Family turns unemployment into Aunt Nee's salsa biz

There was nothing small about the Great Recession for Patrick Schwager's family in Garden City. Both of his parents lost their jobs in mid-2008. He was just graduating from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a degree in business management and marketing in 2009 and his internship wasn't going anywhere.

That's when the family rallied together and made a go of it with its Aunt Nee's salsa business.

"For a solid year we were cash-strapped and unemployed," Schwager says. "We decided to make a major push to make it successful."

Aunt Nee's had always been a hobby business for the family. They were always disappointed buying prepared salsa, often with its lack of freshness. Aunt Nee's sells the seasoning to the customers so they can add their own produce to make fresh salsa. Schwager brought on a friend as a partner, Carlos Parisi, and the business took off.

"It's the best fresh salsa you can make yourself," Schwager says.

Today you can find Aunt Nee's in a wide variety of supermarkets across Michigan, including 45 Kroger grocery stores. It now sells a little more than 50,000 packets of seasoning annually. It is gearing up to begin online sales later this year. Schwager hopes to cross into six-figures worth of unit sales within the next year.

Aunt Nee's now employs five people and is looking to add a few interns this summer. It is also working with other local small businesses to help them get off the ground.

Source: Patrick Schwager, CEO of Aunt Nee's
Writer: Jon Zemke

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