Hi Reddit!

As the title says, I’m Sue Sullivan and I founded a sauce and dry rub company called Hot Squeeze about nine years ago. My story is kind of a long one but to shorten it, I was once in 2,000+ grocery stores nationwide but had 90% or more of my profits taken by middlemen (distributors). I told Reddit my story and both your moral support and support in sales saved my company from going under. Now, thanks to a broker I met on Reddit, I have one last chance to get national distribution with Wal-Mart, who I’ll be pitching to tomorrow. And I have you guys to thank for that.

I’ve been thinking of a way to thank you guys that doesn’t come off as shilling my products, and I know a lot of you have been asking for an AMA — so here it is. Ask me about anything — not just business or food related stuff but about life and whatnot. I’m old and full of wisdom.

Oh, also, Lawrence Wu from WUJU hot sauce will be joining me as a guest on this AMA. Make sure to support them!

Proof

WUJU Proof

EDIT: I'm getting messages from people saying they really want to try out the product but the site is getting hugged to death. I have a backup Shopify site that is fully functional that you can find here.

EDIT 2: Once again, thank you so very much, guys. This was a lot of fun. Remember to support WUJU hot sauce -- it's delicious; trust me. E-mail me at [email protected], and I'll do my best to get back to you. Love you all so very, very much. Till next time. - Sue

Comments: 2133 • Responses: 45  • Date: 

Ex-Buyer2556 karma

Ex-Walmart Buyer here. Don't be nervous. Most of us are nice people in general and would like nothing more than to see you succeed as a company. Having said that, here is what I tell all my suppliers whenever they pitch to buyers in other categories.

Why your product? A lot of supplier have great stories to tell and I'm sure you do too but don't focus too much time on that. Have three different versions ready and stick to the short version unless the buyer wants to know more about your company.

Focus instead on why you think your particular product will outsell your competition currently on the shelf at Walmart. I assume you already took the time to scope out the competition by visiting different Walmarts to see how the hot sauce section is organized and what products are currently on there. Space is limited. If the buyer is going to add a new product, an old product must be discontinued. Which product or products do you plan on replacing? If you can convince the buyer that your product will in the long term bring higher sales and higher margin than a current product on the shelf, then it's no longer about you wanting to be at Walmart, it's about Walmart wanting your product because it's the best.

thehotsqueeze608 karma

thank you for your advice!

huyaba1056 karma

How can you be full of wisdom when your only 28 years old ?

thehotsqueeze891 karma

Oh, you...

thehotsqueeze1 karma

ha ha!

fat_saint598 karma

The recipe of your sauces, is it a family recipe? Or something you cooked up by yourself? A bunch of chefs? I'm just curious.

Also, wish you all the luck with your pitch! :)

thehotsqueeze787 karma

I came up with my original sauce recipe when I had a catering business. I made it as a glaze for a pork tenderloin. I am the type of cook that reads lots of recipes, but then creates things by flavor and look. At the time I first created Hot Squeeze, no one really knew what chipotle was - I laugh because even I, back then didn't know how to pronounce chipotle! Thanks for sending me your good luck - I need it!

phordant415 karma

Wal-Mart corporate works Sundays? Mind blown.

thehotsqueeze578 karma

I actually messed up the description. I'm driving to Wal-Mart tomorrow, doing a check-in on Monday, and pitching on Tuesday. Figured it'd be easier to say that than to explain the whole process.

Razorpint315 karma

I'm flying out of bentonville right now..drinking a beer at the bar while I wait for a plane reading your story. Isn't reddit cool.

I wish you all the luck.

thehotsqueeze206 karma

This is why the Internet exists.

lebellacarus154 karma

I'm a bartender in Bentonville! If you need a drink after come see me!

thehotsqueeze117 karma

I hear that Bentonville is a dry county. Is this true? Where do you work? I'll definitely stop by!

dbcitizen370 karma

Hey, Sue -- figured I'd drop a link to your site and your Amazon page for those who want to support you still. I love your sauce. This doesn't mean you're shutting down, does it?

Edit: Apparently, there's a backup site, as well, in case you can't buy from the main site.

thehotsqueeze256 karma

If this pitch doesn't go through, I think the best case scenario is that Hot Squeeze becomes a side business and worst case is that it goes under completely. I wanted to do this whole AMA because people wanted a formal one, and I wanted a way to say "thanks."

buffalostance357 karma

After having the majority of your profits taken before, why have you chosen Wal-Mart, a company known stripping the profit margins of suppliers by demanding an unreasonable low cost of goods for exposure?

thehotsqueeze626 karma

I didn't choose the Wal-Mart. The Wal-Mart chose me.

thitmeo168 karma

Do you have a rub that would be worth it for the sear before a pressure cook?

thehotsqueeze276 karma

Oh my god yes! I formulated my rubs to mimic the flavor of my original sauce - so you get heat, smokiness and sweetness. I use it on pork, chicken, hell, anything you put in a pressure cooker. It also produces a good sear. What ya cooking?

two_off110 karma

What details will you be highlighting in your pitch that you're most proud of?

thehotsqueeze265 karma

That I am a 54 year old woman who got a bunch of young internet people interested in my products! But on a more serious note, that I have persevered in this competitive business for nine years, and that I have a totally unique product that is in its own market niche. When I started out, someone told me that you're only new for a short period of time, and while this is true, I believe I have a product that is like no others. I am proud of all of my products - their quality, their tastes and their versatility.

StrangeCaptain65 karma

Make sure you tell them you can sell it to them for the price they want, and that'll you actuall make money at that price

thehotsqueeze99 karma

Believe me, I know that I have to play the Walmart game as far as pricing. I also know that unless I can make money at it, it's not worth it. Sounds like you know about this first hand? Tips?

StationaryNomad233 karma

I've pitched in Bentonville.

They won't just give you a price. They will ask about all of your costs. "If you make a chair, then we want to understand all your expenses in making that chair, materials, labor, rent, etc..." Expect your numbers to be challenged. They want to understand everything about your business before figuring out how tight they can squeeze you. Don't expect to get the margin you ask for, nor the margin you want. They are the purchasing masters of the world.

Make no assumptions about privacy. Assume you are being monitored even when alone.

Don't wear a Rolex, or anything too fancy. That doesn't fly so well with them.

My knowledge is ten years old. Things might have changed, though I doubt it.

Good luck!

thehotsqueeze105 karma

Well I'm in luck - I don't own a Rolex or any other fancy jewelry. Thanks for your advice. My plan is to lay it all out on the table. They usually want your sales numbers, I don't have anything great to show them there.... Interestingly, one thing they really want to know about these days is your social media strategy.

FiloRen42 karma

Genuine question here, but what exactly makes your product unlike any others? To me, at first glance, it seems like any other sauce and dry rub company.

thehotsqueeze69 karma

Ok, so I'm a bit partial but I will say this. Take my Sweet Heat Chipotle sauce - when you first taste it, you get sweetness right at the front of your mouth, then smokiness from the chipotle peppers kick in in the middle of your tongue and then, as almost an afterthought, you get a kick of heat. The flavors literally roll. They are distinct and clean and you can discern each ingredient. As far as my rubs, again, the ingredients are layered. By the way, most rubs have salt as the first ingredient, not mine.

eat_your_brains101 karma

Who were the distributors that took so much of your profit? KeHE? Haddon House? UNFI?

thehotsqueeze119 karma

All of the above.

Ninja-Kiwi54 karma

Please do not forget Europe. You may forget about England though. They no longer want to be a part of our club. When can I buy some hot godness here?


PS If you want to send out samples, my body is ready

thehotsqueeze59 karma

I actually just got set up on seller central on Amazon (just yesterday) and they have an option to sell internationally. I am working on that next as you are not the first to ask. Would love to sell it in Europe - specially in Finland where all the food is white. They need some color in their food!

Bloody_Bill_Anderson19 karma

Do you think rubbing with mustard before a dry rub helps with flavor or more for adhesion of the dry rub?

thehotsqueeze34 karma

No, I actually think the dry rub works best working directly on the meat - it adds another layer of marinade. They I would add the mustard.

LacedUnlaced17 karma

Are you worried about Walmart scientists breaking down your sauce and making their Great Value brand out of it?

thehotsqueeze26 karma

No, because anyone can break down your recipes. You can't ever get a patent on a recipe. In a crazy way, I would be honored if one of the big boys stole or tried to recreate my recipe!

Azldy17 karma

Have you tried to pitch to publix? They aren't national but they are in your area and they're a multi billion dollar company.

thehotsqueeze35 karma

I tried, they didn't accept my meeting request. I would love to be in Publix - it's where I shop.

LongLiveBacon14 karma

Did you grow up loving hot sauce or was it a more recent affair?

thehotsqueeze49 karma

Hot sauce is kind of like that one fickle lover that you always think about but you know you can never have. He will always be on pork or chicken or steak or something else next week. And as much as you want him to be yours, you know you can never have him -- but that's why you loved hot sauce in the first place.

qqwoo12 karma

how many people get lost in the sauce?

thehotsqueeze35 karma

Millions. It's quite tragic.

Domo195012 karma

Have you thought of having a "Reddit Appreciation Day Sale?" Maybe only a discount - not a complete freebie - perhaps in a year to celebrate your (hopeful) success?

You seriously need to have t-shirts with logo made - they'll sell faster than the sauce!!!! "Hot Squeeze - ME, TOO!" You can use the tag line (hot squeeze - me, too) in your TV/Internet ads, on the shirts, on the packaging... Guy with a tasteless burger leans over to his date (who has one of your T-shirts on with the logo and tag line) and says... "Hot Squeeze me, too!" - variations include Hot Squeeze me, NOW! But NEVER later."

You're welcome...

thehotsqueeze7 karma

Marketing genius!

TWFM10 karma

I remember at one point you were having a meeting with Kroger's -- did that not work out?

thehotsqueeze30 karma

You remember correctly. Last November I had a meeting with Kroger and I got a solid handshake deal that I was going into 1 if not 3 of their regions. I had tons and tons of support from Reddit - they were emailing into Kroger corporate. I had long-time customers sending in postcards. Kroger says that they are all about what their customers want - well that's bullshit. They are all about making their numbers. I was dragged along for 2 months, with my brokers telling me not to worry, that Kroger was in the bag. Then I get a one line email from the buyer that she was happy with the movement of her set and didn't want to make any changes.

ItIsWhatItls8 karma

What is the best sauce you recommend to someone who doesn't love hot sauce but can deal with a bit of a kick, especially if it's on the sweeter side?

thehotsqueeze15 karma

Are you just jumping into my net! My Sweet Heat Chipotle sauce is just what you are asking for! I love you!

SpeedStickCola5 karma

Does penis size matter?

thehotsqueeze7 karma

What do you think?

hitsomethin3 karma

Are you aware of what "sauce and rub" means to most of us here?

thehotsqueeze20 karma

Ha Ha. My daughter who is 22 kept begging me to stop saying sauce and rub ... actually, I would always say "a little rub and a squeeze". I had a big argument with her telling her that everyone my age just thought it was funny and cute. OK, so admittedly there is an age gap thing going on...

oakgrove3 karma

Hey neighbor! Have you thought about sending some product to David's Produce? I was there the other day and couldn't believe he didn't have any.

thehotsqueeze15 karma

He use to. Gotta get back over there. Did you pick up some tomatoes while you were there? When I was catering I would buy cases of tomatoes at a time from Dave.

not-a-pretzel2 karma

What's your favorite recipe?

thehotsqueeze6 karma

Oh man, hard question. I love food...all food. Do you mean my favorite recipe with my products or in general?

thatguywithglasses12 karma

Is it bad if i thought that you were a man from reading your name?

thehotsqueeze11 karma

I think Johnny Cash might make the same assumption, so I'm cool with it.

Worlds_Best_Coffee2 karma

Which aspect of Wal-Mart's offices is open and hearing pitches on Sunday?

thehotsqueeze11 karma

I'm actually driving to Bentonville and leaving on Sunday. The meeting is on Tuesday - I have one at 1:30 with Walmart and one at 2pm with Sam's Club. I have to be there to check in on Monday. It is ridiculously expensive to fly into Bentonville. Besides, I hear it is a dry county so I need to drive to bring my alcohol in!

PanzerFauzt2 karma

are you going to offer a leather holster for your hot sauce? :)

thehotsqueeze3 karma

We offer a guitar case that shoots sauce out the front.

mostnormal2 karma

No question, really, I just wanted to wish you luck! I've been following your story since your first post. It's been an interesting roller coaster ride, thus far, and I'm glad you shared it with all of us.

I supposed that does lead me to a question: Are you glad you told your tale here? I hope so, because you seem genuinely happy to share.

thehotsqueeze3 karma

Thank you. I can't tell you how wonderful it has been to get the support and kindness from Redditors. When you own your own company, you often feel all alone in the world - just hoping that people love your product as much as you do. I tell my story because it has been a roller-coaster, and still is. There are so many times I wonder why the hell I am doing this, but then I get a call or email from a customer telling me how they love my products - and it's just enough to keep me going one more day. I also am happy to share because I want to help others who are in this business - you know, so they can learn from my mistakes....

thepilotboy2 karma

Do you think BBQ sauce on a steak is fine or an abomination?

I'm assuming you'll be coming to Bentonville, AR.

If you see airplanes flying overhead, chances are one of them is me.

Good luck on the pitch tomorrow!

thehotsqueeze4 karma

Easy. An abomination. I'll be looking for you.

jataba1151 karma

If you do sell with Walmart will it become standard in all stores or will it roll out in select markets?

thehotsqueeze1 karma

Walmart will always test you in a smaller amount of stores first. I am told that you can tell them how many stores you want to be in. Lets hope I get to this point!

[deleted]-3 karma

[deleted]

Ivy613 karma

Valid question. I think this is the third ama she's done.

thehotsqueeze1 karma

I've only done one AMA on /r/entrepreneur to help out other small business owners in this industry. I've posted my story and an update and answered some questions but people have been asking for a formal AMA for awhile now.

Incom_T65-10 karma

What kind of person needs to buy a premade, soon to be stale "rub"?

Half the fun, no, ninety percent of the fun of cooking is coming up with your own flavors and recipes. Im pretty sure everyone owns salt, garlic, sugar, peppers, etc.

Are you targeting Wal-Mart customers on purpose because of their naivety? Just wondering because you seem pretty hell bent on your little business plan here.

thehotsqueeze7 karma

You are obviously a cook so buying pre-made anything doesn't make sense to you (I get that). And I am not targeting Walmart specifically - this is just an opportunity (and a huge one) for a small company. Would I love to change how Americans eat - you bet.