Teen has launched a business with his own produce
ROLLA, MO. – Remington “Remi” Effinger was self-described as “bored to death” when COVID hit in 2020. That boredom of remote schooling and isolation from friends forced the then 12-year-old to explore starting his own home-based business as a fun way to occupy his time.
Remi enlisted his mom Stephanie’s help, and she began helping him expand his cooking, something he first began doing at Boy Scout campouts around the age of 8.
Family friend Debbie Turner shared a mild salsa recipe with Remi. After putting his spice twist on it, the initial product was born in two versions for sale, mild and medium. Friends and relatives liked the salsa so much Remi decided to sell it at the local Downtown Rolla Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. The salsa was such a hit that Debbie even became a regular customer.
Luckily, it was springtime in the Ozarks when the venture first began, and Remi was able to start the process of growing his own veggies from seedlings inside the house. Stephanie, raised on a cattle farm, helped Remi set up the backyard-raised bed garden area where 25 tomato plants started the growing venture, along with peppers and container-grown herbs.
He maintains a compost bin, a good way to deal with leftover scrap food and remove the need for purchasing expensive fertilizers or treated soil.
In keeping with state regulations for home-crafted foods, each jar has to be labeled with all the ingredients used. If the food was not prepared in a certified kitchen, the label must also indicate that Remi noted. The $400 to $500 cost for training to have his mom’s kitchen certified is too much of an expense for his small business to sustain at this time.
Another juggling act is that food sold in a farmers market setting must be processed within a week prior to sales. When the family’s small home kitchen became hard to navigate, the local VFW offered their commercial kitchen to Remi, and the expanse of space has made processing salsa less challenging.
Stephanie has continued to assist with marketing and sales and several other products that have evolved into his own small business.
Marketing the product began with a catchy name – Remi Eats was chosen simply in reminiscence of Remi’s love of eating. A personal blog was launched on Facebook that Stephanie monitors. Branding the product has been done with consistent product labeling. Sharing the word through family and friends, combined with selling at the local farmers market, has been the most effective tool in getting the word out.
Too busy gardening and processing salsa to keep track of all the sales, Remi estimates he’s sold 350- to 400-pint jars of salsa since 2020. He charges $8 a jar and asks customers to return the jars, but they rarely do.
Stephanie had the foresight to stock up on jars and lids, so the shortage last year didn’t affect Remi Eats. She’s hoping the rise in the cost of jars and lids won’t affect his bottom line too much.
Next, Remi added herb sales. He quickly learned to adjust to public demand as they didn’t seem as interested in purchasing the fresh herbs as they did the dried version. So dried herbs took the place of fresh ones at the market, and customers returned time and again for dried herbs and peppers.
This year, in addition to mild and medium salsa sales, perhaps adding a sweet version, Remi has decided to grow gourds. Plans include crafting loofah and water sprinklers for sale at the farmers market. Remi said he’s hoping the two new products will be sought out by customers but admits you just can never tell what the public buys and it’s trial and error.
At some point in time, Remi would like to enter into a cheesemaking adventure but is saving that until he’s learned more about the art form that is cooking. He likes to explore what food pairs well with each different type of cheese.
The Rolla High School freshman is looking forward to learning things to hone his skills. He’s excited about the upcoming World Foods section taught in his Family & Consumer Science class. Remi said he sees himself traveling as an adult, specifically to France and Germany, to explore how ethnic foods are prepared in various regions of the world.
Remi has his sights set first on pursuing Culinary Arts at RTI. He currently participates in agriculture classes to learn as much as he can about plants and is a member of the meats team.
Most recently, while his mother was recovering from surgery, Remi prepared meals for the family of five. Whether it be a small gathering or assisting with the annual VFW Christmas feast, the Rolla teen is up for the challenge.
One day Remi would like to own a food truck, local winery or stationary restaurant.
His dream career may have been much different had the dismal restrictions of a two-month COVID quarantine not forced Remington Effinger to create a business within the confines of his home space.