My barbecue sauce has been used at private parties and local cookouts and is always well received. I am thinking about starting a business to produce and market it. I'd like any information and advice you have regarding this type of business.

William R. Suggs

Credit Manager

Carolina Eastern Inc.

Charleston, S.C.

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"I hear similar questions all the time, and they're simply too broad to answer," says Mary Anne Jackson, founder of My Own Meals Inc., a maker of microwave meals for children, which Inc. profiled in September 1988 ("The New American Start-up", [Article link]). "You should do some basic research first. Then you can ask more specific questions."

You could start with your personal library of Inc . back issues. In addition to our cover story on My Own Meals, we have recently examined two other food companies in our Anatomy of a Start-up series that might be helpful to review: Oualie Ltd., a Waltham, Mass., maker of Caribbean-inspired snack and specialty foods ("Educating Octavia," June 1989, [Article link]); and R. W. Frookies Inc., an all-natural cookie company in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. ("Cookie Monsters," February 1989, [Article link]).

At the public library you can look in the Gale Encyclopedia of Associations (Gale Research Inc.) for relevant groups that can send you newsletters, membership directories, and information; it lists more than 20,000 associations, including addresses and phone numbers. Among the groups that can help you market your product are National Food Broker Association, (202) 789-2844; National Food Distributors Association, (312) 644-6610; National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, (212) 505-1770; and Private Label Manufacturers Association, (212) 972-3131.

Likewise, you may want to scan the Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media (Gale Research Inc.) for newspapers and magazines covering your corner of the food industry. Here are two: Gourmet Retailer magazine, (305) 893-8775; and Snack Food magazine, (218) 723-9200. Before your product hits supermarket shelves, you may want to get a Universal Product Code (UPC). For information, contact the Uniform Code Council Inc. at (513) 435-3870.

Octavia Randolph Porter, founder of Oualie, suggests pumping people -- from small specialty-food store proprietors to company CEOs -- for information. "There's no substitute for asking," she says. "People are tremendously willing to tell what they know." n