Editor’s Note: This article is part one of a three-part WAFB digital series about people who started a business in the Baton Rouge area during the coronavirus pandemic.
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Hernetta Franklin, 56, is originally from Los Angeles but has lived in Baton Rouge for most of her life.
She was one of the millions of U.S. workers whose work-life shifted because of the coronavirus. Franklin who’s worked in the banking industry for almost 30 years suddenly found herself working from home instead of inside the halls of a bank.
However, Franklin explains the pandemic began as she was already preparing to start her business and it was not going to prevent her from realizing her dream.
“I was not going to let that stop me,” she says. “My goal was to launch my website [by] December 2020. A goal I’m happy to say that I met.”
Cooking has long been a hobby and passion in Franklin’s life. She says her family and extended family have always been big fans of her cooking.
While her dishes, like mac and cheese, are always a hit with family members during the holidays she wanted to share her passion with a bigger audience.
Franklin first thought of selling a multi-use tomato-based sauce in October of 2019.
“The idea came to me while preparing dinner. I ignored the thought for a few weeks, but the inspiration didn’t die. I had created something I wanted to share and hoped others would enjoy it as much as I did,” Franklin says.
Franklin sticks to a mostly vegetarian diet but occasionally eats chicken. After experimenting with many ingredients to create a sauce she discovered a combination she really liked that used tomatoes.
She says she thought a tomato-based product would have wide enough appeal for all diets.
Her savory Mautae sauce comes in three varieties: original, spunky, and fire. The sauce can be used as a condiment, garnish, topping, or as a base sauce for any pasta dish.
“Add it to your favorite entrees’ such as beef, poultry, seafood, and of course PASTA! Excellent on omelets as well as your favorite snacks, such as pizza, nachos, mozzarella sticks, or a baked potato. Delicious on almost any dish,” A description of the product reads on Mautae’s website.
While Franklin was determined to not let a global pandemic keep her from her dreams of being a business owner, she says the process did not come without concerns.
“Venturing out to start a new business is scary already and during a pandemic even scarier. But, not knowing if I would be able to get all the things I needed for my business and being ready by [the] launch date had me very anxious,” Franklin says.
Ironically, despite being employed by the banking sector, the closure of banks was a concern for her. She was worried she would not be able to open a business account for Mautae as many banks did not allow in-person transactions during the first part of the pandemic.
“After a few months, banks begin accepting walk-in customers by appointment only. I was able to schedule an appointment and visit a local bank masked up to open my business account,“ she says.
The nine months between March and December was a time period radically different than what most Americans ever hope to experience ever again. Yet, it gave Franklin precious time to iron out many issues and streamline the launch of her side business.
She says she used that time to perfect the recipes for her three sauce varieties making about eight different batches over the course of four months.
Franklin also opened up a business account, registered Mautae as an LLC, took photos of the product for the website and marketing purposes among other things.
One very important issue she was able to work out before launching her website was shipping. Franklin says she shipped a small batch of Mautae sauce to her sister in Chino, Calif. but the package arrived damaged.
Fortunately, after the miscue, she was able to correct the shipping issues. When asked about start-up costs Franklin says she started the online business with personal capital of about $2,000. Half was used to open a business account ($1,000 is the minimum to open up such accounts at most banks), and the other half was used to pay for ingredients for tests sauce, materials for the product containers for
“Everything I thought that I would need to launch my business is what I got [with the remainder of the start-up costs].”
Franklin published her website on Nov. 1, 2020, and Mautae was officially open for business on Dec. 1, 2020.
Since then she has sold and shipped out 25 orders. She admits most purchases have been from friends and family but is hopeful her business will grow.
When asked if she started the business with the hope of replacing her normal nine-to-five job, Franklin says “no.” She just wants it to be a fun hobby that earns her a little bit of extra money.
Franklin says she would like to eventually grow many of the own ingredients to use in the sauce. All of the Mautae products she sells are vegetarian-friendly but not vegan-friendly.
When asked if there were any obstacles the pandemic brought in launching the business, she says the coronavirus prevented her from going to farmers’ markets to sell her product and network with other local food growers.
Mautae Sauce is available to purchase online by clicking here and can be shipped anywhere in the U.S.
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