Lucky Dog Hot Sauce Wins Two Top Spots:”Yummiest Category” and”Top Vote-Getter Category”
Congratulations to Lucky Dog Hot Sauce, located in Hayward, California, being named in the Top 10 for 2014 Home-Based 100 Business Winners. Lucky Dog Hot Sauce won the top spot in the “Yummiest Category” AND the “Top Vote-Getter Category”! We caught up with business owner and entrepreneur Scott Zalkind and asked him to answer some questions and share some words of advice and inspiration with our StartupNation audience.
Tell Us About Your Journey
StartupNation: What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Scott: The buck stops here. There are no excuses, no failing to deliver, and substandard quality doesn’t cut it. The bar for performance is set high because I am the one setting it.
StartupNation: To what do you attribute your success as an entrepreneur and business owner?
Scott: So far it’s drive, determination and hustle, combined with a quality product and a loyal customer base.
StartupNation: What ignited the spark in you to start/select your particular business as an entrepreneur?
Scott: I love hot sauce! I was a hobby sauce-maker for 7+ years, and decided that I’d never take it anywhere doing it only 1 day a week. I take great joy from my creations, and from knowing that my customers love what I make. There are certainly easier ways to make money and more lucrative products – but my passion for hot sauce continues to drive my ambition on a daily basis. I love what I do and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
StartupNation: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
- Project management
- The ability to be flexible and adapt to change
Words of Wisdom – Inspiration for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
StartupNation: If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out, what would it be?
Scott: Be focused and always hustle. My business still might fail, but no one can say it was for lack of effort on my part. I work 12+ hours a day, every day. While it’s certainly possible to hustle and fail, it’s not possible to fail to hustle and succeed.
StartupNation: Where do you find your greatest inspiration?
Scott: In an industry with thousands of competing products, I am inspired to create flavor profiles that are original and unique, or to create a unique take on a traditional profile. Simply put, “good” is never good enough – I don’t want to be known as a “good” saucemaker. I want to be a great saucemaker. That is also inspiring. If it has my brand name on it, I want it to be great. I’m only as good as my worst sauce.
StartupNation: What is your favorite motivational/business quote as an entrepreneur?
Scott: “Edison, when queried by a reporter about the seemingly incredible difficulties associate with his work on the lightbulb rebutted, “I have not failed 700 times. I’ve succeeded in proving 700 ways how not to build a lightbulb.”. Most of my products are the result of several (if not dozens) of failed attempts. It’s easy to lose faith in ones vision, and I always think back to the Edison quote in those times.
StartupNation: A motto you live by?
Scott: Don’t ever count on luck for success – luck favors the prepared.
Tell Us About Your Business, Experiences & Funding Your Startup
StartupNation: How did you get funding for your startup?
Scott: Cashed out all of my stocks and 401K, took the penalty in some cases. Spent almost every penny of my savings, and for the 1st 6 months most of my paychecks from my former employer. Some credit card help as well.
StartupNation: Recommendations for others starting out?
Scott: Maybe have a wealthy uncle ☺? It takes time to build a following, especially with a food business – you build it one taste, and one customer at a time. If you want to start a food business I’d recommend at least 3 years worth of cushion for rent & food.
Marketing and Building Their Customer Base
StartupNation: How do you market and build your customer base?
Scott: I work 5 farmers markets a week and have an employee work 2. From May-October I work 8 (2-a-days on Weds/Thurs). They span the greater SF Bay Area from Marin to East Bay to the Peninsula. I am also very active on social media – I host contests and product give-aways frequently. Reddit, Facebook, G+, Twitter, Instagram, etc. I also steeply discount my product for use as a condiment at restaurants, so they are able to buy well below wholesale – when customers try it on their BBQ, breakfast, bagels & cream cheese, mac & cheese, etc. they get hooked. It’s well worth taking the hit in order to get people to try the product. Lacking the marketing budget of most of my competition, these are the best ways I’ve found.
StartupNation: Recommendations for others starting out?
Scott: Be present. Be the face of your company. Meet your customers at events. Demo the product yourself. You started a company – don’t count on anyone else to represent it as well as you can. No one believes in your product more than you.
Changes in the Business Market
StartupNation: What changes have you seen in your business market since starting?
Scott: More and more competition, and changing consumer tastes. I try to source locally whenever possible – I have a low sodium product, that’s gluten free. These are all rapidly growing trends that I am fortunate enough to be positioned to take advantage of.
StartupNation: What do you see coming that will impact your business?
Scott: The rising cost of produce is a serious threat, as well as the current crisis with bees. These issues could be devastating to the entire food business.
StartupNation: Have a funny story about a client or business transaction that you want to share along with a key lesson learned?
Scott: Customer approached, asked “is there vinegar in this sauce?” – I replied, “yes, they are all vinegar based, but that’s not the forward note.”. Customer proceeded to sample all 6 products, and I asked for his feedback….to which he responded, “I don’t like vinegar.” and walked away. I was stunned, but could only smile at the ridiculousness of it.
For more information about Scott and his business and to order his wonderful hot sauce be sure to visit him at Lucky Dog Hot Sauce and don’t forget to watch for him at a festival near you!
Learn more about Scott and other businesses that entered and placed in the competition by clicking here for the top ten and a full list 2014 Home-Based 100 Business Winners and entrants.
Do you have a startup? Are you a passionate entrepreneur with an idea that has taken off and want to share your success with others? Would you like your business to receive priceless exposure in the media and be positioned to take your business to the next level? Then join us this fall for the 8th Annual StartupNation Home-Based 100 Competition which ranks outstanding home-based businesses and the amazing people behind them! Watch for your change to enter! In the meantime, be sure to visit us daily for new content to support and grow your business!