Learnings From Our 8th Year Of Running A Hot Sauce Company

Published: October 7th, 2022
Trini Pepper Sauce
from Raleigh
started January 2014
market size
avg revenue (monthly)
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
210 days
growth channels
Advertising on social media
business model
best tools
Instagram, Google Analytics, Quickbooks
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
35 Pros & Cons
11 Tips
Discover what tools Mustafa recommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Mustafa recommends to grow your business!

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Hello again! My name is Mustafa Mannan and I am the owner/CEO of Trini Pepper Sauce, I was featured in Starter Story twice before. I sell two different versions of my grandmother's sauce, the Original Trini Pepper Sauce and the Hot Trini Pepper Sauce. The Original is tailored toward those who enjoy the Caribbean flavor with a kick and the Hot is for those who are more daring.

My customers range from Caribbean folk who are looking for a taste of home to spice lovers wanting to expand their palate. The past few years have proven tough but enriching because of challenges with our supply chain and balancing our budget. Also, we had plenty of opportunities that involved new storefronts, publications, and marketing.


Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

Since many of the restrictions from the pandemic have been lifted, the cost of goods has begun to deflate. There were a few issues with the previous batch that resulted in a slight delay, leading to losses in revenue. For instance, bottle labels were lost during shipping a few times leading to delayed manufacturing of the.



Google and Facebook ads were marketing opportunities that we contracted out to a company that consumed a good portion of the budget. The results were underwhelming, but we have learned that running ads requires a proper funnel and that takes time or more money than we were willing to invest at the time to build out our funnel. Although we were able to reach a broader audience from these ads, with some ads reaching over 50k views, the conversion of that audience to sales proved difficult.

Since the feature in Starter Story, we have stopped doing paid ads and have focused on creating more quality content that can be used on a broader range of platforms. An example of this enhanced content initiative is our recipes. We have been recording eclectic recipes that involve Trini Pepper Sauce and breaking the videos down into email, blog posts, and social media (i.e. Instagram, Facebook, TikTok) posts. These videos have steadily begun performing better with each post. We accredit this to regimented filming and editing with regular discussions of what could be improved in the filming and editing. We have made an effort to try different things and spice it up!

Since returning to a more normal public activity, we have started participating in various pop-ups and vending events again. Which in our business is the most effective way to spreading the trini sauce tradition. We have been able to meet other creators during these events as well, and in some cases, some interesting collaborations have been born.


Also, we filled a specialty order of sample bottles of the sauce, as gifts for a company's holiday party. This is a capability we want to improve because it is a good revenue stream and it doubles as a great marketing opportunity for the sauce.

We have been able to get shelved at new local stores A baked joint, Baked and wired, Aurora Market, and Shopkeepers dc. These storefronts were obtained by networking during pop-up and vending events, being recommended by supporters of the sauce and bringing samples to the storefront of interest. The first two ways of obtaining storefronts are the most ideal because the buyer at the storefront identifies demand for our sauce immediately from customers recommending or trying the sauce. Also, the two ways are passive for us. The last way of obtaining a storefront requires us to approach the storefronts with samples, send emails inquiring about the buyer’s interest/ visit the store seeking an audience with the buyer multiple times before getting an answer. This is the way most of our storefronts have been obtained, and it is the hardest way to obtain storefronts because it requires weeks of footwork and communication.

We have maintained relationships with great markets like Odd Provisions, Each Peach Market, Gran Cata, Fresh Food Factory, Relish Market, Rebus Works, Harmony Farms, etc. Periodic in-store pop-ups and local markets outside of the stores help spread the word that our sauce is carried in the stores. Also, we try to interact without storefronts via social media and promote them when we can.

We are looking to take advantage of Amazon and Walmart online market spaces in the coming months.

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

One of the biggest issues we’ve had in the last year is balancing our budget while trying to grow as a business. It's difficult as a small business to try new options that may grow your business that come at a cost. Finding the right tools and what works for your business is key.

Another challenge has been time management. Since our team all have full-time jobs, it has been difficult to manage time and set aside a block of time to get things done during the week. There is an obvious burnout we feel at times that slows our progress, especially when we aren’t meeting the sales goals but putting in many hours of work.

Also, the expensive failure of paid ads was tough. We dumped thousands into a paid ad campaign that was interrupted by supply chain issues that caused delays in manufacturing and periods without products to sell despite the fact we were paying for paid ads still. The lesson was not an easy one especially since the conclusion was that we should be spending tens of thousands in actuality to obtain greater ROI.

Make your process as simple as possible. It will save so much time if your business is organized and remains that way. Time management is key.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

In the last year, we’ve managed to get involved with an incubator (MadeinDC) that has several stores throughout DC. They have also helped us book events and increase our sales. Unlike other incubators, they did not ask for percent ownership of the company but have boosted us in several ways.

We’ve also had more opportunities to showcase our sauce at different vending events by building our network. Therefore, it’s become easier to have a booked schedule and consistent revenue stream.

Also, we learned the most expensive thing is time. There is not enough of it to address the ample opportunities we are faced with. We need to prioritize better and/or hire someone to carry out day-to-day business.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

Ultimately, we’d like the company to run like an oiled machine. Meaning, having our batches made on a consistent basis and having a supply chain setup that will require minimal effort.

In the next upcoming years, we plan to expand our business to multiple online platforms (Walmart, Amazon). Also, having these orders fulfilled while we focus on growing the business.

We are also excited about making new products in the next years. We’ve stuck with our main two products but are ready to expand. We would like our product to be in every fridge in the United States.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

Entrepreneurs should vet any opportunities thoroughly. Many of these services offered operate under the guise of growing your business. Unfortunately, as we’ve learned multiple times in the past they are selling you a product for profit that does not always meet expectations.

Some events or showcases may not be worth the time and energy as well. Learning where to put your money and time is essential.

Make your process as simple as possible. It will save so much time if your business is organized and remains that way. Time management is key.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Right now we are looking for a food marketing specialist to manage our paid ads whenever we start to run them again. We are also looking for someone skilled in content creation. It would be perfect if we could hire a single person with these skills and a proven track record with marketing condiments.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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