ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

California Couple Starts Thriving Business During the Recession

Updated on July 5, 2016

Down and out Los Angeles family finds that the recession was the perfect time to start a business. Here's how they turned disaster into prosperity.

When Mark Sleeper (Los Angeles) was laid off in 2008, his wife Christina had been out of the workforce for five years. She was a stay-at-home Mom raising the couple's small child. The young family was in crisis at a time when jobs were disappearing and opportunities few. Their response to their predicament holds valuable lessons for others. Christina Sleeper spoke to Hubpages about their journey back to prosperity.

Rising From the Ashes

"It's always some sort of catastrophe that leads you to something greater," Sleeper explained.

The Sleepers road the first wave of lay offs in the real-estate industry. Christina describes their situation as "really scary." They started taking little steps which ultimately led to the creation of Sleeper's Magic Gourmet Foods. Their company offers artisan jams, cakes, cookies, gift baskets and more, along with Sleepers Magic Rubs, Christina's signature spice blends.

Spice rubs are a Southern barbeque tradition. Rubbing spices into meat, forces the spices into the fibers of the meat, where they have a chemical reaction, breaking down and tenderizing the flesh. It is also a cooking technique with multiple applications.

Preparing and Launching a Small Business

Christina has degrees in computer programming, communications and journalism from the University of Cincinnati. She worked in journalism for years. She also has a wealth of experience working in restaurants and private catering. She thought, "What can I do?" The question led her back to her journalism roots, "write what you know."

She realized that she already knew how to create newsletters and flyers -- necessary skills for launching a new business. Mark had managed a five star property and worked as a cook. Between the two of them, they had more than 40 years of professional experience in the food industry.

But, a new company requires more than past experience. It takes a passion that provides the drive to push through the murky waters of developing a successful business. What Christina loved was preparing food. For years, she had been making Sleepers Magic Rub, her original spice blend, which the couple had been giving to friends as holiday gifts.

"At Christmas," Sleeper explained, "people think of sweets, but this was a way of giving a food gift that could be used throughout the year."

Sleepers Magic Rub was a hit with friends, who were always asking for more. The couple wondered if they would be willing to buy the product. In six weeks, Christina had put together a business plan and marketing material. Before they knew it, they had the package. Combining their professional mailing lists, they prepared an e-mail about Sleeper's Magic Rub. 3000 people received their first mailing. Friends were supportive, excited and made purchases. The business was on its way.

Growing a Business on a Small Budget

"We needed to grow the name," she stated, "and Los Angeles is the second largest city in the country."

With little monetary capital to invest in growing their new business, the Sleepers looked for local opportunities to get out there in the real world with their product. They started displaying and grilling at grassroots events and fund-raisers. Handing out free samples brought in new customers. They had soon expanded their following to 7000. In late 2009, they started doing boutiques.

When Sleeper exhibits at boutiques, she can't always grill. She generally serves Sleepers Magic Rub on popcorn or blends it with cheese and serves it on crackers.

Expanding the Product Line

Spurred on by the popularity of her original blend, Sleeper developed Fowl, a rub for poultry. She markets it with the catchy phrase, "The Magic word is Rub Your Bird."

Another expansion to the business came after a trip to Yosemite. The Sleepers stopped at a roadside market selling nectarines for $5 a case. Christina bought a case of nectarines and another of plums. Sleeper had been making jam for four years but hadn't thought of selling it.

"I learned from my mother-in-law," she explained, "She had acres of raspberries and blueberries. My Italian grandmother used to can as well."

Taking advantage of every name-growing opportunity soon resulted in a customer list blanketing 20 states, Europe and Japan. In 2010, she landed a contract to make 200 jars of jam. That time, she used the customer's recipes not her own. The Sleepers also created the private label.

"Packaging is everything," explained Christina, who Helps her husband with graphic design, "if a product doesn't visually entice the buyer, they may not want to taste it."

The popularity of her spice rubs is growing in part because of the way she continues to innovate the recipes. When she visits boutiques, she gives away her recipe for veggie black bean chili which won a prize at a regional chili contest.

Growing a Small Business

The Sleepers are in the process of "re-branding" to make the major push to retail shelves in 2012. Their company name is now sleeper's gourmet. In November they launched several new products including Ole Ole, a new blend of Magic Rub with a south-of-the-border flavor. Magic Nuggets, a new snack, are sour dough crisps seasoned with Magic Rubs.

"They work great in salads or in our signature stuffing," Sleeper explained, "Also, our culinary coaching services are expanding, and we hope to unveil our new website soon."


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)