennifer Juarez: Basically, the concept is, it was a niche market to bring like a Mr Bulky’s concept into your BNI sector, business and industry, cafeterias, hospital cafeterias, colleges and universities. We had it in all the malls, but it wasn’t available for people at work. That’s what they had started the business as. Man, this business really has been around, and before Hopkins, I understand that three ladies owned it in their garage. This is well before the FDA had all these codes.
Brad Burrow: They were putting together snacks in their garage?
Jennifer Juarez: Basically, they were putting together snacks and distributing them to local businesses, and putting them in tubs so you could scoop out by weight. Then you would weigh it at the checkout, and then you’d have your snack at work for the day. They had their mom and pop shop, and then Hopkins Distribution brought it more into a business. Put four real walls around it, some health code, and then they grew it and added a lot of great businesses. Still today, we have 90% of those initial customers that we purchased with the business and changed it to Snacks on Racks.
Brad Burrow: Is that right?
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah. A lot of them are still here, so that’s exciting. That’s what we like.
Brad Burrow: I was looking at the website, and it looks like basic snacks you’ve always been doing, but maybe you’re getting into the healthier type approach too now. Is that correct?
Jennifer Juarez: True. 18 years ago it was Hot Tamales, peanut M&Ms, chocolate almonds, chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate and Sour Patch Kids. The industry changed, especially as healthcare and things started, people wanted to lower their costs at work. Now we’re at work, so where people’s businesses. We’re not the grocery store or the convenience store, so it’s a little bit different dynamic. Yes, absolutely, as the employers started saying, “Hey, you can get better healthcare costs if you eat better at work.” Then yes, watch the progression migrate and yeah, we are definitely where we used to be like 40-60, meaning 40% healthy. Now it’s more like 70-30, 70 being the healthy.
Jennifer Juarez: Healthy, kind of broad, because some people consider a yogurt pretzel healthy. There’s nothing healthy about a yogurt pretzel.
Brad Burrow: The yogurt, you’d think the yogurt was healthy, but not so much huh?
Jennifer Juarez: Not so much.
Brad Burrow: A lot of sugar probably.
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, if you’re really reading the ingredients, it’s not cultured yogurt. You get your trail mixes though, a lot of that yeah people love. Now you can add a little dark chocolate, a little sea salt. Now there’s tons of great flavorings that go on nuts now and so, yeah, that’s where our markets expanded. We’ve been able to work with that and grow the business.
Brad Burrow: What was it about that business that made you say, “Yeah, I think I’d like to be a part of this business,”?
Jennifer Juarez: Well, the reason that business struck us is, because the three pillars that it’s built on was colleges and universities, hospitals and then the BNI sector, so your business and manufacturing. All those that have cafeterias, and so you’re talking rather large corporations. The business as we learned with the 2009 recession can sustain one of them. We always believe that if all three of them went out, then there is more wrong with this world than… I mean, it’s just the economy we’ve…
Brad Burrow: Recession proved business basically?
Jennifer Juarez: Yes, because you can lose one, one and a half, but there’s no reason that the US economy should lose all three. As long as we balance those three pillars and don’t make one terribly stronger than the others, then you’re in good shape.
Brad Burrow: How have you been able to keep those clients for all those years? That’s amazing by the way.
Jennifer Juarez: Thank you.
Brad Burrow: I don’t know too many companies that could actually say that.
Jennifer Juarez: Honestly, I have to say, it is our delivery service team and our customer service. Then watching the market and not having them eat the same thing for 18 years. Although, I will say, Kansas City is number one is still milk chocolate almonds, that has not changed. Everybody loves their milk, and I think it worked too because the product, you get your sweet and something that’s a stress reliever. Then you still get the almonds, so in your mind you’re like, “Oh, still something healthy.” Is that balance of I need healthier in my life, the milk chocolate, almond, it works.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, that’s really funny. That’s like your main stay, a snack [crosstalk 00:06:13]?
Jennifer Juarez: That is, that one we can not be out of stock on.
Brad Burrow: What are some of the challenges that you’ve had over the years? We’ve been in business 21 years, and in our business, in full transparency, that our business models had to change multiple times because of different things like the economy, the barriers to entry to get into our business have changed completely. We have a lot of overhead here in our facility. We have to compete a lot differently on price than we ever had to before. Now that pendulum’s swinging back. I’m curious to some of those ebb and flows of your business over the years. You’ve been doing it a long time.
Jennifer Juarez: One of the key things as you learned automation, is to not necessarily hire more employees, but to use technology as much as you can. For our filler machine, we went and automated that, so that way two of our people in the warehouse can handle that machine instead of hiring 15 people to manually pack. The other thing that we’ve gone to is, to try and get ahead of what the FDA is requiring. They’re money hogs.
Brad Burrow: Well no kidding.
Jennifer Juarez: They make the changes for the better of the people, but those changes always cost. Like how transportation and semi drivers have had to go through so many changes with their trucks, and that’s not cheap. When we started the business we run a flip lid, scoop bin, so anybody could stick their hands in.
Brad Burrow: Well that can’t go over now can it?
Jennifer Juarez: No, that doesn’t work one bit. We’ve gone to the gravity style with the levers that you see at every grocery store, but that was the huge expense to overcome too, because you also…
Brad Burrow: Do you offer all that equipment to your clients then?
Jennifer Juarez: Oh yeah.
Brad Burrow: You have the expense of that?
Jennifer Juarez: Yes, and the other thing we did, because of course every hospital in the city has decided to rebuild and update, which great, but they don’t want some nasty looking display. They want it to match their formica and their color display. As the hospitals have put in their new cafeteria, Snacks on Racks has come in and provided a complimentary display that matches.
Jennifer Juarez: Basically, it’s become theirs, because it isn’t going to work anywhere else. Nobody else has the same shade, so you can’t really move those things. Once they’re there, they’re there. Then as they’ve gone through their life cycle, we donate them to Habitat for Humanity, because a lot of the displays, they’re really just shelving units. They really can go into somebody’s house and be a great cabinet space or repurposed, put some door fronts on them, whatever you want to do.
Brad Burrow: I probably don’t need a candy dispenser in my house, that’d be deadly.
Jennifer Juarez: They don’t want to use it for candy, but the shelves, the unit itself is perfectly good, so why should we throw it in the trash? They have a life cycle about every eight years or so, and it’s really good that, I say you need that deep clean. A lot of times to deep clean means to pull out all the walls and start fresh, and put the new coat of paint and the flooring. Why not have some new colors while we’re at it? That changes too, and they want to be designer appropriate.
Brad Burrow: How have you met that challenge? I mean that’s something you had to figure out as those problems came up, right?
Jennifer Juarez: Well, yeah, much through the process of interviewing and finding groups that offer those services and partnering with them.
Brad Burrow: Like design companies or something like that?
Jennifer Juarez: Right, yup. We work with some different groups and a lot of it, Jelly Belly for example, they’ve been providing displays for their customers for a long time. We distribute their products, so fortunately we have the relationship where we could say, “Well, who did you use?” Interview them on their processes. There’s a few different companies out there like that, so then we would pick, we actually picked Trade Fixtures in Arkansas. That way freight’s not too far, and they would build us a single custom display to our specs. They’ve really been a good partner.
Brad Burrow: Now from a business model standpoint, do you cover the cost of that?
Jennifer Juarez: Yes, we do.
Brad Burrow: You have to figure that into your profit margin?
Jennifer Juarez: Yes, you do. We do ask for at least a three year commitment, to make sure that tomorrow they don’t say, “We changed our mind.”
Brad Burrow: After you just spent thousands of dollars.
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, and it is. It’s eight, nine, 10, $12,000 to put all this in. There’s a lot of time and effort in the design, but the hospitals are really… We like the gravity bin systems particularly in the hospitals. I keep talking about that because, well one, that’s a 24/7 environment and they can really go through the product. You don’t want to put in a gravity bin system in a place that works eight to five, four days a week, because the product, there’s just not enough volume to use it.
Jennifer Juarez: We manage smartly, and it makes sense to the client. We don’t want to put something in that’s not affordable for them either, which is kind of nice now why all these other snacks. When we first started the business, we were only bulk, and like I said, mostly candy with a little bit of trail mix. Now the bulk business is of still a very good one, but we’ve gone to containers that you can’t touch the product, which is food safety wise, makes sense.
Brad Burrow: It’s a good idea right?
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, and it’s nice too because you can provide all the correct labeling, so that way people know if they’re allergic to it and shouldn’t have something in there.
Brad Burrow: Peanuts.
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, almonds, cashews, coconut, dairy. You don’t minimize, there’s cross contamination, so we follow all those procedures. It also has the nutrition facts and the ingredients, so that way it’s quite interesting.
Brad Burrow: Oh my gosh.
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, so there’s a lot of attention to detail, because we have to have all that to spec according to the FDA. The manufacturers can change their ingredient list, and they don’t have to tell you. Every time you get a shipment, that’s one of our protocols, is you have to check and make sure, okay, are our labeling and everything going to be…
Brad Burrow: That’s part of your process?
Jennifer Juarez: That is part of the process.
Brad Burrow: To better look and see if something’s changed in this?
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, and it does, it does, and especially now because the FDA has put in some new requirements for nutrition facts and adding additional sugars, and more detailed on the vitamins and minerals and products. All that is growing and changing, and so you’ve got to keep the software to keep that up to date and keep building.
Brad Burrow: Who’s your ideal target for your sales pitches? Obviously hospitals is good businesses, but if you were going to prospect and say… What I’m getting at early is kind of the story side of, so let’s say I’m a hospital administrator and this is my job.
Jennifer Juarez: Right, so our target market, our niche was really been food service. Anybody that has a café, catering…
Brad Burrow: Like a manager or an owner or?
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, in like the hospitals for example, we go right to the cafeteria and who’s the food service director. Food service directors, I would say is generally the title that we see. Those facilities are all over the place. I mean, Sprint Center has them. You’ve got, of course Hallmark has their cafe in there, H&R Block has their beautiful new cafe in their building. All your Fortune 500s have their cafes. Sprint campus has three or four cafes. Bill, you don’t even notice in the buildings because they’re just tucked away. People go there to go to work, they don’t go there to go find food. Then, of course your public buildings in the hospitals, in the college campuses, and we’ve got to feed those kids.
Jennifer Juarez: There’s quite a bit of business, and Kansas City is a big enough community that it can really hold a business, very busy. We do also ship nationally, so we do work with a bunch of companies in Chicago area, Indiana. We work with the food service company, that’s the sixth largest in the country by a total revenue. They’re actually out of Warren, Ohio, AVI Foodsystems, and their closest customer to us is in Indiana.
Brad Burrow: Really?
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, so they are East Coast based. It’s all over the place.
Brad Burrow: What would be the reasoning for a company like that wanting to work with you?
Jennifer Juarez: With us?
Brad Burrow: I guess I’m trying to understand, this seems like something where you could just buy this from anybody.
Jennifer Juarez: Well, so there’s Snacks on Racks, and then there’s these really huge monstrous companies. The huge, they have 15 varieties of Snickers, but if you ask them for safely delicious or something that’s up and coming, Western’s meat sticks, or brands that are middle of the road, they don’t care about that. That’s not where their bread and butter is, because it’s not the big food manufacturers.
Brad Burrow: They’re not as nimble to move then?
Jennifer Juarez: Oh, not at all. I mean those big companies have a place that’s for sure, because everybody still needs their Snickers. I’m not taking anything away from that one bit, but Snacks on Racks brings the whipped cream and cherry on top to anybody who’s catering or food service. People eat so differently, and you’ve got all these nationalities and cultures and diets. Their job is to be there to make money as well in the food service clientele, so they’ve got to have stuff for everybody, whoever’s in their building or who might walk through the door as variety.
Brad Burrow: Variety if they don’t have that.
Jennifer Juarez: Yup. We trend with all the current diets to make sure, but we bring quality product. We get the first buy and the second buy, because people will come back for it. Then the other thing that we started was working with small and medium businesses. It doesn’t make sense for our client in Ohio to necessarily buy something from Snacks on Racks, so we can ship it back.
Jennifer Juarez: We’re working with the medium sized companies, and then they’ll drop ship it. The reason it’s advantageous to AVI Foodsystems is because, we manage the manufacturer, vet them, make sure that they’re following all the processes they should. It brings a lot more variety, and then they also have the buy local program, so that they’re supporting their local community. They’re not managing 800 food purveyors, because that’s just crazy. That just drives up their cost, because now they have more overhead.
Brad Burrow: More people to do that.
Jennifer Juarez: Right, so they hire us. I mean, if you’re Bank of America or Citi or all these large corporations, they really want to integrate into your community, and that’s right down to the food. Food service really has worked hard with local meat producers or vegetable, but that also goes to snacks, because everybody has their regional favorites. Communities are small, especially with social media, so you know now who’s the upcoming brand, and you want that brand into your work, because that’s exciting to watch them grow and progress.
Brad Burrow: Do you get requests for things like that?
Jennifer Juarez: Oh sure.
Brad Burrow: Like in Indianapolis, we want this chocolate.
Jennifer Juarez: Absolutely.
Brad Burrow: Then you’ll go out and source that?
Jennifer Juarez: Source that, and we try to go to shows and keep up on that in the industry too of what’s going on. Yup, there is a fruit strip that’s made out of mostly acai berries, but then they add other fruits to it in Ohio. They were on Shark Tank. Some local companies were like, “Oh can you…” and they were on our planigram and they’re part of our groups that we work with. They were like, “Can you bring them in for sampling?” They’re like local celebrities, and so yeah, they absolutely did. It’s just fun things like that.
Brad Burrow: You reached out to them and arranged that whole thing?
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, they were one of our vendors. I mean, no problem at all, because they were already a group we buy from. I had to put it together, but that means a lot. Then you’re building relationships and that trust. Food service, that’s all about the food and the trust. If they don’t have something to serve, then they’re in trouble. You’ve got to do what you’re going to say and do it well. Have it there when you say you’re going to have it there, because if the CEO doesn’t have his favorite almonds at that meeting at that time, heads are going to roll. We don’t want to be the cause that that happened.
Brad Burrow: I feel the same way about chocolate covered raisins unfortunately.
Jennifer Juarez: Right, see? I’m telling you, people get attached to that food. Our delivery person, he’ll say, there’s nurses that are waiting for him to show up if the gummy bears are out. They’re like, “Jesse gets here at nine o’clock on Tuesday.”
Brad Burrow: Is that right?
Jennifer Juarez: Oh yes.
Brad Burrow: Gummy bears.
Jennifer Juarez: Oh gummy bears.
Brad Burrow: That’s unbelievable.
Jennifer Juarez: Yup. It’s just funny, and it’s got to be the right kind. God forbid we should switch, we know right away, if we change brands…
Brad Burrow: You hear about it huh?
Jennifer Juarez: Oh yeah.
Brad Burrow: Wow!
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, people are passionate about their food right down to their snacks.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, I hear you. Can we talk a little bit about the business side of things. I’m really interested in, as a small business owner, this is something I have had to learn and I’m still learning, is how to be working on the business, but not in the business. Have you had that struggle as well?
Jennifer Juarez: Like achilles heel.
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Jennifer Juarez: Absolutely.
Brad Burrow: What are some of the things, I mean when you feel comfortable talking about, you don’t need to disclose any…
Jennifer Juarez: Top secrets?
Brad Burrow: Yeah. I am really interested from an approach standpoint, because there’s other small business people listening. We can all learn from each other managing time. I mean, you have a lot of things on your plate, no pun intended there. Seriously, I mean, so you’re working on new business probably. Are you the one doing pitches for new business?
Jennifer Juarez: Sure.
Brad Burrow: Okay. You’re watching labels to make sure that no ingredients are changing. You’re probably hearing back from, “Hey, we want to change to this vendor.” I mean all these different things. How do you handle all that?
Jennifer Juarez: Boy that’s a big struggle for me, it really is. Unfortunately, I guess probably over the years, I think mentors helped to have kept me on track. I’ve had score mentors over time.
Brad Burrow: That’s the SBA program right?
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, that’s the SBA program, and that is a great one because it’s free. If you’re a startup or just getting going and your head’s spinning, someone to help you be on the straight and narrow as to what’s really important and what’s not. Then as you progress, I’ve really been watching and been involved with watching Kansas City grow and it’s entrepreneur capable.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, I read that in your LinkedIn profile that you’re into entrepreneurship, that’s awesome.
Jennifer Juarez: I love KC Rising. I’m hoping [crosstalk 00:21:51].
Brad Burrow: Is that Darcy Howe?
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, and the whole leadership three disciplines within Kansas City, but watching our major corporations trying to stay ahead and grow Kansas City, instead of folding or leaving. Of course with all that, comes all of us smaller businesses that we’ll have more leg to stand on and grow and build and scale up. I mean, there’s a ton of good programs. [inaudible 00:22:16] has good programs.
Jennifer Juarez: The best part is really for people to be able to let go of a few dollars. I know that’s hard, because budgets are tight, but you grow so much. Don’t stay in your office and think you’re going to solve the problems there, because the more you’re out talking to people, people you think will never buy from you or you’re not in the same industry, the pieces of knowledge that you learn and just grow from, it’s amazing. I watch myself get stuck, because my business is in a commercial underground. We’re at Park University and they’re commercial underground. I couldn’t get farther away from people, I tried. I’m like a mole.
Brad Burrow: You’re not [inaudible 00:23:04] are you?
Jennifer Juarez: No, thank goodness. The park still is unfortunately, but we did not have one leak of water. Sometimes I find that I’m just busy with the accounting software, like all the day to day. When you get bogged down in there too long, it’s detrimental, because you have to as the owner or the leader of the company really have to be out there. You’re the face of the company, you’re bringing the brand information, sharing with people. It’s not about seeing how much money you can make, because that comes with being a good person and being out there and doing the right thing. I say helping others or just being a good citizen, a good community partner.
Jennifer Juarez: Just don’t get stuck behind your desk, and go ask for help, because there’s a lot of great people in Kansas City that are more than willing to help and have a lot of great information. You don’t know what you don’t know. You think you got your accounting all set up the best way possible, but have two or three people take a look at it. Should you have other types of accounts? What does this account really defined as? That way you’re not mixing your numbers up. I know in my head what it means today doesn’t mean tomorrow unless I’m really detailed about what I’m talking about or what I’ve put there.
Jennifer Juarez: It’s simple things from that. Although accounting’s not simple to me, but to just read. If you’re not always learning, I mean it’s just so easy to turn on. My favorite thing to do now is to turn on podcasts while I’m driving instead of listening to the radio. Listening to the same songs from growing up or currently, they’re not adding any education to me. It’s actually more relaxing, because if I find a podcast or a book that I’m reading, and it’s teaching me something, it’s taking something off my plate or making something easier that I’m trying to get through. I can use my 20 minute commute to do something useful. I would say that’s [crosstalk 00:25:17].
Brad Burrow: Talk about the mentoring side of it a little bit more, because I think that’s really a good idea too. I’ve had people help with my business a lot over the years. We’re probably around right now because of that honestly. I think a lot of people are afraid to ask for help. Would you agree with that?
Jennifer Juarez: I think so because people are afraid. They’re like, “Oh this is such a scary problem.” Entrepreneurship is scary. I mean there’s just no way around it. The pressure is constantly there. It’s employees…
Brad Burrow: Risk is really high.
Jennifer Juarez: Risk is high, and you don’t know what you don’t know. You know your competitors are out there doing something, but is it better equal to than what you’re doing? I mean, it’s just this constant weight on your shoulders. It’s kind of twofold. One way we’ve mentored at Snacks on Racks is become participants in Northland CAPS, and the CAPS programs, whether it’s a Blue Valley and I don’t know if independence or the east side has picked up one either.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, I don’t know.
Jennifer Juarez: Northland, man are those kids fantastic. I learn as much from them as I’m teaching them. I purposely…
Brad Burrow: You teach your class then?
Jennifer Juarez: Well, I always hire kids to come in and work for me as an internship or they do a project. That is so enlightening, because they’re always… See the nice thing about small business when you intern with young people is, you’re really giving them an opportunity to do something. I don’t bring them in so that they can file, that is not what they are there for. I can file. I bring them in, they restructured our shipping area. I’ve had an intern who created our website.
Jennifer Juarez: This kid came in, and I knew I wanted to update my website and it has a shopping cart. I mean, the whole nine yards, and he’s like, “Oh yeah, I’ve done all that before. I can do that.” Well, you know what though, he’s never planned a website. I mean, that kid learned more in those six months, but when he went off to college at Northwest Missouri State, his freshman year, he was in their web design. It was like his job on campus, and they’re like, freshman don’t get this job. Like his skills were so good that, and it’s because he took the time. He learned how to do things. He reinvented the wheel in many cases, but I didn’t care. Then actually I hired him for the summer to finish up, so he could actually have a completed project and something to showcase.
Jennifer Juarez: When you can really give those kids something to work on, they will give you back tenfold. I learned more about, well, am I a good project manager for him? Are we walking through this correctly? It’s a great relationship to mentor, but you’re kind of also mentored at the same time. I mean I’m not a spring chicken anymore, so how young people think and how their minds work is completely different. When you’re working with them, you kind of pick up on…
Brad Burrow: That’s Moses.
Jennifer Juarez: Right, you pick up, oh Instagram is really important. Okay, so let’s see, now how does that affect my sales? Just what are they doing? What are they about as people? I have kids that age too, but talking to your kids and talking to other people’s kids, I have two different conversations.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, exactly.
Jennifer Juarez: Then the other piece of being mentored, Greg Gimlin was my mentor from SCORE. He was strong in accounting and operations. He helps Snacks on Rack, so we launched a product called one for you. About, I suppose five years ago or more, there was the idea that people should only be eating at work a single serving. That to not over indulge our diets, and so we created a packaging and a product line around that. SCORE selected Snacks on Racks as one of two Missouri winners. Every year they’d have a competition and two businesses from each state are selected. Then they do a fantastic job of giving you a free weekend of marketing and sales and operations information.
Jennifer Juarez: We went down to Dallas, so that was kind of cool and that was thanks to Greg and SCORE here in Kansas City. Then the other, I said there’s all kinds of different groups now and especially with Facebook, you can find them all over the place.
Brad Burrow: Are you involved with Central Exchange at all?
Jennifer Juarez: I am involved with Central Exchange. That’s another great group, and that is not just a women’s group, that we are more than welcoming to men.
Brad Burrow: The only reason I know a lot about that is because, I did the Women Who Mean Business video for 15 years. I don’t know if you remember Joyce Hayhow.
Jennifer Juarez: Okay.
Brad Burrow: Joyce and I were really good friends. Every, when is it? July I’d be down at the Central Exchange shooting interviews of all the top 25 of that year.
Jennifer Juarez: Got you, yeah. They’re doing great products. Courtney Thomas is the president now, and she has that place growing like crazy. The opportunities to well just meet other people. Yeah, your network grows. I think we’re up to 800 members now.
Brad Burrow: Is that right?
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah.
Brad Burrow: Wow! They need to be doing some podcasting you know.
Jennifer Juarez: They do. I’m sure Courtney would love it or anybody from her team. That is a great benefit, and then I’m also a part of Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program.
Brad Burrow: I was going to ask you that.
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah.
Brad Burrow: I’ve thought long and hard about being a part of that. I’m still wondering if I should do that, but you a member.
Jennifer Juarez: I have, so interestingly enough, I actually applied twice. The first time Snacks and Racks did not get selected, so it is a competitive program.
Brad Burrow: You have to have a certain amount of revenue right?
Jennifer Juarez: Well we met all the criteria, but for whatever reasons, the group that selected said, “No, I don’t think Snacks on Racks is ready.” To my surprise and honor, Barnett Helzberg and Ray Pitman reached out to me after. They were like, “Jen, we’re so sorry that this didn’t work out.”
Brad Burrow: Is that right?
Jennifer Juarez: “I don’t know why I feel bad. Let’s meet for coffee. Let’s talk about what you might do to improve yourself.” Here are these two pillars of the community.
Brad Burrow: Amazing.
Jennifer Juarez: Have you ever heard of Ray Pitman?
Brad Burrow: Well, so I’ve been to the Helzberg or the HEMP, the deal where they were getting [inaudible 00:31:55] their lunch.
Jennifer Juarez: Oh so they always talk about Ray.
Brad Burrow: Through that, and then Barnett’s walking around with this HEMP jacket on and socks and all that stuff. He’s quite a character.
Jennifer Juarez: Yes, he is. He is, but I just love Ray Pitman’s story. He doesn’t have all the buildings in Kansas City, but every time you see an electric bucket, so he built that idea and that’s his patent.
Brad Burrow: Wow!
Jennifer Juarez: All those cherry picker buckets, that didn’t exist. I believe it was something about World War II or maybe Vietnam. Out of necessity, he started to build it for the US Army to help them get through whatever they needed to. Then he brought the idea back to Kansas City, and that’s his patents.
Brad Burrow: The rest is history.
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, the rest is history.
Brad Burrow: Wow!
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, he’s just a go get them kind of guy, and so to have the honor to meet him, because unfortunately he has passed away since. They recommended taking some classes at Kauffman and doing some things. Did all that and then came around a second time, and had no problem becoming a mentee.
Brad Burrow: How long ago was that?
Jennifer Juarez: I reapplied, I’m on my second year of the mentee program.
Brad Burrow: It is a three year…
Jennifer Juarez: It is a three year commitment.
Brad Burrow: I’m in the process of maybe going through the application process for that.
Jennifer Juarez: Well we can talk about that. Yeah. No, so the HEMP program, it’s the greatest place because everybody there has been in whatever boat you think you’re new too. Whether that’s, you have a tax question that just seems overwhelming to you. Maybe lost a customer, that’s a huge part of your business. I mean, they all seem successful, but they’ve all been through their hurdles of business. To be able to walk into a room and put your worst foot forward, which is one of their great quotes, is what it’s all about.
Jennifer Juarez: That you can be confident that you’re not the local gossip. It’s not going to be in the paper. That you really have true people that their intentions are to see you succeed. I truly, truly believe that.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. That’s awesome.
Jennifer Juarez: My mentor is Deuce Livers of Livers Bronze. Their company builds, not steps, but the railings and things for your major buildings. They do contract work all over the country, but that’s built right here in Kansas City.
Brad Burrow: Awesome. That’s great. What’s the future look like for you? Where are you going? What big plans, you can take over the world with snacks?
Jennifer Juarez: Right, but we’d love to. Our big plant actually, we are going to diversify and add from food service and add, try to bring our own brand into the marketplace. Work with convenience stores, which is an area we haven’t.
Brad Burrow: Really?
Jennifer Juarez: Yes.
Brad Burrow: That’s a big idea.
Jennifer Juarez: Well, it is. It’s weird for us, because we don’t manufacture anything ourselves. A couple of things that we’ve noticed is , everybody loves that home cooked feel. Our gourmet snack pack collection has that home cooked feel.
Brad Burrow: Explain that to me, what does that mean?
Jennifer Juarez: A gourmet snack pack, it’s a clamshell, clear cup that you just put three, four ounces of whatever different products on it, label it appropriately. It sounds really well. We do a lot of private labeling with it too.
Brad Burrow: How is that a home cooked feel?
Jennifer Juarez: Well, when you go to the grocery store and you go to the bakery section, over there in all that plastic ware with cookies in it, cakes, it’s that same product type, but it’s just the snacks.
Brad Burrow: You do you feel like it was cooked right in the store and you just put it out there?
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah.
Brad Burrow: I got you.
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, they just put the nuts and they mixed it and here you go. That comfort food feeling, and yet you can have a little healthy or a little not so healthy, and there you go. We have some big companies that, Big C Store distributors they want to put that in.
Brad Burrow: Not to get off on a tangent, but Quik Trip has got to be the best at doing that in history.
Jennifer Juarez: Quik Trip is, but they are very tight knit. They’re not going to…
Brad Burrow: You couldn’t get into a Quik Trip probably with your product, but the way they do things, I mean, when you explained that to me, I can’t pass up [crosstalk 00:36:32] on that.
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, well they put it in the whole cafeteria, right?
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Jennifer Juarez: You go there and now you can have a milkshake or they’ll make you everything. Yeah, so that home cooked idea, quick grab and go, it’s like in a gold mine for them.
Brad Burrow: It’s obviously, working very well.
Jennifer Juarez: It’s along that [inaudible 00:36:45].
Brad Burrow: You’re capitalizing on that?
Jennifer Juarez: Yes. Then there’s also, because the employment is so tough right now across the country, we’ve been approached by some big candy manufacturers, who their product sells in the grocery store. They’ve been selling them to them bulk, like big supermarket chains on the East Coast and Texas, like a Kroger’s type that had 10 million stores. The grocery stores don’t have enough employees to package the stuff like you do with the cookie trays, let’s say. They want Snacks on Racks to take these, like for example, Asher’s with their beautiful, milk and dark chocolate pretzels, they make a great product. Staffing is too hard, and so they’re asking us to bid on projects, and would we do that for us? Because we’ve been in business for 18 years and we’ve bought product from a lot of these companies for so long, they’re comfortable with us.
Jennifer Juarez: It’s an easy transition for them to be under their wing, and provide service. They know what we’re about, so that longevity has really helped out with that.
Brad Burrow: The opportunity is just coming to you then, that’s amazing.
Jennifer Juarez: Well, knock on wood.
Brad Burrow: That could be a really big deal though, right? I mean that’s huge revenue potential.
Jennifer Juarez: Yes, it does.
Brad Burrow: Margin wise would it be good?
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, we wouldn’t do it if it didn’t. It’s interesting and I said it’s new territory for us, so it’s nice to have the mentors to ask these questions. What am I missing in this fold of, like we’ve never worked with C Store distributors before. They’re a little different in the way they do business, so what are the costs? You don’t want to miss anything, because that might end your relationship real quick.
Jennifer Juarez: Candy is like nuts and bolts. I mean, you’ve got to kind of sell a lot of it to be profitable. It’s not a high volume just because or a high profit. Those are some areas where we’re going to.
Brad Burrow: Okay, so we’re going to wrap it up here pretty quick here. I really want to ask you this question. A lot of small business owners, entrepreneurs have is the family balance issue. Talk to me, how do you do that?
Jennifer Juarez: Family balance, well…
Brad Burrow: Is it possible?
Jennifer Juarez: Is it possible?
Brad Burrow: Your husband’s involved in the business?
Jennifer Juarez: Well actually, he left the business in 2009, because he was worried about the economy, kind of foresaw it.
Brad Burrow: That was right when it crushed, [inaudible 00:39:26].
Jennifer Juarez: He thought maybe having all our eggs were in one basket, so fortunately that was a great call by him. I miss him at work, but I get to see him at home every day, so it’s okay. He went on to work for a big company here in town. The stability has been there, and then fortunately, so we’ve really been a family owned business. Actually my mom is my business partner.
Brad Burrow: Is that right? Wow!
Jennifer Juarez: Yup. We’ve been very family oriented. A lot of our team simply.
Brad Burrow: You still get along?
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, we still get along. It’s great. She’s in Chicago area. I think part of her reasoning was, so she had a tax write off to come see the kids, she’s helpful.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, that’s smart.
Jennifer Juarez: I’m sorry, back to your original question. Balancing life.
Brad Burrow: Just the whole balance thing, because that seems to me, when you talk about all the hats that we have to juggle as business owners, well that’s one big hat.
Jennifer Juarez: It is, it is a big hat. I have three kids and my two girls are now both in college, or one just graduated from college, and then I have a kid in junior high. When we started Snacks on Racks in 2000, be honest, my kids learned how to work. We used to tease my oldest when she was 10 that she was dropping out of school, because she could already do some of the tax work and paychecks.
Brad Burrow: Is that right?
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, and she’d be like, “No mom, I’m not. I don’t want to quit school, don’t make me.” Unfortunately for them, but fortunate for us, we spent a lot of weekends packing and doing things. The kids were told they had to help. I don’t think that that’s a bad thing, because they have a good work ethic. I grew up on a farm, so I didn’t have the choice either. It was feed the calves, get out there and bale hay.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, chores.
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah. That’s, if you want to eat next week, let’s get some stuff done. The balance, it did come out. They weren’t deprived. We had family vacation. We made sure we did things. When it was time to work, it was time to work, and sometimes that took Saturday and Sunday. As the business has gotten bigger, I’d make sure I never missed a soccer game or a dance competition. I mean, we all have our limits. Business is not more important than family.
Jennifer Juarez: Certainly, you find the balance. Sometimes that means bringing the kids with and packing up the coloring books and letting them do their thing. In the end they understand because when they grow up they’re like, “Well, that’s how we got our livelihood.” As they’re learning how they’re being responsible for their own livelihood and they understand that it takes some grit. I know my two oldest have it, and my third is getting there, but he’s a lot younger, so it’s okay.
Jennifer Juarez: You do what you have to do, but like I said, they had roofs over their heads. They had cars to get to school. They didn’t miss much.
Brad Burrow: Well, I think our kids, I have three boys, and I think they learn a lot seeing us go through adversity. How we handle it, what we do, how we bounce back. There’s something about growing up in a family where your parents are business owners. I think that hopefully is an advantage for them later in life.
Jennifer Juarez: I think so. I mean, people who work for big corporations lose their jobs too. I mean, the world is not perfect nor is it kind necessarily. Of course we want what’s best for our kids or try to give them the world, but that’s not always the best thing to do. They really need to see that they need to confront and be able to handle problems, because problems are going to come their way.
Jennifer Juarez: I wasn’t much of a helicopter parent. I’m proud of my two girls, they’re doing really well and they’re standing on their own two feet. I’m sure my son will do the same thing. There’s nothing wrong with a hard day’s work. I am a full fan of it.
Brad Burrow: I agree. I agree. Well, I’m going to go ahead and wrap it up. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. This has been fun. It’s gone by so fast.
Jennifer Juarez: It has. It’s amazing how well you can talk about stuff you know so well, part of your life, so.
Brad Burrow: That’s right. We do it every day for our businesses.
Jennifer Juarez: It’s been a pleasure, thank you.
Brad Burrow: Jennifer Juarez, the Head Snacker, and we really appreciate you being on the podcast. If you happened to be listening, please subscribe, share this with your friends. We’d love to get this out and get this content out to lots of different people. If you have some ideas for a show or somebody that’d like to be a guest, please let me know. You can email me at info@real mediacasey.com Do you want to put your, how somebody could get a hold of you?
Jennifer Juarez: Yeah, sure. You can reach out to Snacks on Racks. I’m firstname.lastname@example.org. Our website is snacksonracks.com or you can reach out. We’re in Parkville, so come on by if you’re in the area.
Brad Burrow: All right, thank you and we’ll see you next time.