The Sell Gourmet Network News Weblog

By Randolph, Ned

Whether it’s helping a designer with an idea start a business or an ambitious entrepreneur intent on going national, the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Success Center touts itself as a full-service shop for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Entrepreneur Russ Bruhn knows the feeling. He doesn’t mind working 362 days a year, as long as it’s for himself.

“What’s the alternative, getting up and working for someone else?”

An energetic soul, Bruhn was once co-owner of a goat ranch in Minnesota that produced not only cashmere and goat meat, but fetched weed control contracts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he said.

He last consulted with a beauty products company whose antifungal creme landed a $2.8 million contract with Walgreens.

“I said that’s the last time I do that for someone else.” he said.

Bruhn said the Small Business Success Center helped set him up with a 530,000 Small Business Administration loan and contacts in the food industry.

He launched Carlsbad Gourmet four years ago. Since then he has developed 30 products fruit spreads. hot sauces, mustards, salad dressings and barbecue sauces - all with local ingredients.

He has received orders from Whole Foods Market stores’ 25 locations in Southern California, nine Costco wholesale stores in San Diego and four limbo’s, said Bruhn.

He supplies the fruit spreads for every peanut butter and jelly sandwich at Legoland. And he has partnerships with local brewers Stone Brewing Co., Green Flash Brewing Co. and Pizza Pont Brewing Co. to use their beers as ingredients in his products, which he promotes with them.

“Every time Pizza Port, Stone or Green Flash does a festival we’re right there next to them,” Bruhn said.

Last year, he tripled his sales volume to $930,000. Business has really taken off since the company participated in the Fancy Food Show held at the San Diego Convention Center in January.

“We have gotten orders for almost 50 stores in the last month. It’s really exciting,” he said.

Promoting Carlsbad Products

Bruhn said the original thrust of the business was to promote Carlsbad strawberries. He was trying to fill gift baskets for a Hawaiian Little League team his son was playing against that had brought cookies with Hawaii Macadamia nuts.

Bruhn said he couldn’t find any Carlsbad products in local food marts.

“I said we should have found something with Carlsbad strawberries,” Bruhn said. “Strawberries are pretty significant here.”

He found that more than 80 percent of the country’s strawberries are grown in California so he hired a food engineer who helped him design a strawberry spread.

He and his son took the spread to The Flower Fields tourist attraction in Carlsbad and sold 10 cases of the spread the first day They returned the next week with 20 cases.

He is now looking for a partner to raise capital in order to expand his five-employee business into a larger space and at some point take Carlsbad Gourmet nationally.