Jason McDonald, FreshJax: Business Pivot is the Right Step | Jax daily record | Jacksonville Daily Record
Winner, $ 2 million to $ 15 million | Sales 2019: $ 2.3 million
In his early thirties, Jason McDonald was working 80 hours a week as a light consultant when he was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer.
He had high cholesterol and was “a heart attack waiting to happen,” he said.
“That’s when the doctor woke me up and said, ‘Jason, if you don’t change you will die.'”
He had two options: take medication for the rest of his life or switch to a healthier lifestyle.
McDonald opted for the latter and, with the help of his wife, Hillary, began eating more healthily.
When they realized that the condiments they were using to flavor their new, healthy meals were filled with MSG and preservatives, they started making their own by mixing organic blends.
The two realized that their spice blends could be a business opportunity. McDonald’s cashed out his retirement fund, life insurance policy, equity in his house, and maxed out his credit cards to start the FreshJax Cafe and Yoga Studio.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur, or at least had the spirit, all my life,” he said. “So I put everything we had into this business and it’s finally starting to pay off.”
McDonald first opened a yoga studio and cafe, in addition to selling its spices, in a room on 11526 Lake Mead Ave., where the store is still located.
McDonald quickly realized that the yoga cafe concept was unsuitable for Jacksonville and faced bankruptcy.
Jim Stallings, owner of PS27 Ventures, invested in FreshJax in 2016 after convincing McDonald to change its business model.
Just as the doctor told him to change his lifestyle, Stallings gave him the wake up call to focus on selling spices online.
McDonald closed the studio and cafe, sold the kitchen equipment, and laid off 50 employees to focus on the thriving part of the business, selling the spice mixes.
“It was tough,” he said. “Many tears have been shed, but in the end it was the smartest thing I have ever done.”
Stallings urged him to stop stationary sales. At that time, more people were shopping online.
McDonald found that using sites like Amazon to deliver and market the product would allow the company to grow sales.
“When you’ve invested in a restaurant, chairs and aprons and knives and forks and staff, you want people to show up,” Stallings said. “It’s hard for you to step back from something like this and say it’s a bad idea. But they did it and it worked out wonderfully for them. “
Three years later, McDonald’s FreshJax spice company is growing out of the 3,000-square-foot space on Lake Mead Avenue, southeastern Interstate 295, and Gate Parkway.
He wants to buy 12,000 to 18,000 square feet for his headquarters and distribution center.
With the COVID-19 shutdown, McDonald said demand for its products increased as more people started cooking at home, but it saw some supply chain issues.
“We have been very blessed to come out with our heads above water,” he said.
McDonald, 43, said his company was well on its way to cracking $ 6 million in sales this year.
To begin with, the company had a handful of customers in its first year and raised $ 10,000. That grew to $ 40,000 the next year and $ 120,000 the following year as customers returned and recommended others.
He said the brand is a big reason customers keep coming back to FreshJax.
“All of this is because we have an amazing product and a brand that really stands for something,” he said. “I have the feeling that we understand the market, our business, our customers really well – especially what our customers want.”
McDonald also launched an initiative to donate meals to families in need through an organization called Hunger Fight.
McDonald and Hillary, co-founders of FreshJax, have a daughter, 3, and a son, 3 months old.
“My priorities are set,” he said. “No. 1, God; No. 2, Family; No. 3, FreshJax,” he said. “I do what I do to care for my family, including donating and giving back. We are just for a short time here on this earth and I want to create a world full of change. “