Since launching in 2015, Chattanooga’s award-winning hot-sauce manufacturer Hoff & Pepper has grown 300 percent year over year, outgrown its second space and have products in nearly 200 stores nationwide.
“We’ve been in the black because we weren’t depending on the paychecks,” co-founder Aaron Hoffman, who has continued working his full-time job at Very, said. “It built organically.”
Hoffman and his wife Michelle Hoffman, also known as Pepper, started by bottling hot sauce for Christmas one year.
Now, the duo balances the growing workload. Aaron is the creative force behind the business, coming up with the recipes, and Michelle runs the day-to-day operations.
Another Hoff and Pepper team member Tyler Jenks—who works with the financial aspects of the company—also works at Very.
The trio recently updated Nooga.com about the company’s recent award, its growth and its future.
Hoff Sauce recently took home a top award for the third consecutive year.
The business’ Hoff Sauce recently won first place in the Louisiana-style hot sauce category at the New York City Hot Sauce Expo.
It’s the third consecutive year that the product has taken that award, which means a lot to Aaron, who grew up on Louisiana-style sauce, he said.
“The whole point of creating Hoff Sauce was to make a sauce you could use on everything but at the same time was fresher, handmade and had a better every day-flavor,” Aaron said. “By winning that award, that is pure validation that we’ve created something really special.”
Winning award multiple years also solidifies the brand’s strength, Jenks said.
Each year the awards have different judges and it’s a random, blind taste-test, which means it’s all about the product and not the charisma in the pitch, Jenks said.
To win year after year with different judges is an extremely strong sign that the product is exceptional,” Jenks said.
The business recently outgrew its space in the Business Development Center.
After creating their products in Mean Mug after hours, the team moved into the Business Development Center and quickly outgrew that space, so they are moving into another area in that building.
If growth continues, the team may start looking to move into a bigger production facility with better equipment, they said.
The company sells hundreds of bottles weekly and the products ship to 170 locations nationwide, and about 60 places locally.
And Hoff & Pepper has seen consistent growth since starting, the team said.
“It’s all been revenue-driven growth,” Jenks said.
Michelle is embracing her role as a female founder.
Michelle’s day involves juggling a ton of tiny little balls every day.
She tries to stay focused on the daily balls and the month that she’s in, she said.
And she’s found a passion for female entrepreneurship.
“Being one of the only females involved, I’d like to see how far I can go with it,” she said.
She’s learned valuable trade skills and wants to push herself to keep learning.
“I would like to see what I’m personally capable of,” she said.
Of late, there’s been an increased focus on trade skills, other workforce readiness efforts and opportunities beyond traditional four-year-college options and Michelle wants to be part of that, she said.
“I know it’s not super sexy but it’s very fulfilling,” she said. “I would love to be able to grow within this company and show women that you can do jobs that are extremely physical and take a lot of pride in them.”
The team is planning for the future.
For Jenks, it’s a fun challenge to think about where the company will go in the next 12 to 18 months, he said.
That may involve building their own facility, considering the business’ recent growth, he said.
“It’s not that typical for a business to start in somebody else’s kitchen and then transition to a big workshop only to find that a year and a half later you’re totally cramped,” he said.
Updated at 11:06 a.m. July 23 to correct a factual error. The company has grown by 300 percent year over year, not quarterly as first reported.