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West Shore Shoppers' Guide, February 12, 2012

West Shore Shoppers' Guide, February 12, 2012

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Published by Pioneer Group
West Shore Shoppers' Guide, February 12, 2012
West Shore Shoppers' Guide, February 12, 2012

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GivinG it the
Former Manistee resident creates company tomarket gourmet oils for dipping bread
Courtesy photo
The “personal touch” is put into each bottle of dipping oil as Jonas measures outall the ingredients by hand.
B
 y 
KEN GRABOWSKI
 A 
ssociAte
e
ditor 
Susan Jonas is a businesswoman whobelieves the “personal touch” is somethingthat still makes a difference. A little more than a decade ago, Jonasstarted the Little Dipper Company thatfeatures gourmet oils used for dippingbread and drizzling over pasta. It was anendeavor that was sparked in the mostunique way, and one that has grown toinclude her product being sold in 125stores in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio,Texas, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Iowa.Jonas graduated from ManisteeHigh School and is the daughter of localresidents Bart and Connie Erickson. Shelearned early the importance of havinga “personal touch” when it came to thebusiness world as a teenager by workingin Erickson’s Pharmacy that was owned by her father.“I came from a retail background withmy Dad at the pharmacy for many years,”said Jonas. “I then went to and graduatedfrom Hillsdale College with a businessdegree.”Following college, Jonas worked in theretail world for years including being anassistant buyer for The Limited. Along theway, she married her husband, Michael,and the couple had two sons, Collin andBrendan. It also meant she made the deci-sion to go from being in the grind of thebusiness world to taking on the importantrole of a stay-at-home mother.“Back in 2000, both of my kids were inschool and my husband asked me one day ‘when are you going back to work?’” saidJonas. “I said that I didn’t want to get back into the rat race of retail. When I was anassistant buyer for The Limited, it meanttravel and being away from my family.”
A new idea
During the 2000 Christmas season,something happened that really changedeverything and provided the spark for theLittle Dipper Company. Jonas decided she wanted to do something special in termsof a gift idea for neighbors and teachers atthe school her sons attended.“We had always made this Spicy Italiandipping oil here at home and I thought it would be kind of neat to give it as a gift,”said Jonas. “I did my own labels up on thecomputer, and purchased some bottlesfrom a local store to make it. When I gaveit to the neighbors to try they said ‘this isgreat and you should package and sell it.’ Ithought about it, but I just didn’t know if Ishould do it.”It was then when an unfortunate expe-rience hit the family, like many othershave faced in the past few years, with theeconomic downswing.“My husband was in the computersoftware industry and they pulled out of Cincinnati, so I thought maybe this is asign that I should do something,” saidJonas. “So, I researched high and low and worked with the Ohio Department of  Agriculture to make sure all that we weredoing was legitimate. I also had the prod-uct tested at Ohio State University.”Her husband took the oil out to marketit, and landed four accounts in the firstday. Jonas said that provided incentive, but there was one thing the retailers werelooking for that she couldn’t offer at thattime.“They liked it a lot, but they said it hadone problem in that they wanted morethan the one flavor of Spicy Italian,” saidJonas. “I started creating other flavors,and they are all unique to the Little DipperCompany.“My husband and I had gone toCalifornia and did a Napa Valley Wine
See
 
SUSAN JONAS
page 2
“i started creatng other fla- vors, and they are all unqueto the Lttle Dpper Company.”
SuSAN JONAS,
OWNER, LITTLE DIPPER COMPANY
Sunday, February 12, 2012 www.westshoreshoppersguide.comCopyright©2012
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Tour before we startedthis, and all the restaurantsyou don’t get you breadwith butter, they give it toyou with dipping oil. My Mom and I kind of playedaround with our own rec-ipe, and that was how theSpicy Italian thing cameabout.”Since they did it oncein creating the first oil, shethought why not a secondtime. She went back to thedrawing board after gettingthe feedback from retail-ers and soon they emerged with red chili pepper, garlicherb with sun dried toma-to, parmesan and their lat-est addition, pesto. Jonaslets out a laugh that comesright from the heart whenshe talks about how they had their own little testingground to try out the new dipping oils.“I just played around with the others until wehad it right,” said Jonas. “Ilove garlic and sun driedtomatoes and I did aboutsix different versions of itand we would have friendsand neighbors over and ask  what they liked or dislikedabout it. We would ask things like ‘is this one toomuch garlic?’“It is just trial and error with a lot of flavors I grew up with or liked, and that ishow we developed it.”
Challenging
Jonas said the pestorecipe was the most chal-lenging to perfect. She saidit took about two yearsto develop it to the level where she was totally satis-fied with it, but once againit was the “personal touch”at work. Being a one-per-son company meant creat-ing, packaging, shippingand often marketing theproduct.However, with successcomes additional chal-lenges and Jonas said they  began to get feedback fromothers when they took theproduct out to shows inthe area.“People said you needto make bread with this,and at first I said I can’tmake bread as well,” saidJonas. “After thinkingabout it, I thought let’sdevelop a line of artisian bread mixes that are really easy and convenient tomake. So, I did that, and was kind of on the sameline as the oil where youdevelop a new productevery year or two. Now weare up to five bread mixes.”They presently offercountry herb, five seed,focaccia, French and oliverosemary bread mixes. What Jonas didn’t expect was the popularity movingtheir business into anotherdirection.“We kept telling peoplein different shows thatthis is not just good to dip your bread in, but it is alsoreally good to put on pasta.So, people said you shouldmake your own pasta,”said Jonas. “I worked witha company, and we devel-oped a pasta. So, that iskind of where the businesshas taken us it continues togrow.”They presently offer sixpastas that include capellid’ angelo, Italian spice lin-guini, roasted red bell pep-per fettuccini, spinach basilgarlic fettucinni, tomato basil garlic fettuccini and wild mushroom linguini.Jonas said other areasof expansion have takenplace in how they markettheir products, which areavailable to view online atinfo@LittleDippercompany.com. She said they havefour or five independentsales representatives whosell her products to storesaround the Midwest.It still amazes her how the business has grownfrom that humble begin-ning to what it is today.However, something thathas remained constantthroughout time is the“personal touch” that stillexists..“It started in my kitchenand it was one of thosethings were I would bemaking oil all day long while the kids were atschool,” said Jonas. “Wehad to keep moving it outof the kitchen, so we put acommercial kitchen downin the basement. That worked for a while, but Igot tired of going up anddown the stairs.”
Growing larger
The next logical step was to find a location out-side of their home to locatethe business. It includedoffice space and commer-cial kitchen where Jonasstill includes her “personaltouch” by creating thedipping oil by herself andpackaging the bread mixesherself.“I still do it and peopledon’t believe me some-times,” said Jonas. “My family has been real sup-portive and they have been very helpful. I learned toget it down to a science,and it is just like a produc-tion line type of thing. Bothof my boys have been very helpful with the pasta and bread mix things, so it iskind of like a family ven-ture.“It is one of those things you have to concentrate onto make sure you get all thecorrect amounts of ingredi-ents, and if I really push itI can produce 300 bottlesa day. I put the labels andsafety seals on myself. Ilike to make the oil and tipthem for 24 hours to makesure their is no leakagegoing on. If I have an aver-age day, I probably makeabout 150 bottles.”However, it is a greatdeal of work and as the business continues to grow,
SUSAN JONAS:
 
F
rom
P
age
1
See
 
GROWING
page 3
2 • WEST SHORE SHOPPERS GUIDE • Sunday, February 12, 2012
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Deadlines
Classified advertising is 1 p.m. on Tuesday before publication. Display advertising is12 noon on Wednesday before publication.
Acceptance
The West Shore Shoppers’ Guide, by its publisher only, reserves the right to accept or reject any advertising on the basis of content, style, nature or for whatever reason itdeems appropriate.
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onas has looked into theossibility of expansion.“We have worked withhis bottler and they areeady to go when we do gethat big order,” said Jonas.That is what I would likeo eventually do -- turnt over to a big bottler, socan start doing biggerhows. That is my goal,nd we are getting closer.”Looking back on theast decade, Jonas saidhe doubts it would haveappened if her husband’sompany hadn’t pulled outf the Cincinnati area.“I don’t think I wouldave been pushed to dot and would probably beoing retail somewhere,”aid Jonas. “I still believehere is a reason for every-hing and that kind of ushed me to do it. Whenhe came back that firstday, and the only problem was we needed more fla- vors, I said ‘well, ok, that isa good problem and we cando it.’”Jonas admits that it is alabor to produce this muchproduct, but it also is alabor of love.“My Mom asked merecently ‘how long aregoing to do this?’” saidJonas. “I said ‘until Idon’t have fun’ and after10 years of doing it, I stillhave fun and still love it. If  you do something you love,then it isn’t work.”That is the “personaltouch” that existed on day one at the Little DipperCompany and still is thedriving force behind thissuccessful little company to this day.
growing:
 
F
rom
P
age
2
Sunday, February 12, 2012 • WEST SHORE SHOPPERS GUIDE • 3
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heading &
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description(approx.30-40words)
 
LOGO
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Pioneer Group readerswill bid on all sorts of great merchandiseand services duringour onlineAuction Mania heldMarch 10-19, 2012
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Deadline for participation isFriday, February 27, 2009
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AUCTION
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