A Zesty Pursuit

By Bernard, Sonya | Black Enterprise, June 1999 | Go to article overview

A Zesty Pursuit


Bernard, Sonya, Black Enterprise


Luther Dryers Lemonade profits from family recipe

Patrick M. Steptoe grew up enjoying the icy, sweet and refreshing lemonade made by his grandmother, Sue Brown, at family reunions and barbecues.

After Steptoe sampled a tart glass of lemonade at an Atlanta restaurant, the idea hit him to sell his grandmother's lemonade. He called Brown to ask for the recipe. She would tell him, but not over the phone, as "someone might be listening," he recalls her saying.

"Two weeks later she died," Steptoe says. "I knew then I had to do something after she had given me the recipe."

The 31-year-old St. Louis native researched everything from market strategies to trademarking at his local library. He was discouraged by family members, who didn't know if his idea would fly or flop. However, in 1995, Steptoe was able to borrow $120,000 from family and friends to launch Luther Dryers Gourmet Lemonade (named for Brown's great-grandfather, Luther Anderson, who created the recipe, and his niece's mispronunciation of the name of the ice cream brand "Breyers").

He applied for many bank loans but was denied. However, he later received a $90,000 loan from the Small Business Administration for production costs. He pounded the pavement in Atlanta trying to convince restaurants and even barber shops to sell his product. At that time, recycled soda bottles served as containers.

After relocating to Arkansas with a girlfriend, he found a dairy willing to produce his product. …

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