Economics alum Jordan Franks launches Taste of Jack’s salsa

by | Dec 3, 2023

Franks has been selling his salsa at farmers' markets and several retail locations across the St. Louis area.
Economics alum Jordan Franks launches Taste of Jack’s salsa

by | Dec 3, 2023

Franks has been selling his salsa at farmers' markets and several retail locations across the St. Louis area.
Jordan Franks leans over a counter with a pyramid of Taste of Jack's salsa and an array of peppers and tomatoes

Economics graduate Jordan Franks sells his Taste of Jack’s salsa at farmers’ markets around the St. Louis region. (Photos by Derik Holtmann)

Like many others, Jordan Franks picked up a hobby during the COVID-19 pandemic. One day, amid working from home, peripherally focused on their children, managing virtual learning, his partner, whipped up a quick salsa with fresh tomatoes, onions and cilantro.

While Franks, who earned a degree in economics from the University of Missouri–St. Louis in 2014, isn’t a huge tomato fan himself, he was blown away – and he saw a business opportunity.

“I just got this light bulb in my head and said, ‘Let’s sell it,’” he said. “It wasn’t methodical at all; it was sort of fly by the seat of your pants.”

They initially tapped into their local network, giving samples of the salsa to friends in the community and fellow parents at school. As word started to spread, Franks hopped on Facebook to create a business page, and Taste of Jack’s was born. Soon after, the business was asked to participate in a small craft market, and the salsas were a hit. Taste of Jack’s continued to grow, with Franks selling the salsa at farmers’ markets and, eventually, several retail locations in the St. Louis area. He’s enjoyed the face-to-face interaction that comes with selling at farmers’ markets and festivals.

Jordan Franks preps tomatillos to be included in his Taste of Jack's salsa

Jordan Franks preps tomatillos to be included in his Fresh Yeah salsa by Taste of Jack’s.

“I realized really quickly about food being a connector,” he said. “You get a chance to really tap into people’s lives, how they interact, how they discuss things with their family, how they spend time with their family, what they do on the weekends. You hear all their stories about good things and sometimes bad things. It’s a beautiful thing when you have a product where you connect with someone’s emotions, and I think that’s one of the best parts of the business. Even better than just selling the salsa itself is interacting with the people.”

Initially, Franks started with just one product, “Sassy,” the original pico de gallo-style salsa. Since then, he’s added “Spice,” a salsa verde with tomatillos, jalapeños and serrano peppers; “Magic,” a mango salsa; and “Unicorn,” with mango, habanero peppers and corn.

Franks said his experience studying in the Department of Economics at UMSL, particularly with regard to understanding supply and demand, pricing and consumer preferences, was integral in setting him up successfully as a business owner. He transferred to UMSL from another university and said UMSL’s economics program was eye-opening, as it provided a greater challenge.

“It taught me a whole lot really quickly,” he said. “I was challenged a great deal, received a ton of support and it was a really good experience overall. They were very tough courses, but being able to almost picture a demand curve in my head while setting the prices for business was an amazing skill. It didn’t take me months and months to be able to make those on-the-fly decisions. It took seconds. Having that knowledge and getting that from UMSL was almost priceless. It is invaluable, the knowledge that I received and being able to correlate it to running a business successfully.”

After taking some time off over the past few months, Franks is now running Taste of Jack’s full-time, which he said has given him the ability to focus on scaling the business. He’s ramping up production, selling the salsa at events and festivals around town and for pickup and delivery from his kitchen space. Soon, Franks hopes to get Taste of Jack’s back on shelves in retail locations.

Down the line, he sees Taste of Jack’s evolving into an umbrella brand offering other products such as tortilla chips, spices and Bloody Mary mixes. He’d also like to open a brick-and-mortar location with retail as well as a restaurant serving salsa-inspired dishes, like ribeyes with salsa verde or a grilled cheese with mango salsa, that will encourage diners to think of new ways to cook with salsa.

“When I think about this idea, I think about a cookie store,” Franks said. “I’m sure when they came up with a cookie store, somebody thought it was absolute insanity. But now there’s cookie stores popping up all over because of one inspiration that happened 20 years ago with Mrs. Fields. If they can do that for cookies, why can’t I have a place where salsa is the main thing on the menu?”

Franks is still amazed and delighted by the quick growth of Taste of Jack’s. He hopes sharing the story of his own entrepreneurial journey can inspire and encourage other budding entrepreneurs.

“Running a business overall is not easy,” Franks said. “If it were easy, everybody would do it. When you first step into it, it seems like an uphill challenge. You have to put all these ideas together, think about marketing, products, price, the legal aspects. But sometimes you just have to get off your feet and just do it. A lot of people have really great ideas, and sometimes you just need the space, the incubator to produce it and develop it. I want to be known as a person who has helped other businesses to flourish and get those ideas out of their head and onto paper and eventually into production. I know the struggle of doing this, and I want to be able to reach back one day and say, ‘Hey, you can do it too.’”

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Heather Riske

Heather Riske

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