When Kissie Stroup, ’88, graduated from Meredith College with a degree in fine arts and a concentration in graphic design, she never thought she would own a business. The love friends and family showed for her Nana’s salad dressing recipe inspired her to turn the recipe into a business. And Little Black Dressing Company was born.
Stroup began making her Nana’s recipe and after people tasted it, they would come back begging for more. “Everyone loved it so much that they would come to my porch and bring jars, and I would fill them,” Stroup said. “So then I started making it by the gallon.”
The salad dressing operation began to take up her entire basement. Her husband suggested she move it into an office and sell it. “This started as a hobby and has turned into more than a full-time job,” Stroup said.
Stroup started the business in 2010, and by 2014 her products were being sold on numerous grocery shelves. The company now produces the original vinaigrette and three other types of salad dressing, all with the signature “little black dress” on the logo, which Stroop designed. They are sold in 14 different states and in several well-known grocery store chains.
Her major breakthrough was when the official caterer of the U.S. Open in Pinehurst contacted her about using her dressings during the tournament as part of a local foods showcase. Little Black Dressing Company was chosen as the local salad dressing used during the golf tournament.
Stroup believes the tournament was a jump-start for her company, which has also been a finalist in Martha Stewart’s American Made competition. She continues working with stores and food services to get the dressing into more locations.
Stroup has faced many challenges during her adventure of opening a business, but that has not affected her love for what she does.
“My job reminds me of a time when we would gather around the table and share a meal. It was these times that everyone was always happy,” Stroup said. She is pleased to know her product is a part of this time created within families and friends.
In the next five years, Stroup plans to see the volume of the product increase and be in more stores along the east coast.
She encourages everyone who has the desire to start a business to take a chance on their idea. “If it is something you want to do, I would say go for it but you have to be very determined,” Stroup said. “And I’m a little competitive, which helps.”