Kentucky Ag News
Susie Lenhard transforms inspirations from her past into This Lady's Artisan Eats
By CHRIS ALDRIDGE, Kentucky Agricultural News
COVINGTON, Ky. – In September 2014 – after working for a couple of decades in marketing for Coca-Cola, MillerCoors, and Procter & Gamble – Susie Lenhard decided to leave corporate America and become her own boss.
“I wanted to do something different,” she said.
Sharing an incubator kitchen with other food entrepreneurs, Lenhard started This Lady’s Artisan Eats without investing in a building or buying expensive kitchen equipment.
“We make our product out of the Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen in Covington,” she said. “That allowed us to start our business and see if there’s a consumer demand without investing so much.
“It’s a cost-affordable way to test the water. It makes a huge difference.”
Lenhard’s two products are Spicy Rosemary Cashews and Bourbon Pecans, the latter of which were inspired by a trip down the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
“They are something that make people happy,” she said of the hand-crafted treats made in small batches. “The recipes came from my history.”
During a tour of the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Lenhard came up with the idea of combining bourbon with her mother’s candied pecans, which she enjoyed as a child.
“I wondered if I could take some of that yummy bourbon and mix it with pecans,” Lenhard said. “They were OK. The bourbon cuts the sweetness and gives mine a balanced flavor.”
Lenhard made the uniquely-flavored cashews for years as Christmas gifts for friends and family members before starting her business.
“Boy, did my friends and family love them!” she wrote on her website, www.ThisLadys.com. “After lots of time tweaking the recipe – and multiple tastings – we created a unique, special and thoroughly distinct, delicious food to share.”
Lenhard is working on finalizing a deal with a Kentucky Proud supplier, Kight’s Pecans in McCracken County.
“I want to buy Kight’s because their product is superior,” she said. “The only problem is I have limited freezer space in the [incubator] kitchen.”
Lenhard has been pleased with all the help her business has received by being a member of Kentucky Proud, from making the connection with Kight’s to learning the ins and outs of retail distribution at the “Fish Tank” marketing seminar in February in Frankfort.
“I was thrilled when I first started to learn about all the value Kentucky Proud brings and how it focuses on products coming from Kentucky,” she said. “It’s been terrific.
“It’s a great network to ask questions and try to learn from other small business owners. It’s an opportunity to participate in activities like the Incredible Food Show and the Fish Tank. Those are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.”
Lenhard particularly enjoyed the Incredible Food Show, which took place nearly two months after she started This Lady’s Artisan Eats with her partner, T.J. Ackermann, and his 17-year-old son, Otto.
“We loved that last year,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to talk to people who love food as much as we do.
“It’s a great place for us to get feedback. People liked our products, which was great, and I enjoyed hearing the different ways people use our products, like putting the cashews in salads and using the pecans to add flavor to their vanilla ice cream and oatmeal.”
This Lady’s Artisan Eats products may be purchased from its website or at 22 retail locations in the Cincinnati area, including 12 in Ohio. The 10 Kentucky locations include six Kentucky Proud members: Berea College Farm Store; Butcher Betties Meats & Sweets inside The Friendly Market in Florence; Party Town, also in Florence; Glenn’s Creek Cafe at Woodford Reserve Distillery near Versailles; Liquor City Uncorked (formerly Cork ’N Bottle) in Covington; and New Riff Distilling in Newport.
Lenhard used her marketing expertise to target businesses in the Cincinnati area that sell higher-end foods, wine, and beer.
“We’re looking for people who want to provide their family or friends with something a little different,” she said. “We have a lot of graduation and Kentucky Derby parties coming up, as well as Mother’s Day.”
Her business enjoyed brisk sales during the holidays for family gatherings, she said.
“Our plan is to continue to grow,” Lenhard said. “We really want to expand out of northern Kentucky into the Louisville/Lexington/Frankfort market and make our product available more statewide.”
Above: Susie Lenhard and partner T.J. Ackermann