The Main Ingredient of Hillsborough County
“One of the biggest hurdles for me when I was going through my journey for weight loss – I weighed 235 pounds – and the biggest hurdle for me was the food,” Christina Sweet said. “My fitness trainer was giving me all of these great recipes and I couldn’t afford to go and get the foods just to make a tablespoon, a teaspoon, a cup. And at the same time, I really didn’t know why she had these certain foods on the recipes to begin with.”
In conversations with her husband, Sweet wondered aloud why she couldn’t just go into a store and get exactly what she needed for a recipe so that she could try it to see if it worked. Her husband challenged her to do something about it.
Fast forward a couple of years and Sweet has done something about it. Nearly a year ago, she opened The Main Ingredient. Catering to people with various health issues or specific diets, everything sold at The Main Ingredient is sold by the ounce.
“You can bring in your own recipes and get just that tablespoon or that cup that you need to try these recipes out and then go home and not have a lot of waste if there’s something that you didn’t like,” she said.
Located in Lutz, the store carries a variety of flours, balsamic vinegars and oils, as well as specially-blended teas, spices, salad dressings, and more. Sweet takes the store one step further by researching every product carried in the store and serving as an expert in their health benefits.
“We really care about the people that come in and we hope that we can add some light at the end of the tunnel for them and their health and we hope they’ll be here long enough to see their great-grandchildren,” she said.
While Sweet is very knowledgeable in her industry, she reached out to Janette Blanco, a business consultant at the Florida SBDC at Hillsborough County, for assistance in learning the business side of things.
“[She] actually very much helped me with the beginning stages of my store – how to get prepared financially, how to get prepared on the backend to do all of the spreadsheets and picking out banks and point-of-sale systems,” Sweet said. “They helped us just become a woman minority business owner and that was very, very big to us.”
In less than a year, The Main Ingredient has racked up nearly $100,000 in sales and earned premium placement in recipes with various local chefs, and a variety of its products are being sold at the Hilton in Trinity. “Janette has done a fantastic job making sure we’re in front of the right groups of people that would be interested in partnering with us,” Sweet said of her consultant’s efforts.
In the future, Sweet hopes to utilize the woman’s minority business certification to help break into additional markets, such as Disney World and the cruise line industry. She also hopes to expand the brand’s Hilton presence throughout the state of Florida.
Regardless of what the future holds for The Main Ingredient, Sweet says Blanco will be with them every step of the way as an invaluable resource.
“Competing with a big box store is very difficult so we really have to strive to have purpose for people to say ‘I’m gonna drive [the extra] 5 or 10 or 20 miles and go see Sweet at The Main Ingredient’,” she said. “We’re very grateful for our consultant, Janette Blanco, with Hillsborough County. She’s been there every step of the way.