If you’re looking to cure the bland and mundane, look no further than Jan Olavarri – the one and only decision-maker and spice master for Behrnes’ Pepper Salts. Jan is as funny as her spices are hot. Since starting Behrnes’ with her brother-in-law in 2012, Jan became the sole operator in 2015 and teases that all decisions – good and bad – are all hers. Her entrepreneurial spirit and desire to spice up people’s lives led to this new chapter in her life.
In the early days Jan’s brother-in-law, even though being very organized, was driving her sister crazy in his quest for the perfect healthy salsa recipe. Jan’s sister begged her to help. With little formal business training, Jan arrived with a simple approach, “too many salsas on the market, bland food is not good and salt is not our friend.” That spicy take on eating lit the flame from then on out, inspiring Jan to accept the challenge of making bland food better.
Jan makes it clear that Behrnes’ Pepper Salts is a spice company. And the business is on fire, based on Jan’s decisions to expand its SKUs from just one product, Cayenne Pepper Salt. By fine-tuning high-quality ingredient blends, she added one flavor at a time, Chipotle, Jalapeno, Habanero, Carolina Reaper, and last year, Hatch. Making sure no potential consumer niche was untapped, in 2022 Behrnes’ introduced a salt-free spice blend for the health-conscious.
Seeing herself as a serial entrepreneur, Jan’s self-deprecating humor and humility are obvious when explaining that Behrnes’ growth to date is the farthest she has taken any previous endeavor. Learning the business, gaining experience and confidence with each challenge, Jan realized that she excelled at face-to-face business development, growth decisions and customer service. Continuously recharging her passion for the game she sees this process as, is the interaction with her customers, doing a lot of in-person sales, customers are eager to tell Jan how Behrnes’ Pepper Salts are a life-changer for them.
Reflecting on how far Behrnes’ has come, Jan says “starting the company was easy, it is the sustaining and growing it that is hard. Driving the brand in person is hard, and with a day job sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day.” But even lack of time has a silver lining. When deciding on a new packaging supplier, Jan doubled profits after taking a beat before deciding to go direct to the supplier instead of a broker. Jan realized that “any problem can be fixed with time or money, and sometimes just sleeping on it is the answer.”
In looking ahead to Behrnes’ Pepper Salts’ future, Jan learned to have patience and not sweat the small stuff. Unexpected events – like running a spice company – have a way of making life interesting. Recently a wholesale customer asked Jan to contact her if she ever considered selling the company, which was very flattering. Jan quickly put it all into perspective, “I guess eventually selling would be a great thing, but I cannot see that far into the future. I am enjoying each step of this adventure… and seeing what I am capable of. I am not ready to do anything else but to “keep life spicy”!