Single-sized pouches of salt and pepper have been around for nearly as long as the Golden Arches, but you don't typically see pinches of ancho chil or cinnamon in a packet. Baltimore business partners Katie Luber and Sara Engram, best friends and cooking enthusiasts, thought that was a product waiting to happen.
"About three years ago, we were at Atwater's in Belvedere Square having coffee and looking at the spice rack," recalls Engram. "We started talking about how you hear that you should protect spices from light and air and that you shouldn't keep the bottles for more than a year. But how often do you use juniper seed?"
After much brainstorming, their company—tsp spices—was launched.
Within their first several months, Luber and Engram had 55 retail accounts in their pockets, mainly specialty food and grocery stores in the United States and the Caribbean. Their tins of individual, twin, and six-packs of spices, with such saucy names as "Sweet Heat," range in price from $10 to $45. The product recently debuted in Canada and will soon ship to the U.K. Still on a roll, the ladies have won Best of Show at a national trade expo, were featured on Maryland Public TV, and got talked up on Good Morning America's Fancy Food show.
Not bad for two first-time entrepreneurs with no retail experience. Engram had spent 20 years writing and editing for the Baltimore Sun and had recently taken a buyout; Luber had just moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore, leaving her position as a paintings curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
"We'd had wonderful careers, but were at turning points," says Luber. "We knew we had a good idea and forged ahead.
"There have been people who've seen the packaging and said, 'That's brilliant.' Of course we love to hear that. It's an amazing feeling when other people share our excitement."