Starting the company, I felt like it was a mission bigger than me. I never had dreams of owning a company or being an entrepreneur. My grandfather spent countless hours putting together the perfect recipe for a specialty sauce. He served on active duty as an aircraft mechanic during the Korean and Vietnam War, but was passionate about crafting this recipe. When he passed away in 2005, we thought the recipe was lost. My mother revealed in July 2013 that he had left the original handwritten recipe to me, his granddaughter. This was a shock to the family, but I felt a sense of immense responsibility to carry forward this legacy. I was on active duty USAF when she told me. After some careful thought, I decided to start Mutt’s Sauce, LLC and share his sauce with the world.
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What motivates you when you get up every morning?
I’ve discovered that entrepreneurship directly aligns with my natural passion for solving problems and helping others. Mutt’s Sauce was one big puzzle to me, and it has kept me on my toes since the beginning. I didn’t know the potential of the company or brand, but my first hint was after the first production.
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Our first production was made by an Amish family in the outskirts of Wellston, Ohio. They hand-poured seven hundred bottles!! I arranged a ‘kick off’ event at my local chamber of commerce, and we sold out of all of those bottles within a week! That was my first validation that my grandfather made a really special product. I grew up eating it, so I was biased, in my opinion. Three years later, my challenge is the same — take a great tasting product and share it with as many people as possible.
Other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you’ve made to date that has contributed to your success?
I decided to stop being afraid of the unknown. Being in the military affords you a lot of stability and comfort. I loved knowing my paycheck came like clockwork twice a month, no lie. I believe that faith and fear cannot coexist, so I had to make the decision to take a huge leap of faith. I have zero regrets.
If you could time travel back to day one of your startup and have 15 minutes with your former self to communicate any lessons you’ve acquired with the intention of saving yourself mistakes and heart ache, what would you tell yourself?
You do not need to buy 1,000 customized pens and $3,000 worth of marketing material. Just make and sell sauce. That’s all you need to do.
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What do you consider to be your greatest strength as a veteran entrepreneur?
The core values I’ve adhered to as an airman set a foundation that helped me be the best servant leader possible for Mutt’s Sauce. I was a program manager on active duty, and many of the situations I’ve had to navigate were very complex and had global impacts. Being a veteran gives you a leg up in navigating the fires of business while keeping your cool.
What is your greatest challenge as a veteran entrepreneur?
Owning a business means there is no rule book. There is no reg! That is often a challenge, but I love to solve problems! Also, when veterans are making the transition into entrepreneurship, I observe one of the biggest challenges being resources. It’s about who you know and what programs you know about.
If you were to pick one resource to recommend to veteran entrepreneurs, what would that resource be?
SCORE.ORG! My mentor was John Soutar, of the Dayton Ohio SCORE Chapter.
What is a personal habit that contributes to your success every day?
I am a sickening optimist.
For more information or to order Mutt's Sauce, go to www.muttssauce.com.