Detroit entrepreneur Levi Johnson was paired with mentor Noel Jackson, a Trenton business owner, for the inaugural Rotary Launch Detroit project. Along with a 12-week course at Baker College and a microloan from Launch Detroit, since that time, the two have become good friends.
“The mentorship proved to be the most life-changing for me,” Johnson said. “It was great to get marketing ideas and bounce cost and distribution variables off another successful business owner. Jackson was able to use his networks to help get my Mr. Levi’s My-T-Fine Soul Sauce into stores around town. We had a tasting at Concessi’s Farm Market in Riverview and the product totally sold out.”
Mr. Levi’s My-T-Fine Soul Sauce was created in his home kitchen and through Johnson’s efforts and the Launch Detroit program, he was able to market and mass produce the product in two versions, mild and spicy. He just recently launched a spicier version that has a hot habanero pepper flavor.
Over the years since Johnson graduated from the Launch Detroit program and repaid his loan, he is still learning and using his networks to advance his product. He attended an expo at the Renaissance Center and sold every case he brought. He is now in six stores and two restaurants, Sweet Potato Sensations and Sister Pie in Detroit. They are using his product to create their new barbecue dishes at their establishments.
“One of my challenges is balance sheets,” said Johnson, “but I was recently able to pay for product labels from the business and not out of my pocket and that just feels good!”
Johnson has also learned to accept changes in his product to get new creations to the market. His wife, a talented choir director, even wrote a jingle that they are using in marketing campaigns.
My-T-Fine Soul Sauce can be purchased online at www.mytfinellc.com or locally at Concessi’s.