Bernadette Rella Interview
(Ma Ma Rellas)

Imagine with your entire mind, believe with all your soul, and unlock your dreams of true happiness. Success is your key.

Bernadette Rella said that and she should know!

She’s well on her way to making her pasta sauce Ma Ma Rellas a household name.

Q - Somebody just got through making an appearance at the New York State fair.
A - Yes that’s correct.

Q - How did you like being at the fair?
A - Oh, I loved it. It was a lot of good marketing. We did tons of marketing, a lot of sampling. A lot of people got to try my sample which is great. I want people to try it not just buy it; I want them to try it and see if they like it. You just can’t look at the sauce and say, let’s just buy a jar. Everybody just wants to try something at first before they actually buy something. They’re investing their money and they want to be able to do that.

Q - How did the sampling work? What would you put the pasta sauce on?
A - I actually put it on bread so they can try the sauce that way. That works out pretty well. I do it into one ounce cups. They put the bread in and then I put the sauce in with the bread in the cup and then they try it that way.

Q - Is this the first time you’ve been at the fair?
A - This was my first year. I’ve actually been working on my business seven years. We actually opened last May (2013) and we didn’t actually start selling anything until this April (2014).

Q - When you say you were working on it, does that mean you were working on it in a restaurant?
A - No. Basically I went to school and went through the South Side Innovation Center which is part of Syracuse University to take all business classes. I came up with the whole idea of my business in 2007 and I started working a lot on it in 2008. I also did the Utica Taste Fest in 2009. Then I started going from there. Basically how I came up with the business is I was addicted to the Food Network, Unwrapped and Danny Deutsch. I had three little kids at the time. My oldest daughter is 19 now. I used to cook all the time because they were home and then I used to have family and friends come over. Everyone just loved my sauce. I became like really inspired by the factories, the back of the supermarkets on how to make things. I ended up thinking I should bottle the sauce my mom taught me how to make. I changed the recipe a little bit and decided to take it to the factory, but, in those seven years I basically learned the backend of what I would call the supermarkets, just the factory part of it, how to manufacture it, how to get sales and bring it to the stores and make a business plan because that’s what I did, and just figuring out what products I was going to make. I’m actually coming out hopefully with another product in four weeks.

Q - Another pasta sauce?
A - It’s going to be called, Reggie sauce, Ma Ma Rellas Fine Foods Reggie sauce. I’m just in the process of putting that whole label together now.

Q - How did you know what factory to go to? Are you talking about a factory that makes private label sauces?
A - Not my factory. There are actually out of Watkins Glen, New York. It’s a small manufacturing company. I’m basically just following my business plan. My first product was Italian Marinara sauce. The other product I decided to do was the Reggie sauce. I’m working on a third product too. I have a lot of different ideas for sauces. Price chopper would actually like to put me in 20 stores but I’m still working with them on that. So, I don’t have anything as of yet with them. It might take me a little while to get into that. My application is also up in Hannaford for the five local stores in my area. I applied with Wegmans as well but I haven’t heard on anything yet.

Q - How are you going to market your sauces should you get them onto the shelves in the stores?
A - I plan on doing demos. I did a demo at the Nicols store this past Sunday and I was there for like four hours and I want to say I sold maybe 24 jars out of the store in that much time. People are making a big deal about my sauce. They think it’s really good. My slogan is it’s as close to homemade as you can get for a jar of sauce! That’s what I want people to know it for. If they cook sauce it’s not to take over the homemade sauce. It’s for them to be like, this is really good. I can use this instead of using my own sauce if I don’t feel like cooking. It’s as close to homemade as you possibly can get. That’s basically it.

Q - How much will it cost for a jar of your sauce?
A - At a farmers market I sell one jar for $7.00 or two for $12.00. The supermarkets it’s going for $5.49 to $6.99. So, it varies from store to store.

Q - Who came up with the name “Ma Ma Rellas”?
A - Okay well, there’s a story behind that. What happened is I was going to name it Rellas Authentic Fine Foods. That was going to be the name of the company. My mom used to work at McDonald’s when I was young. She was probably about 28. Everyone used to call her Ma Ma Rella. She was like, why don’t you just name it Ma Ma Rellas Fine Foods? So, I decided to take the authentic out and name it Ma Ma Rellas Fine Foods. She was the older of the bunch so all the kids used to call her Ma Ma Rella. So, that’s how we came up with that name. But my last name is Rella too.

Q - How did you decide to put out the Marinara sauce first?
A - Well, my mom taught me how to make the sauce. I was continuously making sauce at home. Sauce can be used for anything. It’s not just for pasta and meatballs. You can make it for Spanish rice, Chile, Chicken Parmesan, Eggplant Parmesan, Lasagna. You can make it as a pizza sauce. You can make it as a dipping sauce for chicken fingers and cheese sticks. You can make it for just about anything. I figured that would be the best thing to come out with since I made that the most at home because I’m Italian. It stretches far when you have three kids. Everyone loved it and I was like I need to bottle this. When I first started this whole thing my mom thought I was insane. She was like, you know how much money that’s going to cost? You’re never going to be able to do it. Just because she said no, I’m going to do it. It’s going to happen. I decided to call an attorney and I actually went and paid for a visit with an attorney for about an hour and just talked. I thought I had to go through patents that wasn’t the way I had to do it. So, I just took all the information from that meeting and kind of ran with it. Even as backup plan I’ve been working on this for seven years. I also had a double degree in Human Sciences and Chemical Dependency which I just graduated in May (2014) with, just to have that as a backup besides doing all my business stuff. I wrote out that the Marinara sauce was the first one that was going to come out. I was determining whether it was the Marinara or the Reggie sauce which would come out first and I decided Marinara. Basically, I’ve just been following my business plan. I have very big hopes for my business. I want it to be nationwide. I want everyone to know what the sauces are. It’s not just sauce I have. I have a Cheesecake recipe. I have a lot of other recipes as well. My mom has been a very big help, very supportive after this whole thing launched. She was like Oh, God, it’s really going to happen! Now she knows it’s a reality. It’s here and it’s happening.

Q - Do you have any employees?
A - No employees. My mom does go to the regional market (Syracuse) and helps me on Saturdays, but, I don’t pay her to come help me. I basically wear all the hats and do all the marketing on Facebook. I call all stores and make sure they have enough sauce, do the demos. I schedule everything. That’s basically what I’m doing.

Q - What are people saying about Ma Ma Rellas?
A - I’ve been told my sauce is the best jar sauce in the world. Whenever anybody asks me that’s what I tell them because it is.

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