I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Nicole Ramsland of P.S. Flavor!™ - Artisanal Spice Blends. I hope you enjoy learning about the very fascinating background of the owners of this local Orlando business.
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Describe your business and what it is that you do.
Our product line is called P.S. Flavor!™ - Artisanal Spice Blends by Pam Smith, RDN. The goal is to provide customers with great flavor for every dish. Home cooks can use the spices to enhance simple dishes to full of flavor gourmet meals with just a sprinkle or a dash!
Our spices have anywhere from 7 to 10 ingredients combined into one, taking the leg work off of the home cook and adding in simplicity in one jar. The line of spices was developed by Pam Smith, who is my mom! We teamed up to create this product line in order to get her wholesome flavors into family kitchens. Just to give you a little background on Pam Smith, she was one of the very first, outside of the clinical world, dietitians in Central Florida. Pam started her practice in 1978 in College Park and quickly started working with executives and people in the community who just needed help with their health.
From there she hosted her own TV shows “Ask the Dietitian” and “High on Health” on America’s Health Network at Universal, began hosting and cooking at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, and started consulting with restaurant groups to help them develop delicious and nutritious menu items. Restaurants have had a long history of struggling with marketing to consumers that food is “healthy” for them. When a heart symbol was put next to an item on the menu it was the kiss of death because consumers believed it would have no flavor.
Pam helps restaurants create dishes that are satisfying, exciting and full of flavor… and oh by the way, they are also great for you! She developed and co-created a restaurant called Bahama Breeze with Darden Restaurants and after that, co-created Seasons 52. She also developed a “light” menu for Cracker Barrel called “Wholesome Fixin’s” and chairs the Culinary Institute of America’s Healthy Menus R&D Collaborative – focusing on bringing delicious wellness into restaurants globally. Watching her work with various restaurants was really where I started to understand that my mom had a very different take on flavor and healthy food – with a priceless combination between the two.
For me growing up, “healthy food” always meant the best, freshest and most flavorful food. I started to realize that “healthy” for other people meant bland and boring. As I got older, I found myself going to the restaurants that she helped create in order to eat my mom’s flavors. Around 2013, I asked her if there was a way that we could take these craveable flavors and put them into jars or containers so that I could use them in my own home and so other people can use in their kitchens as well. And that was really how P.S. Flavor!™ took off!
The focus of P.S. Flavor!™ and our parent company, Shaping America’s Plate, Inc, is eating well to live well. Pam has written 15 books and the first book that she wrote was called “Eat Well Live Well.” It was written as a textbook for nursing students who needed to learn about nutrition. The book quickly became a best-seller, because there wasn't (at that point, especially) core information about health and wellness that was very approachable. My mom is not a diet pusher – in fact, quite the opposite! She encourages healthy living strategies based on science and research that has stood the test of time.
And her strategies look in large part at what TO eat instead of what NOT to eat. Knowing that if we can focus our eyes, focus our energy, and focus our appetite on what we want to eat to feed our body, then everything will fall into place. Providing the knowledge of what we need to feed our body to eat well and to live well was really the core of who she is and what we're doing at P.S. Flavor!™
What was it like when you first started your business?
We started in January 2013. The Christmas prior, my mom and my sister decided they wanted to make homemade gifts for their friends that year. So they took her recipes and began to create the spice blends. Our friends loved the spices and wanted more! We realized we needed to make the spices available to everyone.
When we started it was really just about getting the product to friends and family. We didn't know the ins-and-outs of how to have a product line. We were designing labels, picking out jars and trying to figure out the required regulations and certifications. With a lot of research, gumption, guidance, and trial and error, everything began falling into place for a Department of Agriculture approved product that can widely be circulated in the marketplace. It has been so exciting to watch the metamorphosis.
All of our spices are gluten free, all-natural and handmade by us. We meticulously source every ingredient that we use. There was a lot of testing that happened at the beginning as you can imagine. For example, we tested over 30 different types of certain brands of ingredients, including smoked paprika, basils, mustards, turmerics, and even salt in order to make the best flavor combinations. We made the choice to source organic and all-natural ingredients, ensuring our blends stay chemical free.
Everything that we do is centered on getting a product into someone's hands that they can feel good about and trust – and is at its peak freshness Since our products are developed by a Registered Dietitian, they can feel really good about their wellness, too!
What has surprised you about owning your own business?
My mom has been consulting, writing books, and speaking about nutrition since 1978. P.S. Flavor!™, as her newest product line, has really become my venture. For me, it's been really eye opening to see how much has to be done to run a successful business. You have to be a jack (Jill?) of all trades. I never thought that I would be doing design, social media, finances, marketing, and sourcing ingredients. I do a lot of the work, teaming up with two other “P.S. Flavor!™ Spice Girls” to hand blend the spices, spoon them into jars and bags, label, and get them to the consumer.
At this point it is important that we do everything we can until we get large enough to go with a company we could really trust to do the
blending. I never imagined the amount of time that it would take to run a product line! Also, I never imagined the amount of regulation and certification. It is a lot to keep on top of for a small company, but so worth it!
After going through this process I understand why so many “mom and pop” business are unable to stay open. The reason we were able to sustain through those first five years is because we were able to implement P.S. Flavor!™ under our parent company. I don’t know how small businesses create a product line and still make a profit with all of the expenses such as operating a commercial kitchen, insurance, and supplies. But I’m so thankful we were able to push through those years and get to where we are now.
Another thing that I have seen is a lot of the spice companies don’t create the spices from start-to-finish; they are simply selling them. For example, often spices branded with a big name chef are just letting another company use his/her name. That chef is not usually hand-producing the spices, just lending out his/her name and promoting the product.
Our products are made right here in Central Florida and sold internationally at PSFlavor.com. We have been able to become international” in large part because of our presence at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. My mom cooks with P.S. Flavor!™ in her cooking demonstrations and we are allowed to sell the products in the festival shop. That has been a huge opportunity, because people were able to actually taste the spices. Once you've had them on Pam Smith's food it's very hard to go back to ordinary spices – or no spices!
What would your customers say they love most about your product?
I hear from people a few things that they love about our products. For one thing, I hear a lot of confidence and excitement about being able to serve their family spices that don't have any chemicals -- which is just not that easy to find anymore. The second thing a lot of people tell us, especially moms that don't have a lot of time to cook, is that they are able to take a meal that was usually boring then add our spices and it taste like it's from a restaurant!
My favorite thing we hear from people that they love is that they get to have a relationship with us. That does not exist with big box companies and is a key part of being truly artisanal If there is a question they can just ask Pam or me and we are there to support them. Think about it, you probably don’t have a relationship with the company who makes your frozen pizza. You don’t have the face of a person when you buy products from the grocery store if you have a question, or if you want to change up a meal, or if you have food allergies.
You may not have someone at that company that you can go to and say now what do I do, but with PS Flavor!™, you do. We have a lot of people that come to us and say that one of their favorite things about using our spices is being able to have a direct relationship with the maker. This is also one of our favorite things about shopping local!
Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you want your customers to know about?
I do! We heard from so many people that they love our spices, but wanted to know how Mom and I use them. We started realizing that a lot of people go to the grocery store, go to the farmers market, go to the Plant Street Market or wherever to buy spices then they sit in the cabinet because they aren’t part of their meal routines.
Until you really have meals to make with the spices a lot of people don't know how to use them. Honestly, if I didn't have my mom showing me how to use spice blends appropriately and the tips and tricks of the restaurant world then I probably wouldn't know how to inherently use them either. This showed us that we need to teach people how to use P.S. Flavor!™ spices and how to cook for optimal flavor in their own kitchens
So we started the P.S. Flavor!™ Cooking Club – offering monthly online cooking classes taught by Pam, making restaurant-style meals and using P.S. Flavor!™ It’s an Orlando healthy cooking class. Anyone can join us in our Facebook group for free and cook with us during our monthly live (and recorded) cooking classes. We provide the recipe, grocery list, wine pairing, and a prep sheet. Everyone starts cooking together in the online healthy cooking class on Facebook Live. After an hour of a step-by-step demonstration you will have a restaurant-style meal at home.
The cooking classes have become our absolute favorite thing to do, because not only do people sit down to eat their meal, they post pictures. The amount of pride that goes into every single picture that's posted is so rewarding! Our customers are so surprised and amazed by the dishes that they are able to make, and excited that the meals are also good for them. There is so much excitement around it so we are really looking forward to continuing the cooking classes with people that want to use P.S. Flavor!™.
You can see a demonstration of the online cooking class below.
What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
I really like that even though I work lot I get to manage my schedule around my daughter. I get to go eat lunch with her once a week at school. I get to go on field trips with her. I get to be a full-time mom and a full-time employee and I don't think that I could do that elsewhere.
Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs?
Yes, get a village to help you. Being vulnerable to the people around me in order for them to understand that I have a lot on my plate and I need help. And vice versa! I am 100% there for them when they need something. I lean on my support system if I have to run to a meeting, or go do an event. Having friends and family to step in and help me raise my Jr. Spice Girl has been priceless.
What do you love most about the Dr Phillips area?
I was born in Orlando and so was my mom and my dad. I moved to Dr. Phillips when I was 15 years old and I went to the Dr. Phillips High School and then off to Florida State. I love seeing the excitement and energy that people have in this area. There's a great sense of community and there are a lot of opportunities for children. Also, there is a drive for making the world a better place and for putting your stamp out into the world. I feel very encouraged and inspired by my community.
Why do you think it's important for people to shop locally?
I like to shop locally as much as I can to support local families. I also have a strong trust with local vendors. You know who you're supporting. You know who's making your product. And you can feel a lot of pride in in buying from them.
When customers choose a local business they are supporting so much more. You know, they’re supporting me being able to work with my mom.
They are supporting my mom being able to go out and help the world be a healthier, happier place. They’re supporting my daughter being able to do ballet. There's such a personal touch when people use artisanal local products and I don't think I had any idea until I started doing it.
Also, on our local Christian radio station Z88.3 my mom does the Tips for Living Well. So a lot of Central Florida people know her voice. She also used to be the nutritionist for the Orlando Magic. We love Orlando.
Who are your role models?
It has been really amazing watching and learning from my mom. I mean there's no one that I'm inspired by more than her. She loves people so genuinely and just wants them to eat well so they can live well. There’s just this core to her genetic makeup that wants to help people. And I watch her and get so excited that maybe I'm having a small part to do with that, too. Hopefully, someone gets a jar of spices and maybe they start eating even one meal a week at home that is good for them. And it's the one plate at a time that we believe can make all the difference.
Is there anything else that we have not covered that you want people to know about P.S. Flavor?
It's important to me that people know that you can put the spices on any
food to amp up the flavor. We want people to know that they can eat well without sacrificing flavor.
How can people purchase your products?
Online at psflavor.com or our product is available at the Winter Garden Collective at 505 S. Dillard St, Winter Garden, FL. Also, they can join our Orlando healthy cooking class by joining the Facebook group.
P.S. Flavor Contact Information
Online Cooking Class: Facebook.com/groups/psflavorclub
Youtube channel: @pamsmithrd
Cooking blog: pamsmith.com/blog