As I was growing up, I would visit family in Trinidad and Tobago and enjoy all the delicacies prepared by my grandma. One of which was a pepper sauce unique to my family.
Every trip to Trinidad and Tobago I would end up returning with pepper sauce and other items my grandma made to distribute to family and friends. Over the years, I received glowing feedback and requests for the pepper sauce that led to me wanting to share the sauce with the world.
I began by seeking feedback on different renditions of the sauce. I did this through tastings amongst friends as well as acquaintances that identified as hot sauce enthusiasts. This helped in generating two varieties of sauce, Original and Hot. The Original highlighting the fruity features, and the Hot for those wanting more heat.
Before moving forward with this endeavor, it was important for me to get my grandma’s approval since the recipe for both varieties of the sauce are based on my family’s recipe that has been passed down over five generations. After receiving her blessing, it was time to figure out means of production and financing for this dream.
For financing we decided to crowdfund through Kickstarter. With a great marketing campaign we raised over $32K. These funds were used to fulfill our preorders; which required getting an FDA approved process letter with nutritional facts, label designs, imported peppers from Trinidad and Tobago and other ingredients within the US, and co-packer startup expenses. With the remaining funds, we were able to develop an e-commerce platform to generate most of our sales. Kickstarter led to a great initial following and put us in a position to continue to grow our business.
After Kickstarter, we went through years of organic growth. Family and friends were recruited during this period to help with developing marketing campaigns; working with different grocery stores, themed pop-ups and vending events; and seeking sales opportunities.
During this period we dealt with many setbacks. The biggest being with our first co-packer that made a faulty batch, leading to bacteria build up in bottles because of improper sealing. This caused fermentation in the sauce and the bottles to build up pressure and spill over when opened. Also, we faced issues importing peppers from Trinidad that included: receiving the wrong proportions of red and yellow scotch bonnet peppers, leading to varying colors of sauce; and the wrong amounts of peppers forcing us to scramble to find suppliers to make up the difference.
During the most recent year we collaborated with other businesses to overcome problems that arose from the pandemic. One collaboration was with a social media influencer who shares her experiences as a nurse. We were able to work with her to raise money for healthcare workers.
Another collaboration was with Porta’Lu Farms for growing our own peppers. We worked on the yield to account for peppers we could not import during the summer of 2020. The project culminated in 300 lbs of peppers that we used in the production of our most recent batch.
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Cottage Lane Kitchen was founded by me in 2010, and it isn't only my business name, but also refers to a secret lane in Chapel Hill, NC where our family homestead was built in the 1950s. Four generations of my family have cooked and preserved spicy peppers out of love and tradition in that kitchen.
The last homemade batch of my family's spicy pepper relish was made by my Grandfather in the early 1990s. He grew chilies around the outside of the house and harvested and pickled them during my summer visits. I remember him watering the empty tin cans he buried beside each pepper plant.
Normally the Craft Hot Sauce Podcast interviews hot sauce makers all over the world. This episode is more of a riff from Brian the host about some of the things his hot sauce company Craic Sauce got up this summer.