To Top

Inspiring Conversations with Tay Stratton of Fennel and Fire

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tay Stratton.

Hi Tay, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
The concept for Fennel and Fire came to me as a natural extension of my love of cooking, entertaining, and creating new flavors.  I have spent the last six years creating, building, and branding Fennel and Fire, America’s Artisan Spice & Tea company to provide quality spice & tea blends while making them easy to use.   Simplicity, quality ingredients, organic, responsibly sourced, ethically farmed, sustainable practices became the guidelines for my business.

As I researched the spice and tea industry, I found a significant gap in the blending field of quality organic spices in both taste and quality. Many blends use fillers and extra salt to maintain lower pricing, and MSG is added to create an addiction. I set out to offer the very best blend, regardless of its cost, and would never sacrifice an ingredient due to cost. Ironically, I found it didn’t cost much more to make quality organic blends that didn’t have preservatives, fillers, MSG, additives or, anti-caking agents. The flavor was so amazing!  Soon I had friends asking me for my blends so the business just organically grew. I found that many people much like myself wanted quality products for consumption without additives and they loved how easy it was to use the blends.

Blending was something I had always mastered as a creative. When I combined that talent with my love of spices and teas, making the blends became my passion. I love knowing that I’m sharing new and fresh flavors with high-quality ingredients with our customers. I also learned from my own experience that using spices in the American kitchen was somewhat daunting for many people. I wanted to fix this. I wanted everyone to experience the burst of flavors these gems from nature give us. So, I set out with the goal of not only making blends of quality but making them easy to use.  The label design and packaging make using our blends super simple, and the flavors will “Excite your Taste Buds, Naturally”!

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There’s probably not an entrepreneur out there that can tell you it’s been a smooth road, especially after these past two years. You’re always going to have bumps and endless decisions. They are part of that road, thus making it part of your journey. The struggle is to keep it in perspective and go with the motto “Shoot for the moon, and enjoy the ride.”

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Our blends are unique to us. Each blend may take up to two years to create and will not be released until it’s the best on the market. When working on a blend, I always ask, am I making it modern and fitting for today’s kitchen, and is there anything better that already exists.

Everything is mixed in small-batch where we pay special attention to the quality, texture, color, size of grains when mixing and blending. I’ve never been shy to try new flavors, combinations, textures, and methods. There is always a little twist of a unique spice that will make our Fennel and Fire blends “Kick up your Cooking!” We know that every bag is getting the best blend and incredibly fresh spices, herbs, and teas. I think this attention to detail, freshness, and quality is part of what sets us apart.

Our community drives us. We create many of our blends as a request from our customers. Our best-selling spice blend, and the blend that launched our business, Veggie Heaven, was created from a challenge given to me: “Create me an All-Purpose spice blend that doesn’t have any MSG, preservatives, additives, fillers, … Just spice”. I created Veggie Heaven, and though the name lets you know its primary use, it is excellent on all sorts of foods. Our website now features 36 different foods to use Veggie Heaven, all submitted by customers. I also had a challenge from a customer in Texas: “Create a Fajita blend with no MSG or additives.” My initial reaction was, “No, Its Texas, home of the fajita. There is no way I can outdo a Texan Fajita blend.” However, my creative instincts rose to the challenge, and our Fajita blend was born a year later. It’s fantastic and gives our Veggie Heaven a run for its money. All the blends have their own story and purpose, much like the stories above.

Creativity and perseverance are two of my most driving traits. I was born with these traits and continue to work on developing them. It was challenging to grow the business during the last couple of years while still working full-time for another company and dealing with the obstacles the pandemic threw at us. There were times when I wanted to give up; times I didn’t want to work seven days a week and miss events with friends and family. At times, I would say, “just what are you doing?” Then, I would then get an encouraging social media post/ email. My husband would tell me a motivating story or my sisters would send notes of how proud they were. A customer would complement the product and share how they used it, making them a hero in the kitchen. The feedback and encouragement would ignite my passion and keep me on track. Looking back, I wouldn’t pass up that part of the journey and would like to encourage readers to reach out to their local entrepreneurs and let them know how much you appreciate them! We are excited that we now ship all over the nation and would love to have you visit our site.

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
I grew to hate that word “pivoting,” but I’m so glad that I did a pivot or two. Some of those early COVID pivoting decisions simplified revenue streams. In March of 2020, I was fearful of the economic stress for everyday Americans resulting from the pandemic. I changed from glass jars to stand-up bags. Luckily my labels worked on them without having to make a change. I wanted to make sure I could keep the price affordable. After all, it’s my goal that every kitchen in America has a bag or two of Fennel and Fire in it.

Changing to bags not only kept my price down, but it made shipping the blends much more effortless and economical. It later helped with dealing with the supply chain shortage of glass jars. We now ship bags of spices and tea all over the nation, retail and wholesale. That one “pivot” decision has made shipping more effortless and our blends accessible nationwide, allowing me to help reach my goal of having every kitchen in America use Fennel and Fire.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Ronan Dugan
Tay Stratton

Suggest a Story: NashvilleVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Local Stories