If a business could make it on enthusiasm alone, Jackie Jones and Daphne Jacobs Zargar would have already cornered the retail sector. The cousins, raised in Owosso, west of Flint, are systematically creating a market for herbs and spices.
Launched last year, the Detroit-based company, Chive Talkin, is a retailer of apparel items, kitchen accessories, and soon, individual spice and herb packages distributed to restaurants, institutions, and consumers. Part educators, part sales experts, the pair tout the medicinal and nutritional properties of rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, and other toppings.
“We use all natural spices and herbs, so nothing is manufactured or processed,” says Jones, co-CEO of Chive Talkin. “As much as possible, we’re doing everything in Michigan, though we do import some of the spices and herbs (mostly from Mexico).”
Both principals quit their day jobs to launch Chive Talkin — Jones owned a bridal store though she still designs couture pieces for select clients, while Zargar, who speaks four languages, closed her global consulting business.
The company’s marketing plan is akin to a high-octane road show. Renting space at festivals, trade shows, and farmers markets, the duo greet and cajole people to buy apparel items emblazoned with messages like “Spread The Herb,” “Yippie Cayenne,” and “Bay-Leafing.” There’s a line of college and university licensed gear, as well.
“It’s a business model built around passion and energy,” says Loren Venegas, vice president of The Ideal Group, a large industrial and business supply company in southwest Detroit, who sits on Chive Talkin’s advisory board. “Daphne and Jackie have a lot of passion, and that helps generate sales.”
In addition to apparel items available at area Fanatic U stores and other retail outlets, Chive Talkin offers a spice six-pack rack at the Rust Belt Market in Ferndale. They also developed an electric herb mill, called the Man Grinder. The aluminum grinder, which holds four different herbs, will be sold on QVC, through merchants, and over the Internet.
Chive Talkin’s strategy of driving sales online has plenty of followers. Last year, e-commerce sales rose 13 percent, compared with 5 percent at brick-and-mortar stores. “We’re also in the process of developing an app,” Zargar says. “It will offer what spices go with which foods, or it can tell you what the healing properties are of a certain herb.”