Norman Park, GA (WALB) – In Georgia, agriculture is a $5 billion business and now a Norman Park woman is contributing to the industry.
She recently quit her teaching job to opening a canning business and in just a short time is selling product in 16 states. It's her dream job that's now employing three others, but it wouldn't have been possible without some help from the state to get her started.
While Lauri Jo Bennett didn't get a lot of financial help from the state, to get her business off the ground, they provided valuable resources, she would have had to pay for, at no cost. Now she's preparing to meet with a national retail chain trying to sell her product.
Potato salad made with Lauri Jo's canned green tomato pickle product was too good for many to put down.
"Kids today don't put up vegetables and things like I grew up doing," said Bennett.
Her hobby turned into a new business leading her to quit her teaching job. She moved the business from the High School's canning plant to her own shop in Norman Park, but couldn't have done it without the state's help.
"When they asked me we can help you write your business plan. I didn't even know what a business plan was so we've have lots of help like that," said Bennett.
The state's Agri-business Innovation Center considers themselves a matchmaker putting entrepreneurs like Lauri Jo, in touch with the right people.
"Lauri Jo needed some information about the canning process we hooked her up with food scientists, there's just all kind of resources," said Donnie Smith, of the GA Center of Innovation for Agribusiness.
The state's marketing coordinator has helped shop her products all over the state.
"We're working on getting in some other grocery stores that are more health orientate, we're in the process of filling out paperwork for Cracker Barrel," said Bennett.
The trickle down effect will impact local farmers.
"We're in a global market place but we also have to find out niches, and niches like Lauri Jo's canning business that started in the canning plant of our local high school, it just gives our farmers another market for their produce and vegetable product that they sell," Sunbelt Ag. Expo Exec. Director Chip Blalock.
Lauri Jo has no idea how far the business will grow, but so far her leap of faith seems to be paying off.
The business will take her to New York City in June where she'll participate in the New York Fancy Foods Show. A booth at the show typically costs $5,500 with help from the state it's only going to cost her $500 and give her world wide exposure.
Right now, Bennett's business specializes in salsa, jellies, and green tomato pickles.
Click HERE to visit Lauri Jo's Southern Canning or call 229-769-3391
Click HERE to e-mail the state Dept. of Ag. market coordinator or call 800-282-5852