When Maria Bryant Jones, Florida native and Founder of Nutoriously Good Enterprises, decided to get healthy and make positive changes to her eating habits, she and her husband started by embracing the Whole30 Diet. As she began to experiment in the kitchen, her kids grew accustomed to and even enjoyed the healthier options. However, they were still craving sweets. For Jones, this represented an opportunity to create something special.
“My husband and I were eating well, but the kids still wanted snacks, candy and ice cream,” she said. “It’s tough when you’re trying to stick with a healthy lifestyle change and your kids are eating snacks in front of you. That sent me into the kitchen to find a way to come up with a healthier candy that they would enjoy. I wanted something that didn’t use sugar, only fruit as a base and a sweetener. That’s how I came up with my version of a Snickers bar, consisting of cocoa, caramel and peanuts. The kids and the adults loved it!”
Jones, who’s worked as a Speech Language Pathologist for the past 20 years, continued to make her healthy candy and, as you might expect, received more and more requests from family and friends. Eventually, she was encouraged to sell it.
“There was a big ethnic fair in Tampa called Dashiki in the City,” Jones said. “They had African dancers, people reading poetry and several crafts and food vendors. My family encouraged me to rent a booth and sell my candy and Cool Moose – a non-dairy frozen dessert product I developed. I took their advice and it was a big hit. People were lining up to buy my products. My husband made me a cart that had a freezer inside of it and looked like an ice cream truck. By all accounts, it was a successful event. Things just took off from there.”
Not long after that first event Jones’ mom, a retired baker, joined her daughter in the kitchen. Still operating under Cottage Food Laws, which only allow for limited home-based production, they added a line of Vegan and low-carb cookies to the mix. By the end of 2019, Nutoriously Good Enterprises was in need of a new home. Jones needed a place where she could expand the business along with her distribution channels.
“We started off by looking in Polk County, where I live, for a commercial kitchen,” she said. “We couldn’t find anything so we expanded our search to the surrounding counties. We ended up finding exactly what we were looking for in Dade City. In fact, the commercial kitchen space at the incubator was perfect. Unfortunately, after getting everything lined up and meeting with the inspector, the government shut down the state and the kitchen because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve just recently been able to get back in there.”
Working through challenges that include packaging and transitioning from operating under Cottage Food Laws to a commercial kitchen, Jones has grown the business through a combination of social media marketing and word-of-mouth referrals. She also generated a significant amount of interest by selling her products at farmer’s markets before the pandemic hit.
Looking ahead, Jones, who is proud of the fact that she’s producing healthy snacks and candy that also taste good and isn’t loaded with sugar, would eventually like to have her own shop. She envisions a “snack shack” of sorts that includes her gluten-free candy, cookies, Cool Moose, and mini pound cakes, along with other healthy snack-food options. “I’m saving every penny I can to realize that dream,” she said.
What advice does Jones have for aspiring foodpreneurs? “First of all, do your research,” she said. “Understand how to make your products different. Also, know your audience and have a plan to expand your offerings and who you’re able to sell your products to. Starting out under the Cottage Food Laws is smart until you work your way up to a commercial kitchen. Lastly, don’t wait too long to go for it. I wish we would have started sooner.”