Today we’d like to introduce you to Letitia LaVant.
Letitia, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
We started our business almost eight years ago. My Mamma’s delicious cooking made me a lover of good, flavorful food and instilled in me a love for cooking and baking. I love to see people enjoying the food I so carefully and lovingly prepare.
My Mamma had 11 children and even though there were difficult times she was always in the kitchen creating something delicious to feed all those mouths. My husband and I raised seven children and money was always tight. I was always trying to find a way that I could contribute to the household funds for extras such as Christmas gifts and inexpensive vacations. I babysat for years while the children were young and at home. In addition to that I would make tamales and burritos and sell them.
After the children were in school, I started a part-time job with a friend who did catering. I loved it and thought, “I can do this myself.” At that time, we were attending a church called The Valley Cathedral and they encouraged the congregation to invite people over for a meal and so I did. Little did I know that the couple we invited over, the gentleman was one of the pastors and also the kitchen manager at the church who was in charge of preparing meals for two hundred or more people on Wednesday evenings before church service. A few days after our meal together I received a call from him asking me if I would like to take over his job as kitchen manager. I was shocked! I wondered why he would ask me to do such a thing. I had no experience with doing something as big as that and also having to supervise other employees and volunteers. (later as I thought about it the only reason I could see that he would have offered me the job was because he saw how after we ate supper at our home that evening all the children had their delegated tasks. Clean the table, wash the dishes, sweep the floor, etc.)
I really had to pray about this. I wasn’t sure honestly if I could do all it took to run that operation. I had been a stay at home mom for the past 16 years. (I didn’t realize it then but that was my training ground) To me this was a really big challenge and expectation. Well, I accepted the position and worked in the Church kitchen for three years and at the same time started a catering business. I was able to use the church kitchen to do my catering out of. It was great and it afforded me to help pay for our children to attend a Christian school. This was totally a “God Thing.”
Then the recession hit and almost all the employees were laid off and I had no more job and could not continue catering because I no longer had an “Approved” kitchen to work out of. So, I started thinking and praying about what I could do next. My daughter and I started a house cleaning business which we worked and grew until I was able to save enough money for my next venture. House cleaning was a means to an end. Or should I say a “New Beginning”.
While working our housecleaning business, I was also working on creating “Mamma Letizia’s Italian Gravy.” I brought my Mamma into my kitchen and as she poured, I measured and we were able to create a recipe for two of Mamma’s favorite red sauce recipes. Her Thick, Rich & Garlicky Pizzaiole Gravy and her “Spicy Italian Marinara Gravy.” From there my sister, mom, graphic designer and I worked on creating the perfect label that would depict an Old-World look. We also had to find someone to make our recipe for us. It took a few tries before finding the perfect company to be trusted with our Mamma’s uniquely hand-crafted recipes.
Finally, about April of 2012 I was ready to share Mamma’s Gravy with the world. I started participating in farmers markets in Sedona, Flagstaff, Cottonwood, and Show Low Arizona. I would pack up my 1998 Toyota Camry to overflowing. Leave on Wednesday to do a market in Flagstaff, Thursday in Cottonwood, Friday in Sedona And Saturday in Show Low and back home to Phoenix. I did that for two summers June thru September. I also got in a couple of other Farmers markets in the Phoenix area October through May. “If only” I thought, “I could multiply myself” I went from doing markets all by myself, one every Saturday and a couple during the week to now doing six markets every Saturday in the Phoenix area. We now are doing six markets every Saturday in the Phoenix area. We are currently Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market, Downtown Chandler Farmers Market, Roadrunner Farmers Market, Phoenix Public Market, Uptown Farmer’s market and Momma’s Organic Farmers Market. We also do a couple of different Italian Festivals and the Vegan Festival in Phoenix. Mamma Letizia’s is also in AJ’s Fine Foods, Whole Foods, (AZ) Natural Grocers, (AZ) & Luci’s Healthy Market Place.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Not at all a smooth road. When I started, I had no idea what I was getting into. Lots of things I had to learn and am still learning. I have had to learn to overcome my fear of talking with people. I needed to learn to be confident knowing we have an excellent product to share. (That’s a good thing) Finding a good co-packer, someone honest and who was able to consistently make our Mamma’s Italian Gravy to perfection was definitely one of the biggest struggles. Trying to find and keep good employees is always a challenge. Getting our product into stores took a lot of persistence and hard work. We are still trying to get into Sprouts. Starting and running your own business is definitely not for the faint of heart. It seems like my work is never done. Need lots of energy.
Mamma Letizia’s – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I have always loved to cook and share my food with others. I love to see people eating together as a family and enjoying good home-made meals around the dinner table. I would dream about owning a restaurant and sharing Mamma Letizia’s with the world. We are a small family-owned business located in Phoenix, AZ. We began sharing our Italian Gravy eight years ago doing Farmers Markets all over Arizona. As we would share at the markets people’s reactions were so inspiring. They would make suggestions about different stores it should be selling in. So, I would follow up with their suggestions and have been successful in getting it into several stores in Arizona. They would make comments about it being the best they’ve ever tasted or how it reminded them of their grandmother’s or grandfather’s sauce bringing back many fond memories of years past. The expressions on their faces looked like they were in heaven. I have even had people tell me they don’t like red sauce but after convincing them to taste mamma’s recipes they quickly changed their minds.
We have recreated Mamma’s Italian Gravy recipes to do just that. Our patrons are able create authentic Italian meals for their families, loved ones and friends in the comfort of their own home. I am proud of the fact that we are making a difference in people’s lives. We not only offer an outstanding product that compares to no other in flavor and quality but is also healthy… Mamma’s recipes contain No artificial ingredients, No added sugar, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Diabetic friendly, Keto friendly and Weight Watcher friendly. Mamma Letizia’s can be enjoyed by families of all back rounds and ages. From babies to the elderly.
“Mangia Figli Mi”
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
When I think of someone who I consider to be successful I look at their character. Are they a person of integrity? Are they honest? Do they respect others and do they “Do unto others as they want others to do to them”? My Mamma always quoted this scripture. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” In order to be truly successful you need to be teachable, one who truly cares about others and wants the best for them and is willing to help others be successful. Continually growing in a positive way, constantly learning even in the face of adversity. One who never gives up. Evermore persevering. Keep running the race. Keep your eyes on the prize. The greatest tragedy I know is for someone to go through life without knowing and fulfilling the destiny that God has for them…
- Spicy Italian Marinara Gravy- 1 Jar $8.50
- Thick, Rich &Garlicky – 1 Jar $8,50
- Case of 6 Jars mix and match – $45.00
- Online orders case of 4 Jars- $46.98
- Website: www.mammaletizia.com
- Phone: 602-578-5175
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mammaletizia/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mammaletizias/
Kayla Joy Ingallina