Small business classes from WCTC help pickle producer progress

July 30, 2013

From “Pickle producer hopes to progress from farmers markets to food stores” — Chances are, if you frequent South Milwaukee’s or Greenfield’s farmers market, you’ve had the opportunity to taste some of Dave Shanklin’s pickle creations.

Although his food is a hit at farmers markets, Shanklin, owner of Dave’s Famous Pickles, Peppers and Jams LLC, wants to sell his products in grocery stores.

Because the farmers markets end the last week of October, Shanklin wants to get his products on the shelves of Piggly Wiggly and Sendik’s stores by the first week of November.

Shanklin recently received a $15,000 loan from the West Allis Economic Development Partnership Committee to turn his dream into a reality. Once his business takes off, he wants to open a pickle factory.

“I asked them if they wanted a pickle factory in West Allis, and they said yes,” Shanklin said. “That’s what I’m going to do.”

In addition to having his own pickle factory, Shanklin wants to teach people how to make pickled products.

Lori Zingsheim of South Milwaukee has purchased Shanklin’s raspberry jam at the South Milwaukee Downtown Market.

“The jam was superb and delicious on ice cream,” Zingsheim said.

Shanklin didn’t have raspberry jam available Thursday, but Zingsheim decided to try his strawberry pineapple jam, which she ultimately purchased.

Numerous customers stopped by Shanklin’s booth that day as he lured potential customers in with samples of his dilly beans (pickled green beans), sweet pickles, strawberry pineapple jam and dill pickles. A 32-ounce jar of dilly beans sells for $8 and a 16-ounce jar for $4. His 16-ounce jams and 32-ounce sweet and dill pickles are $5.

Shanklin is able to sell his homemade products under “the pickle bill,” which was signed into law by former Gov. Jim Doyle in February 2010. The bill allows limited sales of acidic home-canned foods without a license. Shanklin’s line of products includes sweet pickles, dill pickles, asparagus, dilly beans, brussels sprouts and olives. Shanklin also makes strawberry, strawberry pineapple, raspberry, raspberry pineapple, blackberry and blackberry pineapple jam.

Shanklin buys all his produce from Milwaukee stores, such as El Rey and Pete’s Fruit Market.

After going through a divorce and getting laid off from a teaching job in the Brown Deer School District, Shanklin, who has a master’s degree in technical education, decided to devote his time to developing his pickle business. He used to give friends his pickled products and wanted to turn it into a career.

Shanklin knows that running a small business single-handedly isn’t easy. He was required to take a canning course through the University of Wisconsin-Madison and took small-business courses at Waukesha County Technical College. He is also involved with the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp., which provides business and financial education to those who want to start small businesses.

To get his line of goods into Piggly Wiggly and Sendik’s, his products need to have nutritional labels and bar codes. This can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000. He is also working toward getting processing licenses.

“I’ve spent most of my own money, and the loan is going to help me have money in the bank,” Shanklin said. “Most small businesses fail because they don’t have any working capital to keep it going.”

Shanklin sold his boat for $6,000 and was able to pay the health department to inspect the kitchen that he uses to make his products. Shanklin wants to use the loan to help separate the business’ funds from his personal funds. He plans to allot himself a salary of $500 a week while the rest will go directly to his business.

Shanklin plans to substitute teach to help pay off the loan. He also has a snack wagon where he plans to sell baked jalapeños with cheddar cheese, cream cheese and bacon.

“I’m happier than happy. They think that I can do it, and I know I can,” Shanklin said.

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