Last week I met the founder of Wholesome Creations, a company that makes a very special line of salad dressings. The dressings are 100% natural, vegan, and gluten free. I tried the Lemon Paradise and Mediterranean flavors, since both are void of vinegar, sugar and mustard, and I must say that they are delicious! I left our meeting with a new bottle of salad dressing under my arm! Below is a Q&A between Ani Tirpan and me about her company, how she has had success, and a few other topics including how you can get involved with an upcoming event. I think you will really enjoy her story; it is truly inspirational.
–When did you start Wholesome Creations, and why?
I started the company in 2008. I’d been making my Lemon Paradise dressing for my family since my children were old enough to eat ‘people’ food. I developed it based on their own tastes to encourage them to eat vegetables. It soon became a staple in our home and we used it on everything. As the kids got older, friends and family regularly pushed me to market the dressing but I didn’t take them seriously. And one winter Sunday, while I sat in my apartment on the 18th floor flicking through 1000 cable channels with nothing to watch, my daughter thought it would be a perfect day for me to take some time and check into how one goes about marketing dressing. I started to surf the internet to see about the feasibility of adding yet another dressing to the ridiculous selection that was already on the shelves. After a short search, I chose the brands that would be my competitors and realized that my dressing was the only recipe that called for all fresh ingredients that didn’t include any preservatives, added colors or flavors. It was delicious just as it was. After a little more research, I found that our dressing was gluten free, all natural, vegan and antioxidant rich. This combination added to a fresh squeezed lemon juice base just didn’t exist out there. I realized that I had a recipe to be able to create a niche within the specialty dressing market. Once I decided that we had a good chance for success, we began to do some market analysis. I wanted to make sure that the general public would love the dressing as well. So we went to street fairs every weekend during the summer of 2009. And the dressing was a HUGE success. 90% of the people who tried it loved it and purchased it. But they all had the same question: Is this your only flavor option? So I set about creating other dressings with the same healthy attributes. I was still working full time as COO of a textiles importing company so it was a night/weekend effort at that time. Meanwhile, my brother worked with me to find our current office/manufacturing location in North Haven, CT and set about getting all the necessary permits and licenses. I quit my job at the end of 2010 and decided I was ready to put all my efforts into growing the business. We didn’t sell anything to anyone until March 2011 to one Whole Foods store in Hingham, MA. From there, it’s just history.
–What has inspired you to create the salad dressing flavors?
I chose ingredients that were in line with today’s health trends: pomegranate, cranberry, green tea, ginger, chick peas and sesame paste. It took time to develop the recipes that would coordinate well with the Lemon Paradise. I wanted the first 4 flavors to cover the pallet spectrum. After thousands of trials (with my kids as guinea pig taste testers), we ended up with Mediterranean (chick pea based and a little on the spicy side), Green Tea/Ginger (unique and light) and Pomegranate/Cranberry (like a smoothie for your salad).
The inspiration for everything I do in my life are my children. I work hard every day to be an example for them and make them proud of me. Up until now, my goal was to raise good, caring human beings who would make a positive impact on the world. I am proud to say that I couldn’t be prouder of any of them. My daughter Taline in completing her residency for a doctorate in Psychology. My son David will be graduating from Medical School in June and beginning his residency. My son Eric is currently working with me but once the business is strong enough, he plans to join the New Haven Police Department. Both my sons have been volunteer firefighters and EMTs. Having reached my goal as a mother, I felt that I was ready to do what I wanted to do: follow the American Dream of being a business owner.
–What has been one of the best outcomes of starting your own business? What is a challenge?
The very best outcome of starting this business was the fact that I get to work with my son Eric every day! There is no way that we would have come as far as we did in such a short time without him. He’s the power behind my dream. When I lose my motivation or get a setback, he’s right there to put be back on track. Each and every day, I feel blessed to have him by my side, tirelessly pushing forward. He works several overnight shifts driving a tow truck to make some extra money so that he doesn’t have to be a financial burden to the business. He’s amazing and I adore him!!
I was tired of working 80 hour weeks for the success of other people’s businesses. Now I work that hard for my own business and get the satisfaction of knowing that my own family will reap the rewards of all that hard work. And creating products that are healthy and affordable is the greatest satisfaction of all. I knew that I could make the company successful without cutting corners or being greedy. Using chemicals of any kind is not necessary to succeed. That was the easy part. Getting into the food industry was nothing like I thought it would be. There are huge financial hurdles to overcome. Unlike other retail industries, the supermarkets want tremendous amounts of money to put your product on the shelves, kind of like purchasing the shelf space. But other large retailers, like Whole Foods are very supportive of local businesses and we were not required to pay any slotting fees to them. Because of these fees, we’ve not been able to pursue large placements.
–Where are your salad dressings available for purchase? How can someone get your dressing in his/her local store?
You actually can’t purchase the dressings on line any more. The shipping charges makes the internet sales unfeasible. But today, we do have a good selection of stores where they can be purchased. We are in most of the Whole Foods in the North Atlantic Region (MA, RI and Northern Connecticut), King Kullen on Long Island, McQuades Stores in the Mystic, CT area, Donellan’s in MA, Camomille Natural Store in Danbury, CT, New Morning in Woodbury, CT, Thyme and Season in Hamden, CT, Haggen’s in Washington State and New Seasons in Oregon State. There are several other smaller independent stores in CT and MA. Anyone interested in having their local grocer carry our dressings should speak directly with the grocery buyer or team leader in their stores and request that they carry our dressings. That’s the fastest and best way to get us into the stores and co-ops.
–What is one of your favorite recipes using your salad dressing?
The dressings are all so versatile that we call them ‘Meal Magic in a Bottle’. They can be used for marinating anything from fish to tofu, as a mayonnaise substitute for your sandwiches, as a dressing for your vegetables and a million other things. But my personal favorite is Salmon, marinated and baked with the Lemon Paradise. It’s the easiest and most delicious dinner ever! Marinate the salmon in a ziplock bag with the Lemon Paradise dressing overnight in the refrigerator (or you can keep it in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy it). Place it on a cookie sheet, including all the dressing from the ziplock bag and cook it in the oven on low heat, 275-300°F for 30-35 min (for about 1 lb) until it’s tender and juicy. You can make some coordinating garlic bread by slicing your favorite baguette or Italian bread down the center, spread the Lemon Paradise dressing and toasting it. A little tomato and arugula salad with some Mediterranean dressing, you’ll be licking your plate clean and sorry that the meal is over. If you prefer a vegan meal, replace the salmon with a healthy slice of tofu. Instead of putting it in the oven, you can fry it on the stove top, a few minutes per side until it’s a golden color.
Our dressings are all made without any yeast or dairy products. Our Lemon Paradise and Mediterranean have NO added sugar at all. The Pomegranate/Cranberry and Green Tea/Ginger have only small amounts Agave Nectar and NO cane sugar at all.
–Is there anything else you would like to share with this blog community?
It’s NEVER too late to follow your dreams. Life is short and when you leave this world, you want to leave looking forward to the next step in your journey, not back to what you wish you had done. We all arrive in this world butt naked and we are going to leave butt naked (except for our funeral garb). Don’t be afraid to lose it all for a CHANCE at it all. It’s more rewarding to reach your dreams when they are for YOURSELF and YOUR pleasure, not necessarily to make loads of money; that should just be a fringe benefit of living your dream. Each day that passes that your dreams stay only in your thoughts is one less day that you could have made the dream come true.
I’ve followed my dream of owning my own business and making it successful. It may not be a huge financial success yet but I’ve accomplished the goals I set for myself for 2011. To help me fill my next dream, Wholesome Creations has just begun a non-profit organization, Wholesome Creations Cares dedicated to raising awareness about the many benefits of healthy eating and living and eco-friendly lifestyle. We are hosting the First Annual Connecticut Vegetarian and Healthy Living Festival on April 28-29, 2012 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. All money raised will be used to help fill local food banks, homeless shelters and continue to promote healthy eating and living. We are currently looking for volunteers, sponsors and vendors. We are in the process of developing our websites, http://www.wholesomecreationscares.org and http://www.CTVegFest.org but until they are ready, we are happy to send a vendor/sponsor packet to anyone who is interested in being a sponsor or a vendor. We would love all our vegan/vegetarian and Healthy living friends to contact us to be on our committees to make this event like no other, anywhere. For the time being, you can email your inquiries to CTVegfest@wholesomecreations.com. We need all the help we can get our hands on I promise that you will be proud to be part of this event.