Hoping to Turn Green Thumb into Greenbacks

Comments (2) Posted By Joe on August 24, 2011 in Entrepreneur Directory

Frank Schlesinger
Frank Schlesinger poses with Intersect Fund Co-Founder Joe Shure at a vending event in September 2011.

For the past several years, Entrepreneur University graduate Frank Schlesinger has spent a significant amount of time growing vegetables, slicing them up into little pieces, and stuffing them into small, glass jars.

The result is a variety of world-class salsas, relishes and pickled peppers that Schlesinger, a 49-year-old South Brunswick resident, is turning into a business.

Schlesinger’s concoctions have won accolades from friends and an armful of award ribbons from the Middlesex County Fair. Food industry veterans have told him his pickles rival the best.

But the 49-year-old South Brunswick resident is not a farmer or a gourmet chef. He is an engineer and former salesman seeking to put his green thumb to good use.

Schlesinger’s products are unique, but his story is common: he pursued a career in engineering, putting his passion for horticulture and culinary arts on the back burner. His was one of those paths that, before the recession, seemed to promise a life of safety and security.

When the electrical supply company for which he worked laid him off last year, his priorities changed. All of a sudden, turning his garden into a source of income became a viable idea.

Schlesinger started gardening by chance. Ten years ago, the tenant who had previously occupied the apartment in which Schlesinger and his wife then lived left behind a group of tomato and pepper plants growing from soil packed into plastic buckets.

For one reason or another, Schlesinger felt the plants should survive. He watered them, harvested their fruits, and added to their ranks. Soon, the apartment’s balcony was crowded with a dozen soil buckets from which peppers, tomatoes, eggplants and culinary herbs sprouted sunward.

When Schlesinger and his wife moved to a bigger, single-family home, the budding botanist’s garden grew larger. Schlesinger wedged discarded patio tiles into the lawn to form a garden that would soon produce a bounty of vegetables —too many, in-fact, for Schlesinger and his family to consume.

Like countless vegetable growers before him, Schlesinger sought to preserve his harvest. He soon discovered canning. He then discovered, to his delight, that he was pretty good at it. Soon, Schlesinger’s homemade relishes, salsas and pickled peppers became a mainstay of family functions and filled holiday gift baskets.

Hoping to offer his condiments to the public, Schlesinger formed Frank’s Pickled Peppers (www.frankspickledpeppers.com). Schlesinger’s plan is to carve out a small but loyal niche. His products, he said, appeal to customers seeking locally produced foods that are both tasty and healthy.

2 Comments »

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