Name: Shane Stay Hanson
Job: Founder and owner, Leaf Dressing in Collinsville (www.leafdressing.com)
Outlook: "I think, in essence, it's really simple. People get it, they like it."
Freelance writer and former professional soccer player Shane Stay Hanson has co-founded a magazine and had been a California restaurateur before finding a market for his own sesame vinaigrette salad dressing that he first concocted in his kitchen five years ago. For the past year, the 37-year-old Carbondale-native has been making his Leaf Dressing and recently added a spicy version in the basement of his Collinsville home. He recently invited business writer Will Buss to visit his in-house operation:
Q: How did you get into this?
A: "Basically, it first began online. We have a healthy dressing alternative to other dressings out there, which is what galvanized us to get it going. So many dressings have things in them that are not good for you like sodium benzoate, fructose corn syrup, GMOs (genetically modified organisms). We have none of those. We don't have anything you can mispronounce. That's really what got the whole thing moving in the first place. I come from a background of 10 years owning a restaurant ... The dressing started to take over things. It was online, first, then customers have pushed it into stores. We're happy to accommodate that."
Q: Which stores?
A: "Straub's (in St. Louis), Happy Hop in downtown Belleville and Carbondale Co-op (a grocery story in Carbondale)."
Q: Where was your restaurant?
A: "That was in California. I had plans to open the dressing here and out there, and we didn't have the facilities at the time to open it out there. We finally got the facility here and it got developed here. It's made simply and there is no cooking or anything like that. It's really simple, elegant ingredients. That's what we're excited about, for healthy living, healthy eating. Every 5,000 hits on our Youtube page commercials, we give to charities."
Q: Why do you do that?
A: "Small entrepreneurs and our cohorts we have in this area, in the St. Louis area and in California, if they grew just a little bit, they'd be giving jobs for somebody else. If these companies grew just a little bit more, really, their money is going to hiring somebody else and not living rich on some island somewhere. It seems like we need more of that right now to get things moving and going again."
Q: How long have you been making your product in-house in Collinsville?
A: "About a year. It's been in Carbondale a little longer, for about two years."
Q: Where have you reached most of your customers?
A: "Online is larger. It's how we started. Customers have gotten excited and pushed us into stores. Customers have driven us on their enthusiasm and their passion from our healthier alternative to dressing. The combination of the two are really nice."
Q: What do you enjoy most about your business?
A: "I think, in essence, it's really simple. People get it, they like it. And there's that moment when they tell you that you have a great product, and that's nice. So that seems simple. They see it and they use it."
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.