Alumnus enjoys success in food industry

Alumnus enjoys success in food industry

He enjoyed wrestling because it was an individual sport and he was good at it.

He now enjoys being the owner of his own company and he’s good at that as well.

Dominic Senese, St. Joseph Class of 1986, has always looked forward to being his own boss. “It took a while but I finally had the opportunity to branch out on my own and I enjoy it.” Dominic, “DJ”, has been on his own since 2005 as the owner of Chicago Food Manufacturing, LLC. formerly Sonoma Farm. From his plant in Chicago Heights, DJ employs up to 30 people to help manufacture and package a variety of food items. “We specialize in different types of pastas and sauces but we also deal with other products.” In short, people come to DJ and ask him to produce a product, handing over to him ingredients and recipes so that he can use his machines to mass produce food items. DJ also manufactures his own products under the Sonoma Farm label. The business has been steady since DJ created his company, to the point where he recently dropped a major retailer as one of his customers. “People will often come into my plant and say that their grandmother had this great recipe for a sauce and they want to put it on the shelves. I’ll do business with only about one out of fifty of those people. The others really either don’t have a plan to market their product, in which case I discourage them because marketing is a major part of the business. Or they don’t have the start-up funds to purchase what’s necessary, including the money to buy ingredients and packaging materials.”

DJ admits that a variety of qualities are needed to be successful for someone in his position. “First, you have to flexible. You have to be able to handle a variety of jobs. I work with dozens and dozens of vendors to buy my supplies. Then I have to get my own products sold so there’s an element of sales I need to deal with.” In fact, DJ often takes his products on the road to consumer shows, often tying up his weekends. “There are times we work seven days a week. We were even running on Thanksgiving.”

The hard work and long hours are worth it, according to DJ. “I like it because the job keeps me busy and I do a lot of different things. Besides the manufacturing and packaging end of it, I deal with the federal, state and local governments to ensure my operation meets their standards. I hire and work with good people who are committed to making all of our products of high quality so that our name continues to gain recognition.”

DJ looks forward to sharing his experiences with any Chargers who are interested in either the food manufacturing industry or in starting a business of their own. Contact the Development Office for information on getting in touch with DJ.