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Delice de la Vallee, Sonoma

Sheana Davis wears many hats. Working as a chef and caterer under her name, she also founded the Epicurean Connection in 1992, dedicated to culinary education and all things epicurean, especially fermented foods – cheese, wine, and beer.

Working from her native hometown of Sonoma, it’s clear that any label applied to Sheana falls short. If her many hats weren’t enough, she’s been noted as a "the epitome of the culinary movement," due to her prominence as a food activist, promoting farm fresh, non-GMO foods.

It was the complexity of Sheana’s business that brought her to the Redwood Empire SBDC for help in 2007, working together with Advisor Cathy Balach. Her initial goals were straight-forward: help with her ambitious sales and marketing plans. For over a year, Sheana worked with the SBDC to reposition her business and brands.

In 2008, Sheana decided to add yet another hat to her collection. Known as an expert in the cheese industry, she wanted to produce her own cheese line. This was the start of a new scope and direction working together with Cathy. The new area was uncharted for Sheana and, though she had a clear vision for the cheese product, she had a lot of issues to deal with.

Some of the bigger issues involved a business analysis to make sure the product was viable. After that, there were issues of production, dealing with the FDA, pricing, branding, and the issues around product launch. All this, and Sheana still had to keep her business running – catering, culinary classes and cheese conferences.

Cathy worked with Sheana to explore everything from packaging to production projections to marketing materials. Sheana, who wasn’t very good with spreadsheets and didn’t have financial help, felt like she was in the deep end. But with steady progress and Sheana’s immense knowledge of her product and target market, the product launched in February 2009.

Getting a product to market is an incredible success. What’s more notable, however, is that the product already had a distributor ready to pick it up upon production, with markets such as Oliver’s ready to carry it in their grocery chain.

The most striking success, however, was when the product was selected as a Featured Product for the 2009 New York Fancy Food Show to be held in June. "That’s the mark of success," says Cathy – "when a product is newly out of the gate and it’s already recognized as something special and unique within its product category."

Adds Sheana, "I truly appreciate the SBDC as I have grown my company internally as well as refined my business with the guidance of Cathy Balach.  I have confidence to launch a new product and expand my company name to a national level, thanks to Cathy and her expertise in small business. THANK YOU!"

Delice de la Vallee/Epicurean Connection
Owners: Sheana Davis
PO box 1916, Sonoma CA 95476

Consultant: Cathy Balach
SBDC Center Name: Santa Rosa SBDC