The Reason for this Season(ing)0
Starting a business is difficult. Starting a business while in college is even harder. One would guess that starting a business with a sibling- might just be impossible! For two reasons this was fortunately not the case for Aaron and Alicia Clemens. Together the two decided to replicate and market their father’s favorite seasoning blend in his honor by starting the company 'Season for a Reason' in their hometown of Kalamazoo. It's here they have received more support than they could have ever imagined!
"I feel that Kalamazoo is an incredibly supportive community that offers programs and services that helps individuals and businesses succeed and reach their greatest potential," said Alicia Clemens, co-founder of the seasoning blend company, "Season for a Reason".
The company originally formed to honor their father, the late Gary Alan Clemens - the man who perfected the seasoning. He first developed the season for pork chops on the grill and they later discovered that the seasoning added great flavor to just about anything. Clemens who had once dreamed of owning his own restaurant, passed before he had the chance. In effort to carry on his passion the siblings paired together and began to sell his "secret recipe" a seasoned salt blend.
Carrying on their father's dream was just part of the brother-sister teams' business strategy. They also decided to donate part of the proceeds back to the community that has been so good to them all of their lives. For every jar purchased a financial contribution is made to FridayGroceries, an outreach food pantry at the Valley Family Church that helps distribute supplemental groceries to families in need within the community.
"We know what it's like to need food," said Alicia. A family from humble beginnings, there were times when the pair were younger that their parents needed help making ends meet and sought help from the local food pantries.
Aaron while in college also interned at FridayGroceries and saw the personal connections the church they attend made with the community. Observing the uplifting atmosphere and impact it had on the people it helped, made the choice of which charity to benefit an easy one.
In the beginning Aaron and Alicia knocked on doors to gain traction with their seasoning side business, while also pursuing degrees in Family Studies at Western Michigan University. As a mere coincidence they knocked on the door of Scott VanAvery, the Manager of Recruitment and Outreach at WMU’s Haworth College of Business. He told the young entrepreneurs about the Starting Gate program.
Aaron recalls, "We were immediately connected to the mentors, met with local entrepreneurs, and participated in Demo Day, which allowed us to present our company to potential investors."
They also connected with the Can-Do Kitchen, an incubator for commercial cooking and those trying to work their way into the food business. The Clemens now prepare their seasoning blends there.
Since its inception, Season for a Reason has expanded its offerings to five blends, ranging from mild to savory, to fiery. Described as "salt with a kick," there is a blend for every palate. And while many seasoned salts on the market contain sugar, theirs replaces the sweet with spicy. Currently you can find the seasoned salts at the People's Food Co-op downtown, Barrett's Smokehouse on Stadium Drive and Harding's on S. Westnedge will carry all five products.
When not busy working their daytime jobs, finishing school, or building the business, the Kalamazoo natives who have always loved the vibe of downtown enjoy the variety of activities available. They also reminisce about the many New Year's Eves spent watching the ball drop and enjoying the fireworks with family, along with the many Kalamazoo Wings and Kings games watched.
We asked the pair what advice they might give an upcoming entrepreneur and Aaron shared, "Be willing to work extremely hard. Know that stepping out of your comfort zone will become an everyday occurrence." He went on to share, "Be careful whose advice you listen to. Don't focus on how far you still have to go, but be thankful for how far you have come and continue to learn and grow from mistakes."
Alicia's advice was similar. "I would tell anyone who is just starting out to go easy on themselves. They aren't going to get it right the first time and it's important to learn from mistakes. Don't give up when the going gets hard." She finished with, "And last, but not least, don't disqualify yourself too early in the game. It's easy to feel intimidated and unqualified to start a business because my brother and I definitely did at first, but if two Family Studies majors can have success, so can anyone else."
Stop by and meet the duo while they sell their blends at local farmer's markets on Bank Street Market and the 100 Mile Market. And don't forget to ask them about their promotional pricing if you buy all five blends!