Our Story...so far

It’s New Year’s Eve, a day that is not atypically spent reflecting on the past year and dreaming of the future. For me this day has always been just another day, a chance to turn the calendar page one more time, nothing more. This year I feel that it is different for me – not just because this past year was filled with so many wonderful moments, but mostly because of the next great adventure that I am about to undertake with my family.

This will be no surprise to the folks that follow this blog, but for some they may already think that our little hot sauce company is already a full time gig. It is not, at least not yet. New year, new opportunities, new adventures.

The driving force behind Hot Sauce 4 Good has always been combining two passions that we share as a family – creating and producing great hot sauce and giving all of the profit away to organizations that are doing incredible work with the money they have been blessed with. You may think that to be a philanthropist you need to have a lot of money, not true. What you need is a desire to do for others and the willingness to do it.  This year we are going to take a leap of faith. We have felt the hand of God working through and in us, guiding us towards this and as a family we have dreamed that we would be able to one day turn our little business into a real business. We are not doing this without much prayer, trepidation, fear, hope and joy.

(Warning, the following story contains no burning bushes, floods or anyone raised from the dead, just the persistent hand of God whacking me on the back of the head.)

The Hot Sauce 4 Good Story (so far)

We have been making hot sauce for just over seven years – the first year we made 3 bottles worth but each year we have made a little more. This past year we made just over 1,000 bottles. In total we have made 1,784 bottles (minus the one I dropped and shattered).

For the first four years we gave the hot sauce we made away as Christmas gifts to family, friends and coworkers. Soon we were getting requests to buy the hot sauce either for themselves or to give it to their friends and family. We just made more and gave more away. When the requests started to be too much to handle Laurie and I discussed what we should do – it was a short discussion. Let’s still give the hot sauce away but accept donations that we would use add to our charitable giving.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James 2: 14 – 17

(Emphasis added but can't you just hear Paul saying this?  "What good is it?" Say it with a bit of sarcasm.)

We already had a relationship with World Vision child sponsorship but I had been reading about their micro-finance offering and that seemed ‘right’ – it fit with our little business and if we could continue to produce our artisan hot sauces AND fund some micro loans we couldn’t think of anything better! At this time I was also commuting into NY everyday – every morning when I would leave Penn Station I would see a long line of the city’s homeless lined up in front of the Cathedral of St. Francis waiting to get a hot cup of coffee and a sandwich. Here was another need right in my backyard.

In May of 2013 Laurie and I attended a small conference in Princeton NJ (Collyde Summit) and I was very excited to see that World Vision Micro was one of the sponsors of the event and would lead one of the breakout sessions. Laurie and I spoke to Tiffany Bryant who was manning the table at the event and told her a little bit about how much we loved World Vision Micro and how we decided to make it one of the charities our business supports. “You’re the hot sauce guys!” Tiffany said. “Yes, that would be us.”  Tiffany, it turned out, and her boss, Brian Tucker, had been following our posts and knew what we were doing. Needless to say, we were very surprised. I want to be clear that our total giving at that point was in the $500 range – nothing that would trigger any ‘big donor’ alerts. The next day I loaded Tiffany up with a bunch of hot sauce that she brought back to Seattle with her and shared with her colleagues at the office.

This past summer we decided that we needed to become a little more ‘official’ – if we wanted to continue to make hot sauce, and if we were going to accept money for it, well, there were rules we needed to follow. We started our LLC, applied for (and received) our permits, worked with our church to use their commercial kitchen and introduced ourselves to some of the local farmers who we would need to get peppers from.  They not only sold us the peppers at a great price, they also carried the hot sauce at their farm stands! We made 1,000 bottles and sold them all. We were able to donate double what we had the previous year to our charities, plus we added another charity to the mix. It was a special year.

As the hot sauce season wound down, we got a call from Brian at World Vision Micro, asking us if we would be willing to have them come out and film us making the hot sauce. Of course, we were honored but also a bit incredulous – but, we figured, if it helps tell the World Vision Micro story then we were all for it. And it does make sense, we are so much like the entrepreneurs we support, needing a little bit of help, needing community, needing God. As October wound down and the frost was threatening, we were able to squeeze one more batch of hot sauce out, all filmed by Nathan Shain and hosted by Tripp Crosby. It was a wonderful, joyous and prayerful day – a much better experience than I had imagined.  If you want to be inspired, check out Nathan’s photography!

At the end of the day, as we sat down to a homemade dinner of chili, Brian and Tripp dropped a few big ones on us. First, they wanted to know if we would like to meet any of the entrepreneurs we had been supporting – it would mean a trip to Africa. Of course we would – not just seeing the folks that we have contributed to but seeing the incredible work that World Vision is doing in these communities has been a dream of ours. “Don’t worry,” they assured us, “we’ll be there with you.”

They were not done.  “There is a conference in May”, Tripp explained “that we would like you to come to.” The short film that they are making would be shown at the conference and will be used to inspire others to fund micro loans through World Vision. Again, a no-brainer, of course we would go. Again, we are honored.

I was beginning to feel like I was part of an infomercial - "but wait, there's more". Finally, Brian asked if we would be able to provide 10,000 bottles of hot sauce for the conference. Wait a minute…”did you say ten thousand bottles?”  Yes, we did hear him correctly.  That’s almost six times the number of bottles we have made in the last seven years.  Laurie, Luke and I shared a look and knowing that it would be a challenge, said a big “yes”.

The last few months we have been gearing up for our trip in February and the production of the ten thousand bottles for the conference in May. We have been blessed to have so much family and community support, have started working with a wonderful program through Rutgers University called the Food Innovation Center, and have been counting our blessings each and every day.

We have a lot of work to do over the next few months. We will be traveling to Ethiopia in February, making hot sauce in March and April and traveling to Atlanta, GA in May for Leadercast. After that, who knows!

Life is made up of moments, taken together they tell a story. Our story is still being written. I started this post talking about the hand of God and I finish it in the same place. God has truly blessed us with the people and opportunities He has placed in our lives. It is up to us to recognize them, and accept them. God willing we can use our little hot sauce business to do what Jesus has commanded us to do.

Happy New Year! In 2014 please pray for the Hot Sauce 4 Good family, our friends and supporters as we move towards the next phase of our company. Pray especially for the homeless of New York who are experiencing the bitter cold and the Franciscan Friars who feed and clothe them as best they can. Pray for the team at World Vision Micro – both in Seattle, WA and on the ground across the globe and all the communities that World Vision works in.

Bits & Pieces

  • Laurie will be hosting a ‘rainbow loom’ bracelet making party at Auten Road Intermediate School on January 9th before school. We will be taking all of the bracelets made and bring them with us on our trip.
  • We have a new flavor that will be debuting at the Leadercast Conference – SubLime Cilantro. A sweet and tangy mix of Jalapeno, Cilantro, Lime Juice and some other fresh ingredients. It is so good – I hope it appeals to a wide range of folks!
  • We are looking for a place to store a couple of pallets of bottled hot sauce for about a month (April 2014) in Hillsborough, NJ. If anyone has any storage facility please contact me at bob@hotsauce4good.com
  • Keep baby Silas Huffman in your prayers. He received a donor heart and is still recovering. Pray too for the donor and the donor’s family. May they know peace.
  • Thanks Mom & Dad for the great Christmas gift – a shopping spree at Restaurant City! What son wouldn’t love a 10-gallon stainless steel pot, a sieve and a piston funnel!
  • I loved the simplicity of Christmas this year – no big things – just the love and joy of family and friends. Did I say I was blessed? Well, I am!

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 37 – 40

FaithBob Ferretti