Keep Austin's Favorite Habanero Sauce Alive and Local
Yellowbird Sauce is Austin's newest, spicy-as-hell sweetheart and we need your help to keep it fresh, local, and all-natural!
In the beginning...
I love talking about how Yellowbird Sauce started, because it wasn't a "hey let's start a business and make money" sort of thing. Far from it. I am a spicy food fanatic, first of all. I love food, but I love spicy food waaay more. For a lot of years I turned to the standard hot sauces to add spice to regular foods. You know the list: Tabasco, Chalulah, Sriracha, etc. I tried a bunch of the independent brands as well but I was always disappointed that, the spicier the sauces got, the less actual flavor they seemed to have. Over the years, my tolerance for spicy food went up and my enjoyment of the old standards was going down. It was a sad, sad time!
In 2011 I started fooling around making my own little spicy concoctions one jar at a time. They were...pretty awful at first but I suffered through the experiments as did my girlfriend Erin. I became obsessed with coming up with the perfect recipe. Not only was it important that it have the exact flavor I was looking for, it was also incredibly important that it be made of the best all-natural ingredients and contain nothing artificial. To make a long story slightly shorter, I eventually came up with the recipe that is now (the legendary?) Yellowbird Sauce.
Now that I had the recipe, it needed a face. Erin, who happens to be an amazing graphic designer and artist (lucky me!), spent countless hours designing all the collateral for Yellowbird Sauce. Then we had the perfect sauce with the perfect face.
It's all about the sauce
It really always should be, right? Yellowbird Sauce is all-natural AND has a shelf-life of over a year which begs the question "why do other sauces use all the artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, and emulsifiers?" We've done a helluva lot of work developing relationships with local grocers and restaurants and already have an almost rabid following in Austin. Taste it once and you'll see why!
Why I can't do this without you
Here's the part where I tell you why I'm raising money. I made what I believe to be an amazing sauce that I want to share with the world (if they'll have me) and I have had an incredible reception in Austin since I started selling it commercially 7 months ago. I'm at the point now where I have exhausted my personal savings and credit with all the various expenses that go along with starting a business. I am, by profession, a musician and I am still constantly taking gigs all over Texas trying to get together enough money to make the next batch of sauce. It has, thus far, been a labor of love, and one I've been happy to do but the time has come for me to be a full-time hot sauce maker.
As demand has gone up and up for Yellowbird Sauce my challenge has been keeping up with it. It is not an easy sauce to make. All of the fresh ingredients (carrots, onions, garlic, habaneros, tangerines, and limes) are hand-selected for quality and ripeness and then washed and peeled for each batch. Every batch is slow-cooked for maximum flavor, pureed several times for that deliciously smooth consistency, and aged to perfection. People ask me what the "secret" to the sauce is and there is really no secret...just using the best ingredients and making it with love. In an effort to upscale past just me peeling and cooking hundreds and hundreds of pounds of fresh produce every week to keep up with demand, I have attempted to use the services of companies known in the industry as "copackers". These are people who already have a facility for processing and packaging certain types of food who you can hire to make your recipe in larger quantities. I've run into nothing but problems going this route from extreme production delays to loss of recipe integrity ("hey, you don't mind if we use frozen carrot and tangerine juice right? we can just throw some cornstarch in to thicken it up.") I've worked with several different copackers and talked to copackers all over and this is a common thread. It's not that they are bad people, it's just that they are businesses who are more interested in cutting costs and saving time than making my recipe right. I deserve more than that and so do you.
The obvious conclusion that I finally came to was that if you want to do something right...well you know the rest. The answer is a mid-size production facility where I can be as OCD as I want about what goes into the sauce and the care with which it's made. Another great aspect of having my own place is that I can make it as green as I want. I've already lined up Austin's top full-stream recycling and compost pickup service for a partnership with this facility. 100% of our packaging waste will be recycled and 100% of our organic waste (vegetable peels and stems) will be composted for use as organic fertilizer. Can your hot sauce do THAT?
Here is the price list I've put together for the facility. It is the minimum required equipment for starting a facility of this type making this sauce. The budget looks really outrageous but this is what it costs to open a certified kitchen facility and have it properly built-out and permitted. Much of the equipment not listed (sinks, bottle fillers, drum peelers, shelving, work tables, etc) I am purchasing with my own savings and credit but I need help with the expensive equipment and the construction costs. If I make my goal for this project I will order this equipment right away, get moved in, and start making sauce! Any money that is raised in excess of the goal will go towards produce and packaging materials.
-citrus peeler, $8,750
-100 gallon mixer/kettle (this is the most important piece of equipment that will do all the mixing and cooking in one step) $61,858
-walk-in cooler (8x10x8) $4,370
-new space move-in and build out $150,000 (I know this seems ridiculous, but this is what it costs to get it permitted and get it done right. This cost includes plumbing, electrical, installation of kitchen equipment and sinks, permits, grease-trap, and kitchen build-out with the required, washable materials)
This is a labor of love that I am happy to do and I want to give a sincere thank you to all of you who have been such a great support so far (you know who you are). I hope you decide to chip in for this project and share it with your friends and family. We have a long way to go and every little bit counts. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and we'll see you on the sauce aisle!
Risks and challenges
The main challenges with an endeavor of this sort are permits and inspections. Luckily, I was so thorough when starting this business that I already HAVE all of the required permits and certificates.
The main delay will come from the City of Austin. Once I get my build-out plans submitted to the city it can take several months for them to be approved and for construction to begin. Once construction begins, it will be 1-2 months until I can get my health inspection and open my doors. These obstacles are all standard and I will work as hard and fast as possible to avoid any further delays!
- (30 days)