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I started a Hot Sauce company with some help from reddit and will hopefully soon selling in stores across the nation. AMA!

Jun 2nd 2014 by rustid • 61 Questions • 588 Points

My short bio: I started making hot sauce and sent out more than 2,000 samples that reddit requested. Since then I started a kickstarter and am now in talks with stores all over the nation to get my product out there.

My Proof: https://twitter.com/FYMHotSauce/status/473613737547403264

Facebook.com/fymhotsauce

http://fymhotsauce.com/blogs/news/14332519-doing-an-ama-on-reddit

EDIT Thanks for all the awesome questions guys/gals. After 5.5 hours I think I need to hit the sack for the night. If you have any more questions feel free to post them and I will respond tomorrow morning when I wake up.

Q:

Not a question, just a tip.

I used to work as a wildland firefighter, (among other things) this would entail spending two weeks eating food from caterers while in fire "camp." You should speak to some of the catering companies (not sure where you would get this info or if it is even publicly available, perhaps a local dispatch center(they have resource orders)) to see if they will carry your hot sauce and put it on every table in camp. I personally know nearly every firefighter loves their hot sauce. It might be a way for you to (1) grow your product reach, (2) act as a marketing campaign of sorts, and (3) make some extra $. Best of luck!

EDIT: Thanks for the upvotes. My #1 comment on Reddit thus far, glad it's going to something useful.

A:

Thanks for the tip!


Q:

My roommates and I were among those who got an entire bottle sample way back when. It's pretty much gone now.... So where can I get more? We all love it.

A:

I am almost out of my last stock. After that I am not going to get more until my kickstarter is over. The best place right now is to preorder at FYMKICKSTARTER.COM


Q:

Just for kicks, what are your best tricks to get rid of annoying "long term spiciness"? I know it doesn't bother some people, but when I go to Buffalo Wild Wings or wherever and order one of the hotter sauces, I love the kick.

The only negative here... is that I can't get rid of the heat for quite a while... Celery doesn't work for me and it makes it hard to keep on going... maybe I'm just a pussy :D

A:

I drink lots of milk. And eat crackers. Both of those two things help quite a bit. Mostly the constant stream of milk.


Q:

What's FYM stand for?

A:

First person to ask this. I thought it was going to come up right away.


Q:

But... you didn't answer... D:

A:

What do you think it means? I will tell you after you take a shot at it. I like hearing peoples guesses.


Q:

My first thought was "fuck your mouth" as in... it's so spicy (or so flavorful) that it's going to fuck your mouth.

A:

That is a great guess. I tell people Fry Your Mouth and keep it a little more PC


Q:

Hey got your sample in the mail, and loved it. My friends and I were joking "What if its just a little ketchup packet?!". I love FYM Hot Sauce, and I see you going far!

What is your favorite food to add your sauce to? Where are some of your favorite spots in PDX.

I feel like you should be around downtown PDX markets, maybe we've met and don't know it. You're almost a local celebrity now.

A:

I love adding my hot sauce to burritos. I love putting it on breakfast food as well.

I really like Takahashi on 104th and Holgate. Also The Original Sub Factory on 101st and Foster.


Q:

Any chance you'll be at Saturday Market shopping for produce or with your own FYM kiosk?

A:

No plans quite yet. I won't have a bunch of extra sauce for at least a month.


Q:

Do you think your company will expand into a bunch of restaurants?

A:

I hope so, I am trying to do that all the time.


Q:

Best of luck to the company, man!

A:

Thanks!


Q:

Is hot sauce going to be it? Or are you going to branch into other realms of saucery...BBQ, Ranch, special, etc?

A:

I would love to branch out into a bunch of other stuff. I have plans for Mayonnaise first, then we will see what happens after that.


Q:

I just wanted to say I absolutely loved the sample I received. I have tried so many hot sauces, my bf is always buying them and he loves the super hot stuff that I am not a big fan of and this is the first time I absolutely loved a hot sauce!

A:

Glad to hear it!


Q:

I just got the idea of taking your sauce on Shark Tank once you make enough sales, to try to get it in more stores, or even to just use it as a commercial to sell more. Now, if you were in front of the Sharks, what would your pitch be?

A:

Would you believe me if I told you I downloaded the shark tank application today?


Q:

Absolutely not. You're nothing but a liar, and I will cancel my order on Kickstarter.

(good luck)


Q:

On an unrelated topic, what is your favourite thing to put your hot sauce on?

A:

Healthy food that tastes bad and boring. All of the sudden it is not as bad or boring!


Q:

Hey! I just finally finished my free sample last night, and loved every bit of it. Just wanted to say thank you for that. It's one of the best sauces in its category that I've ever had, and I consider myself an iron-tongued sauce veteran.

As a small business owner myself, I was struck by how difficult all the details became (at first) when I started managing a real income. You went from anonymity to huge Kickstarter success in a matter of weeks. How has that affected you and the way you run your business? Have you hired accountants or lawyers to make sure everything is by-the-book? I'm in my second year now, but I still lose sleep over the idea that I missed something that will get me audited or sued somehow.

Final thought: Please never change your texture, if you can, no matter what flavor you make. On the spectrum of watery to chunky, FYM hits the sweet spot. Just enough thickness, without a bunch of unnecessary filler or such a lack of it that it resembles water. Flavor and heat are the big sexy selling points, but SO many sauces fall flat because they're too runny or they're mostly tomato and green pepper. The flavor-to-thickness ratio in FYM is perfect, you nailed it.

May your success be a blessing!

A:

Glad you liked it. I have actually been working for myself and running my own businesses for close to a decade. My father is an accountant and that has been really helpful. There was a lot to learn for this business, but I had a good foot in the door with my prior experiences.


Q:

Dammit OP! It is in the middle of the night here, and now I'm hungry!

A:

Sorry about that. Time for the mid night snack!


Q:

I am excited to get some sauce from you after your kickstarter ends. I was wondering, do you plan on selling your sauce anywhere locally in PDX? It would be awesome to pick it up in the store instead of purchasing online.

A:

That is the hope. I will probably post in /r/Portland when I get into stores so people know where to buy.


Q:

Besides your own of course, what is your favorite hot sauce?

A:

I am actually really new to the world of hot sauce. I used to use Cholula occasionally, now I try every type of sauce I can get my hands on.


Q:

Lame question but could you tell me how many carbs are in a serving?

A:

0-1g, pretty sure it is relatively free of carbs


Q:

As someone who can be brought to tears by the upper level wings at Buffulo Wild Wings, how are you capable of tasting such spicy sauce on a daily basis? Is it just a built up tolerance?

A:

You do build up tolerance over time. When I do tastings I have lots of milk and ritz crackers by my side. I still can only do so much before I need a break.

I have no idea why so many people want me to make an extra spicy version. Apparently there are people out there who have a stronger tongue than I do.


Q:

Once you decided that you wanted to sell your hot sauce... how much money did it cost to start the business? Talking about licenses, etc. Not cost of ingredients, marketing, etc.

If money was not an issue how long does it take to start selling?

Thanks

A:

There are thousands in fees and licenses that you have to get. It is crazy. I originally thought when I started in November I would be able to start selling before Christmas. I am just now getting to the point where I can start selling legitimately.


Q:

Now that your legitimate: how much does it cost to sell additional products. Lets say, frozen chicken wings. Is it considerably less than the startup costs?

A:

Frozen chicken wings are a completely different product. I am okay to do acidified stored foods at the moment. I would need a lot more education on chicken, and every product I make has to be approved by state and federal government.


Q:

Where did you first start producing your hot sauce on a large enough scale to sell?

I ask because I have a recipe for chilli that I have no doubt that people would love. Its better than any chilli I've ever tried. I would like to start selling it but don't really know which route to take.

A:

I found a commercial Kitchen to rent out and produce larger quantities. Before I did that though I took classes on food storage and preparation processes so I could make sure my food would be safe to sell without going bad. You should look into acidified food process schooling in your area and see if your chili meets the criteria.


Q:

Besides for fresh ingredients, what are you trying to do to make your hot sauce unique?

I'm thinking of something like Jones Soda, they feature user submitted pictures on their bottles, and little sayings in their bottle caps; have you thought of doing something like that? Maybe you could put a little reddit alien (Snoo?) under the bottle cap?

A:

Right now I have a caricature of my friend and long term supporter on the label that says "Bear Approved"

I am going to have another user that wants his face on the bottles kind of like Jones. He is going to have to send me a picture.


Q:

I'll send you a picture of my cat if you want.

he's a cutie.

A:

I will always accept cat pics


Q:

I have a hilarious picture of Justin with a mullet that should be on a bottle if you do that

A:

I feel like we should know each other.


Q:

Will you be able to fill all of the orders using produce from your personal garden? What will you do when peppers aren't in season?

A:

I use local farms to source my peppers now. I can't do everything from my personal garden. I do have my own personal supply that I make from my garden, and I auctioned off a couple of those bottles for my kickstarter.


Q:

This is such a cool story, I have a few questions

1.) When you posted to reddit offering the samples did you expect the response you got? (Probably been answered, but I went through your comments and couldn't find anything)
2.) What are your plans for expanding in the future? Renting out space, hiring employes, that kind of thing?
3.) From your website it only shows one type of hot sauce, will you stray away from the original recipe, maybe even away from just hot sauce?
Just some small questions about the future of the business, hope to see you on the shelves of supermarkets near me soon.

A:

1.) I did not expect the crazy number of sample requests. I thought at most I would get 400 or so, and that is what I budgeted for. I woke up and there were 2,000 and the number was climbing so I had to cut it off at that point.

2.) I have someone that will make my sauce for me. I am going to have to hire people to help me when I have to mail out everything for kickstarter. After that we will see if it keeps going at the current rate. I am in talks with stores all over the place and if I can get shipments to retailers I am going to have to hire someone indeed.

3.) I have other sauces in development. I really like my original, but I have a bunch of requests for other varieties. They might be online only for a while, I am really trying to market the original to stores right now.


Q:

How do you get in touch with stores? I sell bath products to some small shops but couldn't figure out how to get my product in retailers.

A:

Phone calls, ask to talk to store manager, ask him who to contact next. There is probably a better way but I am still new to this.


Q:

I've always been curious how a small company like yours finds somewhere to produce their product in bulk, and with the same quality.

A:

I made a lot of phone calls. I also have to produce a good amount at a time. My product doesn't change flavor depending on the batch size, so it is pretty easy to mass produce. I am also going to be overseeing the production and making sure the quality stays awesome. I was actually surprised though when I found my producer that he uses the same process I do, but instead of 5 gallon kettles they have a 50 gallon kettle. And instead of a vitamix they have huge blenders.


Q:

I just ordered the 10 oz bottle from the Kickstarter. I don't want it to be shipped out to the billing address I have associated to Amazon. Will you be sending out a survey for us to put our shipping address in? If not, can I send you a message on Kickstarter and give you the proper address? Thanks!

A:

Thanks for the support. At the end of the Kickstarter your will get a survey with your shipping address. I get lots of questions about that, I feel like kickstarter should write that in somewhere along the process.


Q:

I used to work at a restaurant who took our city's hot wing competition very seriously. One of the side competitions was most creative. Our sous chef won that with a strawberry rhubarb hot sauce using red jalapenos. Mild and amazingly tasty on wings. It was that type of burn that was so gentile you almost didn't want it to go away.
I guess the question here would be along the lines of what are some "different" ingredients that you have, or have thought about putting in your sauces?

A:

I have been thinking of what fruits would be good in a hot sauce. I would like to make a sweet one at some point. I might try and go with a tropical theme, I really like passion fruit and guava.


Q:

Unrelated follow up. Do you know of any peppers that have that sneaking up effect that ghost peppers have? As stated in the first comment, the hot wing part of the competition our guy used scorpion peppers and those hit after about 5-8 seconds. But the year before they had used ghost peppers and they told me they would count to about 20-30 seconds until the heat actually hit.

A:

I think a lot of it has to do with how the peppers were grown as well. I think if you try a ghost pepper grown in Oregon and one grown where it is hot all the time they are going to have different delay amounts before the kick hits you.


Q:

i ordered you hot sauce on kickstarter and i seriously can't wait to try it.
I love hot sauce.

A:

Thanks for the support, I can't wait for you to try it!


Q:

Hey there, I couldn't find any nutritional information about you hot sauce. Is it low-carb?

A:

no carbs, a little salt. I am getting it formally tested now, it was expensive and you don't have to do it until you sell 50k. I have passed that mark now so it is getting done.


Q:

Thanks!

Also, I couldn't actually find anything on the Kickstarter that said what it tastes like or how spicy it is, just a bunch of "it tastes good" and "it has a good spice".

I'm really tempted to buy the $10 bottle, believe me, I'm going to see if I can manage to get the money before the Kickstarter ends.

A:

I don't know how to explain it really. It is hotter than sriracha I guess. It tstes like peppers and awesome. I got tons of reviews from people, I just stopped posting them to kickstarter at some point. No one has been able to say what it tastes like. I guess it is just an enigma of great flavor.


Q:

Will you please make a sweet and sour sauce that doesn't suck please and thank you

A:

I will see what I can do.


Q:

Hot sauce is my favorite food, next to salsa. What well known brands would you say are comparable to the taste, and also texture, of your sauce?

A:

I honestly don't know of any. Not to say that there aren't, but I think that is one of the reasons I like mine so much. I have never eaten a lot of hot sauces before I made mine, and a lot of the ones I have tried since are not similar at all. When I thought of mine, I asked myself, "What would I like in a hot sauce?" I just threw a bunch of stuff I liked together and it turned out alright.


Q:

Follow up: what are the most popular foods you have heard your sauce being used on?

A:

A lot of people message me about their soup or rice.


Q:

I just supported $65 to the kickstarter. Good luck with the sauce.

A:

Thanks a bunch!


Q:

When are you going to have the ghost pepper sauce in stock?

A:

Hopefully July.


Q:

Is there a way to obtain this stuff in Portland? I'd rather not wait for it in the mail if I can just find it stocked locally around here. Any food carts stocking it?

A:

It is stocked locally at my office and house. Past that not so much yet. I am trying to get it into stores though so have no fear, it will be soon.


Q:

Have you got any specifics on hand about your hot sauce? Scoville rating, for example? ((I know it doesn't matter much in the end - I've got a 500k sauce that pales next to a 50k. I'm just curious))

As an aspiring hot sauce maker myself, I wish you the best of luck! Can't wait for the opportunity to buy some of your stuff. What parts of the country can expect to see it soonest?

A:

I have not tested scoville units yet. I need to do that one day. I think it is going to be expensive so I have held off on getting a chromatography test.


Q:

Perfectly understandable. Are there any established brands you might compare the heat against?

A:

It is hotter than sriracha/tobasco/cholula. Hotter than most everything I have tried that has flavor and isn't just heat for heats sake.


Q:

How much does the spiciness test cost? Ballpark it?

A:

more than $5 less than $10,000. I found a list of 3 labs that do it across the nation, that is as far as I have gotten.


Q:

I love hot sauce and even worked at a Pepper Palace for a while. My question is what makes your sauce different from so many others? What is unique about your sauce?

General questions are what flavor profile does it have and what are the scovile units of your sauce? I can eat insanely hot things but prefer my every day hot food to be less intense.

A:

Most sauces are made with not fresh peppers, while mine is made with fresh ingredients, so that is a thing. I don't know the scoville units, but it is pretty good. It is not the hottest thing around, but if you use too much it will burn you good. I use it as my everyday sauce.


Q:

How much encouraging did it take for you to decided "I can do something with this hot sauce!"? Was it something you had to be pushed to do or were you confident in yourself from the start? Congratulations on the awesome kickstarter! I donated and cannot wait for July to try my sauce!

A:

I just responded to your other comment and it wouldn't let me post it lol. Once my friends that love hot sauces kept bugging me for more I figured I had a good thing. Once I gave out samples to /r/portland the first time I got a lot of confidence.

I wanted to start out as a small hobby. I always ran out before my next harvest and wanted a reason to make more throughout the year. I figured if I sold like 10 bottles a month from a website that would be enough. What pushed me into trying to sell more and more was my break even point. At first it was a business license and I needed 50 bottles sold to break even. Then it was testing and I needed 100 bottles sold, then 600 bottles, then 1,000 bottles. Once it got to that point I figured I had to go big or go home, and decided to go for it since I gained some confidence.


Q:

First off I want to congragulate you on your sauce! You are living my dream man. I hope it goes really well for you. I saw the last post you made of sending out the samples but I didn't catch the original post. Can you link me to it? I guess I missed the free sample train but I plan on buying some from your site. I want to start making my own sauce and I'm buying some hardware and ordering some peppers so I can start experimenting. I already have the perfect name for it. With that said I have a couple questions.

  1. Any tips you would give someone trying to start their own hot sauce company? What would you have done differently if you could do it all over?

  2. What peppers are your favorite to work with and which ones do you plan on messing with?

A:

Thanks!

http://www.reddit.com/r/hotsauce/comments/23wucv/i_want_to_send_you_a_free_sample_of_my_new_hot/

Get lots and lots of opinions. I gave out hundreds of samples to people and figured out what they liked best before I nailed something down.

I am already making several other sauce varieties.

I use 5 peppers in my sauces. I think variety is the spice of life.


Q:

How many Scoville units is FYM?

A:

Not sure yet.


Q:

What kind of peppers do you use?

A:

Habanero, jalapeno, serrano, thai, and red chili


Q:

As someone who was toying with idea of making lots and lots of hot sauce, I have to say I was extremely frustrated to suddenly see you hit #1 on Reddit a couple of weeks ago. The idea of sending out free samples was a great one though, and I could never hope to match the volume you produced. I haven't had a chance to try your sauce yet, but I'm eager to.

Here are my questions:

  1. How much money did it cost to produce and ship 2,000 samples?

  2. What were the legal steps to get a product FDA approved?

  3. What's your secret recipe? (jk)

Good luck with everything, and as a fellow Oregonian I hope to see FYM in Market of Choice soon.

A:

Sorry to have beaten you to the punch.

  1. Several Thousand Dollars

  2. Lots of paperwork and classes. Contact your state's department of agriculture and they can guide you. http://www.oregon.gov/oda/ if you still live in Oregon!

  3. Magic

Thanks


Q:

Are you for or against sauce neutrality?

A:

I am pro sauce acidity. Without it there would be spoilage of all the spicy things!


Q:

This is my first reply in an AMA from the OP. I fucked your Mom. Now I'm going to support your kickstarter now. Best of luck!

A:

Uhhh, thanks? I hope you bought her a nice seafood dinner.


Q:

what gets you to get and go out on the way to getting things working in a company of your current scale

A:

I am sorry, it is nearing my bedtime and I am not sure I understand the question. My apologies for being sleepy.


Q:

What was your initial reaction when sales began to come in? Also, I tried some of that sauce, it's pretty damn good and I'll probably buy more.

A:

"I AM GOING TO BE THE KING OF HOT SAUCE!"


Q:

I'm gonna buy another just because you replied to me.

A:

I won't stop you.


Q:

I love spicy things... As a shriacha lover, I'd love you to sell me on your hot sauce over my favorite brand and tell me why I need to switch!

A:

You don't need to switch, but don't you want to know what the hubbub is all about? Only way to do that is to try it.


Q:

Exactly, well I bought a 5 ounce bottle on the website, good luck on your adventure!

A:

Thanks for the support!


Q:

What are the measured scoville units of your hot sauce? I usually don't bother with anything that isn't at least a couple thousand.. I want to feel at least some heat! Would consider giving it a shot if it came to a store near me though, will order some if it has some heat!!

A:

I imagine it is at least a couple thousand. Have not gotten that tested yet but it seems like that needs to happen soon after all the questions I get. It is hot, don't worry.


Q:

What is your favorite color?

A:

hot pink