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Meet Courtney Ray Goodson of Uncle Ray’s Peanut Brittle

Today we’d like to introduce you to Courtney Ray Goodson.

Courtney Ray, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My Great Uncle Ray is famous in Southeast Texas. He has been for over 30 years. That’s how long he’s been perfecting his peanut brittle and charming just about everyone West of the Mississippi. We became friends after my Grandma’s passing (his sister) and I felt an urge to learn more about him. That was the beginning of many morning coffee visits and the best conversation of peanut brittle.

After college, I felt inspired to join the Peace Corps and was stationed as a volunteer in the South Pacific Islands helping a small Hindu organization. There was a cleaning woman making $2 a week where I volunteered at, and they wanted me to train her on how to become an office manager. She was poor and had only gone to the school through the 4th grade, but I knew she was smart and had passion.

We quickly became friends, sisters from another mister, and over the course of 2 years teaching her about computers, email, and Google (that was a big day) – the most important thing we talked about was her desire to own a small business. She wanted more, and I understood the feeling.

After returning, I used Uncle Ray’s Peanut Brittle to do a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for her to be able to start her own business – and it worked. It wasn’t easy, but she went from living in a tiny tin house in a squatters area to owning her very own home and piece of land. If you’ve ever truly changed someone’s life, it’s the greatest feeling of all.

It’s a feeling that I know will last forever, it still makes me cry to this day. Believing in someone is the most powerful gift: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfZqT1CS2d0

Then, after watching her, and doing some soul searching – a kind and brilliant mentor believed in me and helped me believe in myself. I wanted more too, I realized I was a creative, an entrepreneur and it was time I committed to that. I brought him some of the brittle (randomly) and the rest is history.

It’s been the most challenging job I have ever had, I’m still super ‘in it’ and sometimes I don’t know if this is going to work out the way I would love for it to – but what I do know is that for the first time, I’m authentically living to who I am. And THAT feels amazing and totally worth it all!

Has it been a smooth road?
Smooth? NO. Surprisingly Fast? YES.

Years ago I had contemplated starting a peanut brittle business when I was fulfilling orders for the crowdfunding campaign. I did some research and quickly realized: 1. It takes a ton of money to start a business 2. Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) in one of the hardest categories to be successful in 3. At the time, I was broke and I didn’t believe myself to be capable yet. And on top of that – I also just found out that within CPG – Snacks is the hardest category – my category – to be successful in. #GULP

While the first 2 remain the same, once I got my head in the game, I told myself I could work hard, give it what I’ve got, show up for myself every day, and if it’s supposed to work it will. Most people are skeptical when I tell them I was starting a peanut brittle business- and I was too – the market is flooded, it’s an old-timey treat and how was I going to make money?

But, when the opportunity presented itself, it randomly felt full circle and I thought I’d go for it. I’ve been bootstrapping it the whole way – working multiple jobs, getting laid off from jobs, getting more jobs, going a little crazy while brittle business moved along!

As hard as it’s been to grow, and grow FAST, I’ve had some luck: Earlier in the year, I heard about someone looking for local Texas brands for Central Market. I sent my brittle off thinking ‘oh, this takes years, I’ll just see what happens’ and promptly forgot about it. Months later, I get a call saying Central Market not only wanted my brittle – they wanted all 4 brittles in all 9 stores in Texas. This is when life got interesting.

I picked up bartending gigs to save enough for NUT MONEY (no joke) for my first big order and rallied the troupes (friends and family) to help me cook and package. Making that first pallet delivery was full of emotions. I had only slept 3 hours per night for a week, I was so thrilled we actually DID it, but biggest of all – I had some quality control issues with making so many batches so fast.

They say you only get 1 impression with a person and I felt awful that a few batches (out of about 80) weren’t as stellar as they could be. I LOVE seeing people enjoy the brittles, especially the pecan ones, and it feels good to have consumers come back to a demo table just to tell me how good the Bacon Pecan is! And I wanted that consistency.

I’m currently in the works to getting a machine – a BIG jump – while gearing up for Central Market’s Hatch Chile Festival in which we’ll have Uncle Ray’s Hatch Chile Pecan Brittle available for sale! Super exciting and new and fun to create new products for people to try!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Uncle Ray’s Peanut Brittle story. Tell us more about the business.
We specialize in making gourmet brittles with the intent to spread love and community baked into every bite. A LOT of brittle out there being sold is sub-par and my Great Uncle Ray’s recipe is truly spectacular. I’ve used the sauce recipe to create a handful of other flavors, and bring life to an old-timey Southern treat.

I’m still mostly a one-woman show, but I’m finally bringing on some part-time people so I can focus on higher level areas in the business. I have a background in marketing and really enjoy sharing the brittle, doing outreach, and growing the business.

My Great Uncle Ray spent 35 years perfecting the recipe, so, fortunately, I only had to spend a year getting things ready to scale and making the recipes slightly healthier. 😉

2 of my favorite things about the brand:
1. I’m most proud of the intention behind the brand – on the back of every bag there’s a short story, and my favorite part of it is this:

‘Peanut brittle isn’t just a candy or a sweet treat to be savored. It’s to be shared over conversations that make you reflect on life. It’s a symbol of love’s potential—that sweet kind of love—the unconditional kind you find in your heart for friends, family, and the quirky strangers you meet along the way.

Please enjoy Uncle Ray’s Peanut Brittle and let it open you to new people, places, and ideas.

In Love I Hope You Trust, Courtney Ray’

2. As a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, service means a lot to me. After returning, people would always say ‘I wish I could go and do that and help people’ like that. But I realized, there are so many people in need in the US, that people could help people and do what I did, except here. They wouldn’t have to learn another language or learn a new culture to do that. As an American living in America – you know exactly how to go help someone that very same minute. And that’s what I believe – Doing Good right where you are. I mean this even in your job or what you do.

Helping someone achieve anything is service – being the best Accountant you can be or lawyer you can be. That’s doing good right where you are. So in light of that, our Butternut Brittle – Crunch for a Cause – is the brittle where portions of profits go towards a selected charity to help raise awareness and funding. This year its cancer research, and there’s a lovely story on our website about a man who truly embodied the spirit of the brand. A charismatic man who had the gumption, and never said no to helping someone out. He lost a battle to cancer and I felt compelled to share it. http://unclerayspeanutbrittle.com/crunch/

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) has been drastically changing as more and more grocery stores move to online shopping and deliveries/curbside pickup. The more people shop online for groceries, the less they’re in stores trying out samples and looking at new products. Dealing with those changes as we grow will be interesting and challenging!

My goal was to be a wholesale manufacturer and within less than a year we’ve gone from just online to the shelves of all 9 Central Market stores.

My next goal is to move towards Amazon and other larger grocery chains!

Pricing:

  • Uncle Ray’s Peanut Brittle – $7.99
  • Uncle Ray’s Butternut Brittle – $6.99
  • Uncle Ray’s Pecan Brittle – $9.99
  • Uncle Ray’s Bacon Pecan Brittle – $11.99
  • Uncle Ray’s Hatch Chile Pecan Brittle – $10.55

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Melissa Glynn

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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