"Can you handle some heat?” Paul Ford, the co-founder of Big Red’s Hot Sauce, recently asked customers waiting to indulge the spicy concoctions made by him and his wife, Tasia. Surrounded by shelves of hot sauce and a colorful banner reading “Full flavor with the heat you love,” the husband-and-wife duo were kicking off their latest Flavor Tour.
For Arizona-based Big Red’s, the Flavor Tour experience is an on-the-spot walkthrough of unique hot sauce flavor combinations, plus tips on how to creatively pair them with food. It starts with the mildest sauces, such as Big Red's Original, Green Chile Avocado, and Sweet and Spicy, then works up to a Ghost Pepper blend and the 3 King's sauce—the very hottest.
Paul and Tasia Ford, owners of Big Red's Hot Sauce
"Most people think hot sauce goes with two or three different things, but don’t know it's good on cheesecake, your favorite Chinese food, or Jimmy John's subs,” said Paul.
The tour’s popularity is emblematic of how the Fords evolved an at-home experiment into a full-time, growing business that’s spicing up the world one bottle at a time. The tour is also one of the not-so-secret ingredients that connects Big Red’s customers to the sauces and keeps them coming back for more. The Fords, like many entrepreneurs, invested their life savings to start their business, and aim to create a unique experience for everyone they encounter in person, while also extending their culinary delights to online shoppers.
"You're getting awesome flavors, but the number one ingredient is that we put love in the bottle,” said Paul. “Every single bottle that goes into someone's home, we've touched. That's because we're still the manufacturers of our hot sauce.”
Their journey started in 2011 when Paul, an avid gardener, learned to create unique sauces using excess peppers and other plants he’d grown. The couple started tinkering around with flavors at home, then seeking feedback from co-workers. When colleagues started offering to pay, the Fords knew they were onto something.
But, like every entrepreneur, they’ve faced challenges. When they needed access to financing to take Big Red’s to the next level, they were turned away from traditional loans. "You have great credit, you have everything you're supposed to, you check all the boxes, and you're told ‘no,’” said Paul. “There was equipment we needed to buy to get our greatest asset back, and that's time,” he said, referring to the label machine they wanted.
They eventually found, applied, and were approved for several PayPal Business Loan term business loans1 that helped them to hire more employees, create new flavor lines, and buy that label machine. “That thing is beautiful. It does 50 bottles per minute. No more hand labeling, no more using little machines. Something that took us eight hours we can do in a half hour now," said Paul.
Big Red's Hot Sauce has grown to 21 products sold at more
than 400 stores across the U.S.
The Fords have demonstrated how strategically investing in a business over time pays off, quite literally. They’ve had a 34% increase in business since receiving their initial PayPal Business Loan2 as a result of the activity they were enabled to undertake, including gift boxes marking the anniversary and new flavors.
Today, the Fords’ business is thriving thanks to their ingenuity, hard work, and access to financing that has helped them to sustain and grow their business. They’ve already expanded from three flavors of sauces to 21 products that include sauces and snacks, with items sold at more than 400 stores across the U.S. in addition to farmers markets.
Next up is to work to have Big Red’s on every kitchen table and make it a household name. “We want to put our Arizona hot sauce on the map,” said Tasia. They plan to do this by increasing their online presence, hoping to start forging connections online like the ones they make in person during their Flavor Tours. “Paul and I really built this on our interactions with the customer – that personal, face-to-face experience they get when they encounter us at a farmer's market, in a show, or at an event,” Tasia said.
The business has found success despite the challenges, and the Fords know there’s more to come. “We worked hard,” Tasia said. “We gave it our all, and we overcame it with creativity.”
Learn more about access to small business financing through PayPal.
1The lender for PayPal Business Loan is WebBank, Member FDIC. Applicants must satisfy certain requirements to be eligible. Lender approval required - terms and conditions apply.
2Results or experiences may vary.