Monday, January 12, 2009
You have seen her image in the aisles of your local supermarket. If you live in Atlanta or San Francisco or Minneapolis or Philadelphia or New York or Chicago or other places too numerous to mention you might have seen her cooking on the morning television shows or even heard her on the radio.
Or maybe you received her bestselling book, Gourmet Made Simple, as a Christmas present. Or maybe you read about her and the company she and her husband founded in one of the many national magazines in which she has been featured.
Or maybe you are like me and watched her grow up in the not so populated town of Reynolds, Georgia. And maybe you noticed her as a little girl selling peaches and produce out of the back of a pickup truck in the middle of town. Or maybe you noticed her babysitting little kids like my niece and nephew to make a few extra dollars. Or maybe you saw her as she got older and more and more beautiful running through the streets of Reynolds – always in shape and always pushing herself.
Or maybe you knew her at the University of Georgia where she received a degree in Landscape Architecture. Or maybe you knew her when she lived in Sea Island, GA as she began her career in her field of study.
Maybe you already know Gena.
But just in case you don't, Gena Neely Knox - daughter of Tommy and Joan Neely, has hit the big time. Her company, Fire and Flavor, is one of the fastest growing private companies in the United States. To be exact, Inc. Magazine has Fire and Flavor ranked 264th of the 5000 fastest growing companies and number 8 in the Top 100 Food and Beverage companies.
If you are not yet impressed with this Reynolds gal, you should also know Gena was chosen in 2008 by Georgia Trend Magazine as a finalist in their 40 under 40 list, which represents the brightest and best among the rising young leaders in Georgia.
To make a great story short, Gena developed a love for cooking from her mom. In fact, she got her looks and her cooking talent from her mom. After she married, she continued to explore interesting food concepts as she cooked for her hubby or entertained friends. She read an article one day on a traditional Native American cooking process called “plank grilling.” After some effort, she finally found some planks to purchase. Her hubby and their friends loved the exceptional taste of food grilled on a plank. But Gena continued to have a difficult time finding retailers that sold the planks.
So Gena decided to make her own. And similar to her childhood experience of selling fruit and vegetables off the back of a pickup truck, she packaged her planks and took them to sell at the Atlanta Merchandise Mart. She wound up making $6,000 from sales in two days. And what began as a small venture quickly grew into a large business. Davis and Gena Knox officially founded Fire and Flavor in September of 2003. And the rest is history.
In addition to planks, Fire and Flavor has now expanded its offering to an array of cooking products, including grilling papers and skewers, gourmet seasoning salt blends and rubs, and brining mixes.
And as that company expands, the little town of Reynolds expands its claim for being the launching pad for some of the most incredible folks you would ever want to know.
Gena might just be the most impressive of them all.