Melanie McCorkle: I grew up in the Needles/Lake Havasu area, and I still have family there. I came to Prescott from Carlsbad, California in November 2017. In April 2018, I joined PFM as a vendor.
PFM: What do you sell at your booth?
MM: I sell fresh homemade salsa using all organic ingredients.
PFM: How long have you had your business?
MM: I got my business license in Prescott in March 2018, so that’s when the business became real. But I’ve been making the salsa itself for about 15 years, as a side project for extra money and holiday gifts.
For years, my family told me, “You need to sell this salsa – it’s so good!” They knew I had a passion for the product, but it just wasn’t the right timing. I had a dental career for 24 years, so that was my income. I never really felt fulfilled in that career, but I was never quite sure if selling salsa would produce the income that our family needed.
There was a recent loss in our family that left me as an only parent with the challenges of raising two small children on my own. I moved to Prescott to have my family’s support for myself and kids through this difficult time. When moving to Prescott my baby was only 1 month old and my daughter was 4 years old; I came with many fears & doubts. I didn’t want to go back to working 10-12 hours a day. I wanted to spend more time with my family, and this business was a great opportunity to be at home more with my kids.
PFM: Tell us about the name of your business. Why “Surf’s Up Salsa”?
MM: Surf’s Up Salsa — it was always that name from the very beginning. It’s an important story. My oldest son is now 20 years old, serving in the army. Back when he was about 10 years old, he was a skateboarder and surfer. We had won a trip to Hawaii through Tilly’s. We were on the airplane, just him and I. Every year he went to a skateboarding camp, and I would raise money all year to send him. We were talking about selling salsa as a way to raise the money, and I told him, “We have to have a name!” He was looking through a magazine on the plane, which had an article about Mick Fanning, a famous surfer. The article headline was “Surf’s Up” – my son excitedly said, “Let’s name it Surf’s Up Salsa!” The business started because of him. It turned out that Mick was at the event in Hawaii, and my son actually got to meet him in person. It was a sign. A lot of the decorations in my booth are from my son — I have his surfboard that he used in Carlsbad. It’s the real deal!
PFM: Tell us about how you get ready for the market.
MM: My salsa preparation runs from Tuesday through Friday. I usually take Sunday and Monday off for family time. Tuesday is when I make my list, reply to emails, and take care of business paperwork. On Wednesdays I take care of ordering ingredients. On Thursdays I pick up produce, as well as other last minute purchases, like containers. Thursdays and Fridays are full days in the kitchen – chopping, roasting, and blending in the commercial kitchen that I am in. On Fridays I also package the salsa.
My daughter is in school now, so I’m also her chauffeur throughout the day. My mom helps too to help take care of the kids, especially on Fridays when I’m in the kitchen all day. On Saturday morning before the market, I am packing the salsa into coolers and bringing it to market to sell.
I don’t have anyone who works with me; it’s just me making that salsa from start to finish. My close friends have really seen that my salsa is not just putting ingredients into a blender. I’d like people to know that as a woman and a single mom — I’m doing it all. I feel very empowered. I chop every onion, and every bunch of cilantro. Meanwhile, I’m juggling the rest of life, kids and everything else, by myself. I don’t want people to pity me. It’s my life. It’s empowering to know that I can do it on my own, and I’m doing well with the support of the town.
PFM: What are your plans for the future?
MM: My ultimate goal and vision, from the beginning, was to be selling in local markets in Prescott, Phoenix, and Carlsbad. I can see myself doing more events, but I’m stretched a little thin right now. Eventually I will hire people to help me. It’s really tough to find fresh, good-tasting salsa with organic ingredients in the grocery store, and I understand why. It’s tough to make good quality product. I’d like Surf’s Up Salsa to be that product!
PFM: Is there anything else you would like people to know?
MM: I know that some people have said, “Prescott isn’t surf related – why are you naming your business that?” I feel that I’ve been able to stand out from the crowd when I’m here. This is my story. I’ve overcome certain things as a single mom and a small business owner…I want people to know my story. I’m so grateful to the community of Prescott for the overwhelming support through my journey of starting a new business. It has been heartwarming that this community has welcomed me with open arms!
Melanie sells year-round at the Prescott Farmers Market: http://www.