The Main Ingredient of Hillsborough and Pasco County
Christina Sweet, owner of The Main Ingredient, is no stranger to success as her artisanal health food store grows in both size and location. Five years after opening the original brick and mortar store, located in Lutz, Sweet has expanded into a second location in the Land O’ Lakes area, where she is able to help more customers with their health needs.
Although she understands what it’s like to be a successful businesswoman, she says that working alongside a great team of business consultants and partners has brought her to where she is today.
“I’m a very firm believer that your tribe isn’t just made up of you,” she said. “It’s made up of multiple people and you need them around and you need the best possible information that you can get so that you can stay in a successful peace of mind with your business.”
Before opening her first store, Sweet sought out the help of the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Hillsborough County to launch her business idea. That is when she was introduced to business consultant, Janette Blanco, for help with business planning and obtaining a line of credit. “I haven’t done anything without consulting with the SBDC,” she said. “My consultant has been with me since the day I went to her and said, I have this idea and I want to launch it. How do I go about it because I don’t need to lose money, I need to make money. I need to be successful.”
With the help of the Florida SBDC at Hillsborough County, Sweet was able to plan accordingly, and most recently, she obtained a line of credit in order to expand. “I got a line of credit with the help of the SBDC; that I needed for my new store to open. Carol, the director, helped us immensely and worked with Janette, my consultant, and myself, on properly doing the paperwork so that we could get the line of credit the right way,” Sweet said.
Now that the second brick and mortar location is open, Sweet is concentrating on retaining essential staff members. “Training for our store is pretty extensive because we have so much knowledge, so much product, and certain ways that we blend our teas and that we make our smoothies to keep them healthy for people. So having that extra person trained inside of the store while you already have another person that you’re paying is a costly effect, but that line of credit really helped us.” she said.
Sweet says that her biggest success so far is being a helping hand in her community through The Main Ingredient. “COVID, which was really bad for small businesses, kind of turned into a good thing for us and the small vendors that we brought in, she said. “We started partnering with some of these local vendors that you only get to see at markets, and we started bringing their products in the store and doing food boxes and shipping them to houses and then selling their products. So they [local vendors] could go on their social media pages and say ‘hey, we can’t come to a market, but this is where you can find us’.”
Moving forward, as more health-conscious people move into the area and become aware of the purpose behind The Main Ingredient, Sweet expects sales to increase. “We anticipate this year, in 2023, doing almost a million. We’ve got just a whole slew of housing being built around us along with a highway that’s going to drop everybody right down the street from New Port Richey,” she explained.
And while she already has two pop-up shops and two brick-and-mortar locations, she has no intention of stopping there. “So moving forward, we obviously have some more locations that we’re going to open up, and that plan is already in the works,” she said. “Whether we franchise, or I run them, that is where we’re working both avenues.”
Along the way, Sweet is a big believer in keeping her business consultant engaged in The Main Ingredient’s growth, and she tells other business owners to do the same. “Contact a consultant to start you from the very beginning,” she said. “They don’t really say no. They’re going to give you the good points and the bad points and then make a mutual decision on what’s going to be the best way to tackle both of those at the same time because their job is to help you stay successful. I saw a lot of people not succeed during COVID. It was heartbreaking, but I really believe that if they had been part of the SBDC that they might still be here today.”