DALLAS — She started from scratch and is building a large business.
"Well I started in the comfort of my home cooking," said Christine Odegbaro.
Odegbaro said she always had a flare for cooking.
"I knew I wanted to cook at age 5. I actually ran around the kitchen on my grandmother’s coat tails... rather dress tails," said Odegbaro.
She said her first attempt at cooking at the age of 7 was a little rough.
"For a whole week I burned pots and water. I don’t know how I did that."
But once she got the hang of it she said she had all her grandmother’s church folk talking.
"Once I cooked those greens they called her 'Sister Wells.' They would say, 'Sister Wells, what did you put in those greens?' She said, 'Oh, I didn’t cook those greens, Christine cooked those greens.'"
And so began a life long journey.
"She said to me and it stuck to me. She said, cooking is not rushing. You have to put your heart in it. You have to put your mind in it."
Odegbaro moved to Dallas in the 90's and worked in a medical office for more than 20 years. She said she worked long hours and on the side, she was selling plates of her homecooked jambalaya.
"I would sell my products on my breaks, on my lunches before I left for work and after I left work. That’s how determined I was."
But then something happened that would change her life forever.
"I got sick in 2015 and nearly died, and that’s when it came to me that I can’t continue to do this, something had to give. I went into my office and gave two weeks notice," said Odegbaro.
From a near death experience, "Lady Jambalaya" was born.
"I took a leap of faith, and I just started making money from there," said Odegbaro.
She sold her products online and drove thousands of miles around Texas trying to get a grocery store to sell Lady Jambalaya.
"I got a thousand no’s, until I got a yes," said Odegbaro.
Finally in 2020, she got Lady Jambalaya in dozens of stores, and she got people to buy it by giving out samples. But then, the pandemic hit.
"And I thought, OK. I am doomed. I’m doomed," said Odegbaro.
She said she got on her knees and prayed.
"God did not bring me this far to fail," she said.
So, she said she had to rely on the product to speak for itself and by the end of 2020, she was in more than a 140 stores.
"There were days when I felt like giving up," said Odegbaro.
She still does her own cooking with the help of her family. She doesn’t have investors. She owns 100% of the company, making her a 100% Black-owned business. She said now she is smiling all the way to bank.
"You do what you are passionate about and that’s how you make money."