Four years ago, Judy Egge needed cash to start a home-based business so she refinanced her Chandler home and ended up with an extra $15,000. She used the money to finance the basics for the fledgling company. But all the other services, including marketing, sales, licking envelopes and making telephone calls, she did — and does — herself.
Her business: Sunshine Specialty Foods Co.
Her product: Relish made with a blend of zucchini, onions, red and green peppers, vinegar and spices, and, for a hotter taste — jalapenos and habaneros and called, Relish This!
The number of employees: One — Judy Egge.
Today, the 46-year- old mother of two and business entrepreneur is selling an estimated 18,000 to 20,000 jars of Relish This! a year to hotels and restaurants, wholesale food dealers, Internet buyers and directly to visitors at outdoor markets and art shows in the Valley and nationally.
Her relish — (not made with traditional pickles) — is also being sold internationally in Canada. The goal is to reach a market in Europe and Asia.
Egge shares her home with her husband, Steve, 54, a safety director for an excavating company and two children, Corey, 16 and Colten, 8 — and piles of cardboard boxes filled with jars of her product.
Her dining room has been transformed into a temporary shipping center.
“But — I’m still my own boss,” Egge quickly says. “That’s important and that’s why I’m not interested in attracting investors or expanding and becoming a major corporation. If that happened, I’d have to take orders from investors. I don’t take orders from anyone, except, of course, orders for my relish.
“I relish taking orders for Relish This!”
Egge traces her independence and self-determination to her late father, Norman Lipsig, a Chicago drapery maker who also was self-employed.
“My father taught me to always be my own boss,” Egge said.
However, after graduating in 1983 from Arizona State University with a degree in marketing and agricultural science, she entered the corporate world and worked for food industry employers in the Valley for more than 20 years.
“I lost my job, got very depressed and, eventually, decided to open my own business selling something I discovered while visiting my sister, Robin, in Toronto,” Egge said.
Egge and her sister in the late 1990s found a tasty relish being sold at a roadside stand about two hours from her sister’s home by Mennonites.
“Every time I visited my sister, we would drive to the tiny Mennonite town and buy the relish,” Egge said. “I used it on everything.”
Egge asked her sister to ask the Mennonites to ship their relish to her home, but they refused.
She began experimenting by blending various vegetables, including zucchini, onions, red and green peppers, vinegar and spices.
Relish This! was born.
A few years later, Relish This! became official when she borrowed her investment capital, incorporated the company and registered the brand name with the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Egge, during the formative months, got a boost from the Service Corps of Retired Executives and the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.
SCORE honored Egge with “Client of the Year” award in 2003 for her enthusiasm and bravery for starting her enterprise.
She joined forces with Scottsdale chef Marc Parker, who agreed to produce her relish in his commercial kitchen.
She also met with AJ’s Fine Foods and convinced the store to sell her relish as a gourmet food.
They are also sold at Whole Foods and gourmet and gift stores in the Valley and nationwide.
One of her biggest sales promotions, meanwhile, was attending various outdoor fairs where visitors could see and talk with the maker of Relish This! and sample the product.
“Once people taste my relish, they become regular customers and spread the word,” Egge said.
Besides being used to add flavor to hotdogs and hamburgers, her relish is also suggested for making sauces, salads, sandwiches or as a steak or chicken sauce.
Recipes are available on the company’s Web site and brochures.
Egge has since established a working relationship with a wholesale distributor, who handles the shipping of large batches to restaurants, hotels, companies and firms nationally and internationally.
The company’s founder-owner, however, still handles much of her business directly from her home while her son and his school chums watch videos in an adjacent living room and her daughter’s friends chat in her nearby room.
Egge, when she’s not taking orders or developing marketing plans, enjoys riding her American Saddlebred horse, Clyde, at horseshows. She and her horse and relish was featured on a the Food Network television show two years ago that focused on Arizona and food in the Southwest.
“After the show, my phone rang off the hook,” Egge said.
Her Relish This! is sold in 12-ounce bottles that range from $4.99 to $6.99 and have three different tastes — sweet and tangy, sweet and spicy and hot and spicy.
They are also sold in two-ounce jars, gift bags that range in price between $8 and $24 (with added shipping costs) and are available on the Internet or at specialty stores and arts and craft festivals. Egge said one day she plans to return to the Mennonite community and tell them about how she is marketing and merchandizing a product that is close in taste, looks and appeal to theirs.
Family: Husband, Steve, 54; children: Corey, 16 and Colten, 8
Resides in: Chandler
Business: Founder and president, Sunshine Specialty Foods Co.
Key achievement: Since starting her home-based company in Chandler four years ago with an initial investment of $15,000, Egge has steadily increased her annual gross revenues so that today she is earning more than $150,000 a year and the income is climbing. Her special product, Relish This! is a blend of vegetables that is sold wholesale to restaurants and hotels, retail stores, on the Internet and is shipped throughout the world.
Success Philosophy: Never compromise quality. Offer an exceptional product at a great price. Make your customers happy
Goal: To continue to grow and to distribute and sell Relish This! all over the country and world.
Information: (480) 961-9750; toll-free (877) 735-4748 or
Nov. 11 and 12: Phoenix Botanical Garden Chocolate and Chili Festival
Nov. 25: Ahwatukee Festival of Lights
Chandler Farmers Market: Second Saturday of every month starting in December