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.

"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