Traci Johannson: “Be a person of your word”

I would spend the majority of my time running my business. — As a Business owner I spend a majority of my time Building, developing business procedures, strategies, marketing, selling, interacting with customers, and doing administrative tasks like bookkeeping, invoicing, and payroll. As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the […]

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I would spend the majority of my time running my business. — As a Business owner I spend a majority of my time Building, developing business procedures, strategies, marketing, selling, interacting with customers, and doing administrative tasks like bookkeeping, invoicing, and payroll.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Traci Johannson of 3Sons Foods.

3 Teenage brother entrepreneurs: Ayden, Lucien, & George Johannson (ages 12–17)and their single mom-preneur, Traci, who all started 3Sons Foods to showcase their award-winning sauces in order to raise funds to save Rhinos & Wolves.

They have been featured on 20/20, Localish (tv series), ABC, Houston Chronicle, Austin Business Journal, San Antonio Current, Fox News, several HEB Commercials, Cover of Teen Influential and more. 3 Sons has won numerous awards including HEB Quest for Texas Best 2019 and starred in many of their commercials. 1 Year later, they are in over 500 stores nationwide, with their 1st international store in Honduras.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My son, Luke inspired me to follow the path I was meant to follow. Our company, 3SonsFoods actually began with Luke, my middle son and his passion to save rhinos from extinction. Luke wanted to raise money for rhino conservation, so we started selling my homemade salsa Diablo Verde, out of our kitchen and sold it to neighbors and friends. They all started buying our sauce like it was essential for life existence and a simple little fundraiser turned into a successful family business, but it was not by accident.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Creating a product, launching a business and being an entrepreneur came naturally for me, however it does not mean there weren’t hard times for the boys and I. There was a tremendous about of physical labor starting a food business and creating a company from nothing. We spent long hours in a very small and very hot commercial kitchen. Squeezing limes, cutting jalapenos, stirring pot after pot of Diablo Verde and washing many, many dishes that would result in ending our long days of work, sore and often icing burnt fingers. To say we always got along during those long work days, would not be the truth, let’s just say that the Diablo Verde was not the only thing that got heated in that tiny kitchen.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

“Be a person of your word” is a family value and a company value. I made a promise to my sons that we would build a company, our sauce would be on the shelves throughout the United States and we would save some rhinos in the process. I value being a person of my word, and teaching my sons the important lesson of making a goal and achieving it was extremely important to me. Also, there was this small issue of becoming a single Mom, during our journey of building our business, so I kind of had to make it work.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Diablo Verde is now carried in over 500 stores throughout the United States and we are expanding by the minute! We are also launching a new line of salsas, Diablo Vegan benefiting wolf conservation! I have proven to myself, my sons, and so many naysayers that grit and resilience can lead to the sweet success of watching your dreams become reality!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we got through all of the regulations of setting up our business and getting our product shelf ready, we loaded up samples in the car and drove around to our local Mom and Pops in the neighborhood to pitch our sauce to them. The 1st store we went to was an Indian Grocery Store named Vishala Grocery Market and the owner of the store said that he would carry our sauce if we did demos. I had NO IDEA what I was agreeing to, but being the enthusiastic start up I was, I agreed and 5 days later on a Sunday afternoon, my 9 year old son, George and I stood in this tiny little packed market giving samples away and selling our sauce like it was essential for life existence. I had to leave the store twice to go home and grab more product, because we kept selling out. The store employees would make us eat their peppers while they made fun of our Hot Diablo Verde for not being spicey enough for them and while selling I would be licking sugar and crying, but George and I kept selling! We still laugh about that, and it was a great lesson, how to sell a creamy cilantro salsa in a store that didn’t even have a salsa section.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

3SonsFoods has a great mission of making the world a better place through entrepreneurship and yes it is a kid-owned and kid-run business with a bit of help from Mom, but the real secret of our success is our #1 value of being a person of our word. We believe in our core, that promises made are promises kept. We stand by our word, and by standing by your word, the natural consequence is your business offers excellent customer service. Rather a customer buys 1 jar or 10 pallets, we want to make sure they feel important and appreciated and well taken care of at 3SonsFoods.

Recently, we had a batch of Mild Diablo Verde, that was far from mild and we heard from our Diablo Fans they were not happy. Of course we went back to the kitchen and corrected the issue, but in the meantime, we sent out many a replacement jar. We know that customer loyalty can not be bought, it has to be earned and treating people with respect will always be the right thing to do!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Look up the definition of Burnout on Google and it states “Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.”

Burnout comes when you feel out of control, you are unable to meet the demands of the business and you are physically and emotionally exhausted. Nobody wants that and your business will not thrive if your in a state of constant stress. Of course time off with family and friends is vital, and exercise routine is so important, however those things are not going to keep you from loosing it. To be truly successful as a CEO, President or Business owner you have to have organized systems in place in your company. I have seen other vendors receive a large PO from a grocery store chain, put an order into their Kitchen and then have no idea if the Grocery Store even received the product. Horrible customer service, and this example only causes stress among everyone and teaches the large grocery store chain that their business is not respected. Having a simple checklist and a set of procedures for everything from “How to ship product” to “Receiving a PO” can decease stress and allow you to delegate!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

We have a wonderful supportive family friend named Kendra Lema and she has supported our growth each step of our journey. She was so wonderful that she would buy cases of our sauce to give away at her yearly Christmas Cookie exchange. She helped us build our brand awareness and I will never forget her kindness!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

“Making the world a better place through entrepreneurship” That is our mission and our why. We started this company to save rhinos. 3 years later, 3SonsFoods has provided me with a way to support my family, we have raised thousands for rhino conservation, and moving forward we will do the same for wolves. Most importantly I have watched my sons, encourage other kids to pursue business ownership themselves. We live in a land of opportunity, however, some people allow fear to hold them back, I hope that we inspire kids and adults alike to believe their dreams can come true. That they can make the world a better place through following their dreams.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Don’t stress, you’ll sale your inventory. 
    I always want to make sure our product is received in the freshest form, and many many times I didn’t make enough or I didn’t order enough Diablo Verde to have on stock and I have often scrambled to fill orders, or gone back to the kitchen late in the evening to make more Diablo and ensure we delivered product on time.
  2. I would spend the majority of my time running my business.
    As a Business owner I spend a majority of my time Building, developing business procedures, strategies, marketing, selling, interacting with customers, and doing administrative tasks like bookkeeping, invoicing, and payroll.
  3. Margins
    Know your margins and stick to them. If we don’t make a profit, there is nothing to give to save endangered animals, so let’s fulfill our mission!
  4. A good accountant and a good bookkeeper is worth her/his weight in gold. 
    You do not nor should you do everything on your own. As soon as you can afford it, outsource whatever you are bad at. For me is was the numbers, and as soon as I could afford it I handed over the accounting to the best person I could afford at the time. Now that things have become more complicated we have upgraded our accounting system, and gladly don’t worry about it all
  5. It’s lonely. 
    I have my Mom friends, my single Mother friends, my lifelong friends, however, I wish I’d known to surround myself with like-minded people out of the gate, and other entrepreneur friends that I could turn to for advice or just to vent and bounce ideas off of. I now have that support system and I am in so much better of a better place.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

“Love they neighbor” is something I learned in Sunday School class as a child and I’m sure all religions teach a form of that. In today’s world full of so much conflict and turmoil I hope we can come together with love and forgiveness in our hearts, heal the past and move forward together approaching the next decade with respect and love for all. “Love the neighbor” is a simple rule that could change our world course.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Yes! Please follow us @3SonsFoods on IG, FB, Twitter and Pinterest

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

And Thank you sooo much for having me and allowing me to share with your readers!

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