Purdue News

October 18, 2005

Purdue Extension helps entrepreneur begin business

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Good things often come in small packages, Just ask Kalista Johnston, creator of Baked Cheese Crisps.

Kalista Johnston
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Johnston's cheese crisps were a healthy answer to a snacking dilemma she faced when she was on a low-carb diet. Her friends agreed that the crispy wafers filled a void, and an entrepreneurial idea was born.

"I was doing it just for myself," she said. "And then I started making them for friends and family that were also low-carbing. Then it turned into friends of friends who were calling up and saying 'Would you make some for me?'"

Later this year, with help from Purdue Extension, boxes of Johnston's cheese crisps will begin rolling off the line at her new business, Grace Island Specialty Foods, in Garrett, Ind.

"It's hard to even begin to list all the help I got from Purdue," Johnston said. "I attended a workshop and during that workshop came across a brochure for the business plan writing class. In the process of taking that class, I was introduced to a number of community resources."

David Petritz, director of Purdue's Extension program, said, "Kalista's business is an example of how much someone can accomplish with help from Purdue Extension. In fact, we've featured her story in a publication called, 'Purdue Extension Means Business.'"

"Purdue Extension Means Business" details the resources Purdue has for entrepreneurs. It will appear in newspapers across the state in late October and early November. The publication also is available at local Purdue Extension offices or online.

When she was setting up her business, one of Johnston's greatest resources was Vickie Hadley, an Extension educator in Allen County.

"Vickie was instrumental in pointing me in the right direction and connecting me with people I needed to contact," Johnston said. "She was able to say 'You need to do this, and at this stage of the game you're ready to go talk to this person.'"

For her part, Hadley enjoyed helping Johnston turn her idea into reality.

"My role was to make sure she got the help she needed when she needed it, whether that was writing a business plan, figuring out what the packaging should look like or doing a sensory panel to find out how well people liked her product."

To that end, she put Johnston in touch with several of Purdue's campus faculty, including Maria Marshall, a small business development specialist, and Steve Smith, a food processing specialist.

"Maria Marshall was able to direct me to some possible state grant programs, and she was very useful in helping me solidify where I was at in my business process and what my next steps should be. She even helped me get financial support for doing sensory panel testing on my product," Johnston said.

Smith put the cheese crisps through their paces in sensory panel testing and helped Johnston work through the complexities of setting up a food manufacturing facility. She even got help with package design from art students at the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne campus.

"The help I've gotten from Purdue Extension has been fabulous," Johnston said.

Writer: Kay Hagen, (765) 494-6682, kjh@purdue.edu

Sources: Kalista Johnston, (260) 357-3336, kalista@verizon.net

Vickie Hadley, (260) 481-6826, hadleyv@purdue.edu

David Petritz, (765) 494-8489, dpetritz@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
Agriculture News Page


Kalista Johnston will begin shipping Baked Cheese Crisps to stores later this year. She turned her business idea into reality with help from Purdue Extension and people like John Motz, whose students at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne helped design product packaging. (Purdue Ag Communication Service photo/Tom Campbell)

A publication-quality photo is available at https://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/+2005/johnston-crisps.jpg


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