ST. LOUIS - At this year's Taste of St. Louis, among some of the area's favorite eateries, a newcomer emerged a festival favorite. Mom's Chicken Sausage made its public debut to rave reviews.
"When you're sitting on one side of Market Street and the line's practically into the Opera House, that's probably a good thing," said Marc Bowers, Executive Director of St. Louis Makes. "There's a lot of interest there."
Jill Loftin founded Mom's Chicken Sausage in honor of her mother, Sandra Loftin, who taught her how to cook.
"Every time my mother was in the kitchen, I was right there," said Loftin. "As time went on, I started doing the cooking."
Loftin's mother's health deteriorated in her final years. Loftin took care of her mother full-time while also working full-time and raising three boys. This month marks four years since Loftin's mother passed.
Cooking was not Loftin's first career choice. Loftin worked as a police officer with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department for 25 years.
Loftin speaks highly of the department and her career as a police officer. She said she worked closely with kids in the community as part of the Police Athletic League (PAL).
Loftin retired from the police department five years ago at age 49. She said she was eager to find her "new normal," and decided to turn her passion for cooking into something more.
"I love to see the satisfaction on people's face once they finish eating my food because I know it's the bomb," Loftin said.
It took nearly eight months to perfect her recipe, Loftin said, but once she did, the demand grew quickly and orders flooded her inbox. Loftin will even allow customers to customize her original recipe.
Two years ago, Loftin enrolled in a program with St. Louis Makes to learn how to take her business to the next level. That is where she met Bowers.
"We (at St. Louis Makes) want to see companies that come up with great new products and that break into great new channels of business," said Bowers.
In partnership with Cortex, St. Louis Makes promotes and invests in entrepreneurs like Loftin. Bowers said Loftin had a great idea, product, and plan.
"The important thing about Jill was she had the tenacity to be self-taught, and that makes a big difference," said Bowers.
Loftin is currently producing her chicken sausage in the kitchen of a local catering business. She hopes to open her own restaurant in the future.