Spicing Up the Small Business Community in Greater Los Angeles
Sep 13, 2013
Hot Sauce Hobby to International Sensation
When the aerospace company that employed Jose-Luis Saavedra shuttered in 1971, he seized the opportunity to turn a longtime hobby into his life’s work. He took on part-time jobs to pay the bills and spent the rest of his time making and selling hot sauce.
Saavedra and his wife spent years perfecting the formula for an authentic Mexican hot sauce. There wasn’t one like it on the market. He made frequent trips to the border to procure the necessary spices and glassware, and sold the finished product to friends and neighbors.
Five years passed before Saavedra started selling more cases than bottles. Large, repeat orders from local grocery stores and restaurants enabled him to focus on his brand, Tapatio Hot Sauce, full-time. “I opened the business in order to pay for my kids’ school – that’s it,” said Saavedra Sr. “I never thought I would sell the product the way we’re selling it now.”
By the mid-1980s, Saavedra Sr. needed to increase production in order to meet demand from across the western United States. He moved his operation from a rental space with 500 square feet to one with 8,000 and asked his son, Luis Saavedra Jr., to become a full-time business partner.
Saavedra Sr. established a banking relationship with Bank of America in 1984. When it came time for the business to expand again – quadrupling in size – he approached his client manager, Peter Drake.
Bank of America helped the family purchase its current facility in 1995 and has since connected them with everything from equipment loans to wealth management services. Saavedra Sr. likens their relationship to a marriage. Other banks have courted his business, but his loyalty has paid off.
“We’ve really been able to grow with the company,” said Drake. “It’s great to be a small part of a really fantastic American success story.”
Today, the company employs 20 people and produces in two weeks what Saavedra Sr. used to sell in a year. Tapatio Hot Sauce has become a popular brand seen on tables and television. There is even a line of potato chips flavored with the product. The Tapatio name is a constant reminder of the family’s modest beginnings; a “tapatio” is a native of Guadalajara, Mexico.
At age 84, Saavedra Sr. continues to report to work each day alongside his three grown children. His entrepreneurial spirit – combined with support from family and friends like Bank of America – have made Tapatio Hot Sauce an international sensation.