Savanah Sauce Founder Michael Roberson on Philanthropy and Profit

 
Savannah Sauce Company on Wefunder

When life throws tomatoes at you; make salsa!

Summary

Not all startups want to create the next technological breakthrough. Some companies are more focused on making a great product and giving back to their community while they’re at it. That’s the ethos of Savannah Sauce Company. This Georgia-based startup makes sauces of all kinds, from hot sauce to marinades to relish.

Savannah Sauce Company is dedicated to doing more than just running a business though. We spoke to founder Michael Roberson about what he calls “the sweet spot” where profits meet philanthropy and what investors should know about Savannah Sauce Company.

Note: This interview was conducted over email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

 


Kingscrowd
Can you give us a brief elevator pitch for your company?
Michael

When life throws tomatoes at you — MAKE SALSA!

Kingscrowd
What inspired you to take the leap and build this company?
Michael

Necessity mandated that we start Savannah Sauce Company. Tracey and I were both downsized by our employers. We had purchased a Caribbean Sauce distributorship from a couple when we attended a shrimp and grits festival in Jekyll Island, Georgia. We could not find employment so we put ALL of our effort into making the sauce distributor work. It was tough and scary. It was 5 months until we caught a break by getting into one Whole Foods store (in Savannah, Georgia). The regional buyer required us to write an essay on why we should be allowed shelf space in Whole Foods before even being considered as a vendor.

Kingscrowd
You and your company go above and beyond when it comes to giving back to the community. can you speak more to the philanthropic side of your business?
Michael

Tracey is a United States Army veteran, and it was important to her to give back to fellow veterans so we took an interest in a tiny home community slated for homeless veterans. We developed two hot sauces, and we gave the profits [for sales of those sauces] to a local homeless authority responsible for the tiny home community. We were highly criticized for making this contribution by fellow business owners. We were criticized because we were a startup, and it seems foolish to give away our profits at this critical juncture. We, however, believed in our cause. 

There is a sweet spot in capitalism where philanthropy and profit can coexist. We have since taken up another cause. We make a very tasty sauce with an orange hue. There is a local HBCU-historically black college or university. Their mascot is the tiger, and the colors are blue and orange. We reached out to the dean of the school of business and suggested having the students start an actual company to market and distribute this sauce. Tracey and I will act as mentors for the students. Either one of us will give lectures and answer questions for one hour on Thursdays during the school session. The revenues generated from the sale of the Tiger sauce will be used to fund micro grants for students of the school of business. These micro grants will be competitive. Should a student wish to apply for one of the grants, he or she will submit their business plan for review by a panel of their peers and professors. When the student has completed their coursework and gained their degree, they will have real world experience as either an employee or board member of the created company. At that point, the students can seek full-time employment or utilize the knowledge they gained in running a company to start their own. We hope that other business owners will adopt this program and work with other schools in similar efforts.

Kingscrowd
What past experiences prepared you to start, build, and lead your company?
Michael

Tracey’s experience in the US Army provided her with the skills to run Savannah Sauce Company as CEO. My 25+ years experience as a project manager in commercial, light industrial and heavy civil construction has allowed me to scale Savannah Sauce Company.

Kingscrowd
What is your vision for the future of the industry you are operating in?
Michael

My vision is for Savannah Sauce Company and its family of products to be a household name as recognizable as Kraft or Heinz.

Kingscrowd
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
Michael

Our core team consists of Tracey Richburg, myself and Tanya Scott-Pilcher, who also serves on our board of directors and is our lead investor.

Kingscrowd
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
Michael

We’d like potential investors to know that when they make an investment in Savannah Sauce Company that they’re not just investing in a company or a product, they are investing in [the] communities where our products are sold.

Kingscrowd
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
Michael

I would really like to see Savannah Sauce Company run by a second generation, our children. We are grooming them to learn every aspect of our business and working on a succession plan [for them].


We at KingsCrowd are excited to see where Michael and his team take the company. Savannah Sauce Company is currently raising on Wefunder.


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About: Olivia Strobl

Olivia comes to KingsCrowd with a background in venture capital and technology. She spent time at Glasswing Ventures, an AI-focused venture fund in Boston, before joining the KingsCrowd team. There she helped develop machine learning algorithms for the opportunity qualification of preseed and seed-stage startup companies. Prior to her time at Glasswing, Olivia worked in a lab studying the neural correlates of attention. She holds a degree in Neuroscience from Wellesley College.

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