What’s better than barbecue? Barbecue with a story. And that’s exactly what local entrepreneur Tory Campbell has to offer you with his new line of artisan sauces. Felton & Mary’s Artisan Foods has emerged from a rich history that spans centuries, from the rural South to Southeast Portland.
Tory sees a future that spans continents. We’ll let him tell you the story himself:
What is the spark that inspired the birth of your concept?
It starts with my grandparents, who had a gift for hospitality. A lot of that centered around food and creating spaces for community to happen. They were generous people in how they loved and welcomed people into their homes. The outgrowth of that generosity was a restaurant they started in SE Portland in 1989. The restaurant ended up being an extension of our home. A lot of the food in our restaurant was what you would find in our home, and the physical space became another room of the house for my grandmother to decorate and grandfather to fill with the aroma of good food.
People came in for the food but stuck around for the relationships. Strangers came in, became regulars, and eventually called my grandparents mom and dad. Working in the restaurant was one of my first jobs. My family has decided that one of the best ways to honor the legacy of my grandparents is to bring their recipes back to market for the public, to reconnect with old customers and introduce them to a new fan base of people who love barbecue.
How do you differentiate from your competition?
It’s partially about taste and ingredients. Yes, we have natural ingredients, no preservatives, we use cane sugar instead of corn syrup, we have a unique flavor profile. That only differentiates us so much—after all, how many songs have been written in the key of E?
Yet even with same four chords, how many songs have been written that move us in different ways? This is not just a product, it’s a story about family and heritage. Our culinary history is really rich—it evolved from taking the worst cuts of meat and finding ways to make them flavorful. Our food is often overlooked and dismissed, considered unsophisticated or unrefined, but my grandparents’ food was artisanal. Our sauces aren’t derived from a slapstick recipe cobbled together in some laboratory. The roots are much more deep.
What’s your go-to-market strategy?
Over the last nine months we’ve begun a partnership with local based New Seasons Markets and have been featured as a local “find” company. We’ve produced a batch of our BBQ sauces under their brand label and our sauces can be purchase in all their stores on the West Coast. Long-term I envision a whole line of branded label Felton & Mary’s products – signature spice rub, cole slaw sauce, link sausages and more. Through the crowdfunding campaign we just launched, I hope to make the products available through our online store so they can ship all over the world. As a steward of my grandparents’ legacy and heritage, my goal is not just to get the products on any shelf but to be thoughtful about where they’re sold.
What has been the biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date?
You have ideas and aspirations, but there’s that moment when you have to be vulnerable, when you have to share those ideas and allow people to react to them. I’ve been surprised by the favorable response people tend to have to my instincts as an entrepreneur. People are more open and receptive than you realize—when it comes to giving you wisdom and also just getting behind you and being supportive.
What is your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur?
Hone your product. Hone your story. Grow your know-how. Expand your vision for what you can become. People ask me, what’s your dream? Do you want to get into Costco? I say, I want to go international! If I do that, I think Costco will be along the road. Of course, there’s learning that has to happen to get there.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as an entrepreneur?
Being patient. You want things to happen yesterday. The question I struggle with the most is, am I waiting for the right reasons? Is my waiting a timely activity or is it a sign of inactivity? Once I captured a card and followed up with it, then six months later that contact led me to a place I needed to be. But had I not been patient, I would have missed the opportunity. Things take time.
What are the benefits of starting a business in Oregon?
People here are very receptive to different kinds of food. We go back to the 80s, and no one was talking about food back then like they are now. We started a BBQ restaurant in a cool place, but it was kind of off the beaten path. We realized you can create your own ecosystem wherever you are if you have a good product—the community will respond to that.
Felton & Mary’s is currently fundraising on CrowdSupply. Learn more and support the campaign!