Scaling a hot (sauce) company: A case study on Elijah’s Xtreme
When Elijah Morey was six years old, he approached his father, Bret, in the garden and asked what he needed to do to become the youngest person to eat the world’s hottest pepper. Bret handed Elijah a banana pepper and told him to start there.
While that banana pepper sent six-year-old Elijah running for water, he explains, “that’s when the passion for hot peppers and hot sauces started.” In fact, when he was 12 years old, he approached his dad again and asked if they could create a hot sauce together. While there were plenty of hot sauces on the market, they found that most were either too spicy to enjoy or were too liquidy and had no flavor.
After much experimentation, the two finally perfected their ghost pepper sauce in the summer of 2013. They then found a copacker — a company that’d manufacture and package their sauce — and in June 2014, Elijah’s Xtreme was born.
Their first major win was getting their sauce into Bass Pro Shops — “Within two months of the launch of the sauce, Bass Pro said that they would put it into all their stores across the country. Which was huge. We went from a no-brand at Bass Pro to the #2 best seller that first season.” From there, the pair just kept racking up awards and stores wanting to sell their sauces.
Of course, all the awards in the world couldn’t compare to the joy Bret gets out of running the company with Elijah. “As father and son, we can sit here and have conversations about ideas and thoughts we have, and we can share and collaborate on those together. And that’s very special to me. I don’t want to say it’s rewarding because it really touches my heart. That’s something not everyone gets to do.”
While Elijah’s Xtreme was proving to be a success, they were running into an issue many companies face — having to pay for inventory in advance, they were constantly strapped for cash.
“I think the biggest challenge for us has been finding the resources necessary to help us grow the business. That’s where Funding Circle has been an enormous blessing.”
Bret realized that if he wanted to launch more products quickly, it’d be smart to get a loan. The problem? The banks weren’t interested in helping, despite Elijah’s Xtreme always paying their credit card on time. Although they just needed a bigger infusion of capital, they found themselves running out of options.
“We just needed flexibility. The money will get paid back on the sales we do. But we need the money to pay for things upfront, because everything we do is paid for upfront. Before we even get product we pay for it.”
“Funding Circle has been a blessing because they just kind of rolled right in and helped us out. That was unexpected and perfect timing.”
So when Funding Circle mailed Bret some information about small business loans, he was intrigued. He decided to apply and was immediately assigned a dedicated account manager to walk him through the process. “My account manager was wonderful. Everybody there that we got to work with was wonderful. ”
After just a few days of getting to know Elijah’s Xtreme, Funding Circle extended an offer to Bret. “Imagine how tickled both my son and I were when we found out we were approved. And we were funded within a few days. That was probably one of the easiest and simplest processes I’ve ever went through. It was pretty phenomenal.”
With the loan, Bret and Elijah have been able to launch two more products — a gift set and a pineapple mango habanero grilling glaze and marinade they’ve lovingly named “Deer Smear.” Even better, they’ve been able to introduce even more new products with the money they’ve made from the gift set and Deer Smear. “I like to say [the Funding Circle loan] is the gift that keeps on giving,” Bret says with a smile.
Before finding Funding Circle, Bret’s biggest challenge as a small business owner was funding. We’re honored that we’ve been able to help Elijah’s Xtreme solve that problem so that he and Elijah can focus on bringing a bit of spice to the world.