While most students struggle to balance their classes and extracurricular activities, one student has an additional responsibility on her plate: running her own business.
Avalon Dudinsky, a junior marketing major and current owner of Stan’s Stuff from Panama City, Florida, shared the story of her product, an all-purpose seasoning, in an exclusive interview with the Tropolitan.
Dudinsky met Stan Cooper, the founder of the company, while working at Howell Tackle Supply, where the seasoning was first being sold.
“He and his wife, Georgia, worked with me in the tackle shop,” Dudinsky said. “They had been telling me a lot about how their business went from their kitchen to the shelf.”
As retirement was approaching for Cooper and his wife, Dudinsky decided to buy the company.
“There were many people flooding Howell to buy Stan’s Stuff when they heard that Stan would not be running the business anymore,” Dudinsky said. “I believed I could take it over, and do it better.”
With the financial support of her family, Dudinsky bought out the company in April of this year.
According to Dudinsky, the biggest challenge she encountered in the beginning was knowing where to start.
“I learn something new every day, and I think that is the fun of being in a business,” said Dudinsky.
She said that she also strives to manage her time by effectively distributing her time between studying, socializing and running the business.
“Being a full-time student who wants good grades, serving as a member of the Student Government Association and running a business is definitely very challenging to me,” she said.
Dudinsky expressed gratefulness for the tremendous help she has received from various faculty members and students on campus, especially the Troy University Small Business Development Center.
“They point me in all the right directions,” Dudinsky said.
According to Dudinsky, Frank Thompson, an assistant professor in marketing and Dudinsky’s academic adviser, has helped her from the very beginning.
“When we felt the need of creating a new label, he advised me to go to the art department,” Dudinsky said. “I got my new label from a senior level art design student, Louise Cheng.”
These on-campus resources help Dudinsky tremendously due to the fact that business advisers and graphic design companies typically charge a great deal of money to utilize their services.
Another great challenge Dudinsky faces is expanding her business.
“I have to step out of my comfort zone and call people, knock on their doors and talk to them about my business,” she said.
The company does not have a target audience at the moment, but according to Dudinsky, the market for the product is segmented to retail stores, seafood companies and grocery stores.
Stan’s Stuff is available for purchase in 12 locations: nine in Panama City, Florida, one in Perry, Florida, one in Marianna, Florida, and one here in Troy.
In addition, the product can also be purchased online through the official website: http://stanstuffseasoning.com.
Stan’s Stuff has received a tremendous amount of positive feedback thus far, with the company’s Facebook page receiving 5.0 out of 5.0 stars coupled with a great deal of positive reviews.
Although Dudinsky has sold around 600 units since her takeover in April, the company has not yet reached the company’s break-even point, where a firm’s costs equal the firm’s revenue. However, Dudinsky remains hopeful.
“I believe that with this progress going on, in a couple of months we will be able to earn profits,” she said.
Dudinsky credits part of her success to the general business core courses required by her degree program, Principles of Accounting I and II in particular.
“I think having hands-on experiences is a more effective way of learning than just solely reading the textbooks and testing on it,” Dudinsky said.
As a result, she believes this business venture makes her education more valuable, even if it does not turn out to be a big success in the end.
J.R. Smith, store manager of the local Piggly Wiggly, decided to place Stan’s Stuff on the shelves after meeting Dudinsky and testing the product.
“We are independently owned, so we know how it is to get out on your own and try to get started,” Smith said.
According to Smith, the product’s sales are picking up and are doing particularly well compared to other products Piggly Wiggly has tried to introduce and promote in the past.
“People like to support local businesses because they see personal connections in it,” Dudinsky said.
However, Dudinsky said that she has also received many rejections along the way, which she believes to be due to the cost, with prices set at $4.91 plus tax at Piggly Wiggly and $5.99 plus tax at the Florida locations.
“Mass-produced goods are cheaper than a Stan’s Stuff bottle,” said Dudinsky. “In addition, other products are better branded; people are hesitant to try a new product at a higher cost.”
To solve that problem, Dudinsky has performed several product demonstrations, which involves setting up tables with sample foods seasoned with Stan’s Stuff.
“People need to try it,” she said. “After they love it, they will buy it.’’
Dudinsky said that the product is currently being tested by Food World.
“If it is approved, it will be on the shelf of the Food World in Troy and possibly other Food World locations in other states,” Dudinsky said.
To those interested in starting their own business, Dudinsky advises individuals to not let the fear of failure stop them as well as constantly seeking advice from the resources around you.
“My father has ingrained in me the mindset that start-up businesses are what America is built on, not corporations,” said Dudinsky. “We need to employ our own available resources to boost the economy.”
For more information, Dudinsky encourages individuals to visit the official website at http://stanstuffseasoning.com or the Facebook page, “Stan’s Stuff.”