Proper Pepper Pimento Cheese
Every classic southern woman's best friend.
What motivates your company?
My company is motivated by a variety of weekly activities. 1. Receiving emails and random social media messages and posts regarding where one can purchase Proper Pepper Pimento Cheese. 2. Seeing Proper Pepper in a grocery buggy, being pushed by a mother with three small children hanging on her sides. 3. Seeing an elderly couple choose to spend more money on Proper Pepper than commodity brands because it tastes more like the kind they made in their younger years. 4. The desire to teach young cooks how to eat healthy, seated around a table at home.
Tell us about your location.
We are located in Sandersville, GA, a charming rural town that has plenty of southern ladies who constantly share creative ways to use Proper Pepper in their daily meals.
Tell us a bit about your customers.
Initially my target market was the classic southern woman who knows the proper way to do things is the only way to do things! As I’ve demoed in Georgia, Florida and Texas stores, I’ve realized that Proper Pepper’s customers are much more diverse than this segmented target. Considering our product is a gourmet product and many customers consider it a destination item since it’s not readily available in masses of stores, our customer base tends to be those with a more discretionary income. Proper Pepper is available in stores all over Georgia, in Texas’ Central Market stores, one of the most coveted specialty food stores in the country, and in Florida’s Fine Wine & Spirits stores. Pimento cheese is considered a southern regional food, but we hope to gradually change that characteristic as the northeast and west continue to be fascinated with southern culture. In addition to these retail customers, we also have a few restaurants and public schools that purchase in large food service packs.
Share the history of your company.
A new neighbor’s welcome gift of pimento cheese back in 1995 started my entrepreneurial journey! After making if for 19 years, giving it away to friends and family, I decided to explore the opportunity of packaging and selling Proper Pepper. I had dreamed of selling at the local farmer’s market, giving my twin daughters an opportunity to interact with the public, learn to exchange goods for money and create a savings account for a playhouse. I realized quickly that manufacturing a food product was much more regulated than I ever realized. After much research, I enter the recipe into the Flavor of Georgia contest in 2015. I won in the dairy division, and Proper Pepper was launched. Within 15 months of my initial idea, I had a name, a beautiful vintage-inspired label and a 2015 Flavor of Georgia award winner. So here I am, a former stay-at-home mom turned professional batch maker. I have worked from a small certified kitchen in Sandersville since May of 2015. In the past year, we have outgrown the kitchen and reached capacity. We are currently searching for a manufacturing partner to help us make Proper Pepper in large batches, so we can confidently market it to larger stores. As a side note, pimentos have Georgia roots. Georgia was the pimento capital of the world in the 1930s. It started near Griffin at Experiment Station. Pimentos were plentiful and profitable, launching pimento cheese as the go-to working class lunch and a proper society snacking staple. So, isn’t it only proper that Georgia, this beautiful state filled with peaches, pecans, pearls and peanuts, and the heart of the southern culinary universe, reclaim its rightful place in the launch of pimento cheese with a pimento cheese brand she can call her own? Food trends come and go. Pimento cheese never goes out of style, especially one that’s properly crafted with dignified flavor.
How are you involved with your customers and community?
I have a servant’s heart, so volunteering in my community and state is very gratifying. I am a 2004 graduate of Leadership Georgia and also served as a trustee on the LGA Board of Directors from 2007-2010. Locally, I have been president of the school PTO, board director of the Georgia Rural Medical Scholar Program, member of the Sandersville Music Club, member of the Transylvania Club, and member of the Sandersville United Methodist Church. I’m also a member of the Georgia Industry Food Association, Georgia Grown and have been asked to speak numerous times at small business, women’s programs and economic development events. We maintain a presence in state food events by participating in the Atlanta Cheese Festival, food and wine festivals, store demos and donating product for special events. I am the founder of the Middle Georgia Mastermind Group, with an inaugural meeting upcoming on May 7th in Sandersville.
Tell us about your employees.
I have three part-time employees…my banker husband, Ken Bibb, who handles all of our financials, my assistant batch maker, Annie Brown, who is in charge of production and quality control, and Annie’s sister, Betty Peacock, who is a production assistant. We all wear many hats and have experienced learning curves beyond our imaginations!
What makes you excited to work here?
As the batch maker and owner of Proper Pepper, every single day is different, and I am in complete control of my schedule. This is an exciting aspect, but being a mother and wife are my priorities. What started as a hobby and contest challenge is now my identity. Anytime I have the opportunity to pop the tamper evident tab on a container of Proper Pepper and share it with a new person, whether a potential customer or a grocery buyer, seeing the look on their faces upon the first bite is indeed an exciting moment, and one that never disappoints!
What do you like about your community and location?
Sandersville is centrally located in Georgia, so it’s the perfect set up with our delivery system. Growing up as a farm girl in a neighboring county, living in Sandersville has felt familiar and offers every component I’ve dreamed about when raising a family. I have a little microcosm taste testing group and delivery support system right here within a 10-mile radius. Much of our success has come from my central Georgia friends and family. They know how to get the word out and have shared their love for Proper Pepper very publicly.
How do you embody Authentic Georgia?
My family has lived in Georgia for several generations. I grew up in Georgia. Received my bachelors and masters degrees in Georgia. Have lived in north Georgia, South Georgia and middle Georgia. Have served as a trustee with Georgia’s statewide leadership program. I won the Flavor of Georgia contest. I’m involved with Georgia Grown, promoting other Georgia products. I’m about as authentic of a Georgia peach as you can find!
What makes Georgia so special and unique?
I feel extremely blessed to be a small business owner in the food industry in Georgia. We are the #1 state to do business with in this nation and I know from experience how this feels. The resources and support I have received from state agencies have helped me exponentially with the launch of Proper Pepper. I have built my brand around my lifestyle…one that is familiar with anyone who has grown up in Georgia! Whether served as a convenient meal on a paper plate or on a silver platter at a cocktail party, Proper Pepper’s brand represents and celebrates all the fine things our family appreciates like seersucker suits, Coca-Cola, bow-ties, peach cobbler, a hand-written thank you note, little girl bishop dresses, old houses, peonies, and suppers on the side porch. So, wherever you are with your Proper Pepper, don’t forget to raise your glass and toast to the finer things in life, like great Georgia style, history and taste!