Grandma Ruby's prides itself on its homemade fudge, but this family-owned business can now also say that they have entered the world of racing by agreeing to support up-and-coming women in motorsports.
The company, run by Kari Carpenter and her family, support Johanna Long, the 2009 Gulf Coast Champion, who just won her second Super Late Model championship this year.
In addition to Long, Grandma Ruby's supports another driver, Tiffany Daniels, a Drive for Diversity candidate who has recently run in NASCAR's Camping World Series East.
When asked how her company discovered the world of NASCAR and stock car racing, Carpenter advised it was "quite by accident." As part of a networking group, Carpenter met Demi Knight Clark, a promoter of women in motorsports.
Clark convinced Carpenter to include her fudge in gift baskets containing products from women-owned businesses to promote female drivers trying to make their way in the sport.
They partnered with D'Hondt Racing, who as a team has worked with both Long and Daniels at various ARCA races this year.
"It seemed a good opportunity to get Grandma Ruby's name out there so we sent several boxes of fudge to include in the gift baskets," Carpenter said. "Next thing we heard from Demi was how successful the promotion was and that our fudge was a huge hit!"
Carpenter created gift baskets for the next race event, which were again well-received. The principals of Grandma Ruby's then decided to go to the ARCA race in Chicago, with their company's name on the car as one of the co-sponsors.
"So, off we went to Chicago with lots of fudge we passed out in the garage," Carpenter said. "That was our first race and we were hooked."
"We had a great time behind the scenes meeting people at the heart of the sport and were so comfortable in the environment that our passion for the success of the D'Hondt race team began to grow."
Carpenter admits that she is not necessarily a feminist, or an "I am woman, hear me roar" type of person as she puts it.
But she has enjoyed interacting with the team, learning about the sport and seeing the passion of the young women who want to pursue their racing dreams.
"It's impossible not to support them," Carpenter said.
Grandma Ruby's is admittedly in its infancy stages as a racing sponsor. Carpenter realizes that it takes time and perseverance to get the return on their investment, something they are willing to do.
Carpenter and Grandma Ruby's has had an interesting history as they moved toward growing their business through racing. Carpenter's parents and sister started the gift and candy store, called Rocky Top Country Store in Tennessee, in 1993.
Last year, Carpenter's parents wanted to retire so she and her sister got together and developed a plan where her sister would keep the storefront in Tennessee while she developed an on-line extension of the business.
"My husband and son found space in an industrial park and built a commercial kitchen," Carpenter said. "They do all the fudge-making with my sister and brother-in-law to come up with new flavors we can offer."
"We named the store after our grandma, who was such an inspiration to us in growing our faith and pursuing our dreams."
Carpenter has both a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in Business Administration. She works in corporate America in addition to running the Grandma Ruby's business.
Carpenter admits that, like the female racers she supports, it is often difficult to manage all of the many tasks and responsibilities on her plate.
"My greatest reward, however is seeing the fruits of our labor and perseverance when we find success in establishing mutually beneficial relationships (like we have with D'Hondt Racing) and some other companies," Carpenter said.
Carpenter's advice for up and coming female drivers in NASCAR and motorsports is simple. "Be true to yourself, celebrate the smallest of victories and remember, male-dominated only means there are more men in the sport, it doesn't mean they are better at it!"
If Carpenter has anything to do with it, Grandma Ruby's will be involved with promoting female race car drivers and teams for many years to come.
"Our entire family has definitely caught the racing bug," Carpenter said. "We want to be the sponsor the team can count on to support what they do best."
"Plus, how cool will it be to see Grandma Ruby's on the side of a hauler driving on highways across the country?"
For more information about Grandma Ruby's and their racing sponsorship, visit http://grandmarubys.com/ .