When Jeff Brinkhoff launched Red Monkey Foods in 2002, he expected the company to grow, but that growth started more quickly than he expected.
Inspired by his passion for cooking and a conviction there was an underserved market, Brinkhoff’s company started by producing private-label spices and seasonings for customers such as Target and Safeway.
Within two years, the Red Monkey brand of organic spices hit regional grocery store shelves, adding its own brand to the company’s constellation of products. Rubs, grinders and bread dippers in a host of blends soon were added, along with a beefed-up Web site with online shopping at RedMonkeyFoods.com.
Brinkhoff, who is Red Monkey’s president, attributes the company’s growth largely to finding the right niche at the right time.
“Some of it has just been from aggressive sales strategies and just the timing in the market for the last four or five years,” he says. “A lot of retailers have put a huge emphasis on increasing their private-label products.”
He notes, too, that employees’ focus on customer service and project management have brought repeat business from retailers. The company has 75 employees.
After the first couple of years, Brinkhoff came to expect major growth and was able to prepare for it, he says.
“Five, six, seven years ago, we saw what was going to be happening, and it’s pretty much come to fruition,” Brinkhoff adds. But even with preparation, he concedes that there have been growing pains for Red Monkey.
“I would just say with such growth there’s a lot of things to juggle, from cash flow to inventory to keeping the lines up and not getting behind on orders,” he says. “Doing the production, the marketing, the sales, the customer service, inventory, everything from production to shipping to marketing all has to grow with it.” In 2011, Red Monkey was recognized as No. 465 on the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing privately held firms. The company, which drew 2011 revenues of more than $8 million and sold roughly 4.5 million spice units, also received the Missouri Chamber of Commerce’s Fast Track Business of the Year award last year.
Though the Red Monkey team has much to juggle, Brinkhoff says the company still finds ways to contribute to the community.
“Whenever there are special events like silent auctions, spices and seasonings … are a great gift,” Brinkhoff says. “We try to be as involved as possible and give to the community through silent auctions.”
Brinkhoff says that support is a reflection of the support he received when getting Red Monkey off the ground.
“I think it’s just the old saying, what goes around comes around. We want to start giving back a lot more than we are,” he adds. Click here for full coverage of the 2012 Business Class.