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The Spicy Path to Plant-Based Entrepreneurship: How One Hot Sauce Business Ignited Success

In the realm of plant-based entrepreneurship, there are countless paths to success. Today, we dive into the inspiring story of a unique business that took the plant-based world by storm: a hot sauce company.

In the latest episode of Plant Based On Fire, Bryan interviews Kimo Olds from Kimo Ono Grindz, a rising star in the hot sauce industry.

Beyond the tantalizing flavors and fiery heat, this story offers valuable insights into the journey of building a thriving plant-based business. Join us as we explore the spicy path that led to entrepreneurship and learn how this venture achieved remarkable success in the plant-based market.

The Birth of a Vision:

Every successful business starts with a vision, and for this hot sauce company, it was no different. Inspired by a passion for both culinary delights and sustainability, the founders set out to create a plant-based hot sauce that would captivate taste buds while aligning with their ethical values.

Kimo's journey actually began with his love for Hawaiian hot sauce, which he grew up with. Motivated by his wife's encouragement and the need for a hot sauce that wouldn't aggravate her acid reflux, Kimo embarked on the path of creating his own hot sauce brand.

Their vision encompassed crafting a product that would redefine the plant-based landscape and revolutionize the way people experience hot sauces.

Navigating the Plant-Based Market:

Entering the plant-based market can be both exciting and challenging. The hot sauce company recognized the potential in catering to the ever-growing demand for plant-based alternatives. By combining their love for spices with the booming interest in plant-based diets, they strategically positioned themselves to tap into a niche market.

Crafting the Perfect Recipe:

Building a successful plant-based business often requires meticulous attention to product development. The hot sauce company experimented tirelessly to create a range of tantalizing flavors that not only satisfied the taste buds of hot sauce enthusiasts but also appealed to those seeking plant-based options. By leveraging their culinary expertise and a commitment to sourcing high-quality plant-based ingredients, they crafted a line of hot sauces that became a sensation among plant-based food lovers.

Embracing Sustainability:

Sustainability is a cornerstone of the plant-based movement, and this hot sauce business recognized its importance from the start. From utilizing eco-friendly packaging materials to partnering with local farmers for ingredient sourcing, they ensured that their business operations aligned with their commitment to the planet. By prioritizing sustainability, they not only attracted environmentally-conscious customers but also established themselves as a brand that cared deeply about ethical practices.

Leveraging Digital Platforms:

In today's digital age, establishing a strong online presence is crucial for any business. Recognizing this, the hot sauce company employed innovative marketing strategies, harnessing the power of social media, influencer collaborations, and e-commerce platforms. By engaging with their target audience and leveraging the vast reach of digital platforms, they effectively built a loyal customer base of plant-based food enthusiasts who were eager to explore their flavorful hot sauces.

Cultivating Community:

Building a successful plant-based business goes beyond selling products; it involves fostering a vibrant community around the brand. The hot sauce company actively engaged with its customers through various channels, organizing virtual cooking events, recipe contests, and sharing plant-based cooking tips. By nurturing a sense of community and encouraging customer interaction, they cultivated a loyal following that felt personally connected to the brand.

The journey of this hot sauce business showcases the immense potential for plant-based entrepreneurship. From the birth of a visionary idea to strategically position themselves in a niche market, crafting remarkable products, embracing sustainability, leveraging digital platforms, and cultivating a vibrant community, their success story serves as an inspiration for aspiring plant-based businesspeople. It underscores the fact that with passion, innovation, and a commitment to ethical practices, anyone can carve their path to success in the ever-expanding plant-based business landscape.

So, embrace the spice and embark on your own journey of plant-based entrepreneurship!

> Episode’s transcript:

Bryan (00:00.994)

Hello and welcome again everybody to Plant Based on Fire. I'm Brian Denstead, your host here with Real Men Eat Plants, and I am delighted and excited to have Kimo here from Kimo Olds of Kimo Ono Grinds. I always mess up the name, and you always say it 10 times better. So how do you say it, Kimo?

Kimo (00:23.619)

Kimo's Ono Grinds.

Bryan (00:25.334)

There you go, like a radio, a true radio announcer there. And I've had the pleasure of hanging out with Kimo quite a bit in the past. I have a whole bunch of his hot sauce in my closet. And so tell us all about Kimo Ono grinds and a little bit of the history there.

Kimo (00:46.667)

Well, Kimozono Grinds, I started it a couple years ago. I grew up with Hawaiian hot sauce, and original is the one I have. And then through our customer...

evaluations that we've had and stuff they go can you do something a little bit hotter something a little bit milder So that's what we did. Um, mine is a vinegar based product Uh, but I also it's five simple ingredients. Uh, it's great. It's more than a hot sauce I would say it's more of a condiment because you can put it on everything

Bryan (01:19.286)

Yeah, awesome. And so you're based right here in Charlotte, North Carolina, like I am.

Kimo (01:25.027)

Um, actually I'm at a Concord. Yes. So I'm at a Concord North Carolina. It is, it is.

Bryan (01:27.828)

Okay, isn't that close enough to Charlotte? Ha ha ha.

So we're in North Carolina. This is gonna go out worldwide to people. So most people will know Charlotte, hopefully, on that front. So how did you come up with the name and why did you say, hey, I wanna get into this and make this a business?

Kimo (01:38.151)



Kimo (01:50.335)

Well, I...

got into this a couple years ago, like I said, because it's always on my table. And my wife finally took a chance and she tasted it. She has acid reflex, so she was kind of apprehensive, but she can actually have this kind of hot sauce because it doesn't affect her acid reflex, her IBS. So she goes, we need to start selling this to folks. And I'm like, okay. So that's how I got, and kimo is, ono means delicious in Hawaiian,

food so and my name and that's how we came up with chemo's on O grinds.

Bryan (02:26.518)

I love it. That's so great. And so what kind of ingredients go into this? Where do you source them from? Tell us about the secrets here of the sauce.

Kimo (02:38.143)

It's like I said, it's five simple ingredients. I get my peppers from a distributor. I do three different kinds of peppers. I do an orange habanero. I do a jalapeno. And I use a Thai chili because I can't get enough Hawaiian chilies and that's the closest thing for the skews and the taste for the original one. It comes with distilled white vinegar, a little bit of Hawaiian sea salt and purified water to take the edge off of the vinegar so it's not quite so vinegary.

Bryan (03:05.978)

Awesome. So you're saying if I grow a few of these Hawaiian chili peppers in my backyard, you'll make me a special batch or something?

Kimo (03:12.303)

Can actually I'm trying to do that. I have somebody that is a farmer. I seem to have misplaced the seeds that I have Hopefully I can find them because I really then that's gonna be like a very small batch The plant is kind of a fickle plant It looks like it's dead and then the next year it grows into all these peppers Some people do have better green thumbs, I guess but mine usually takes a little while to grow

Bryan (03:20.557)


Yeah. Okay. Yeah. I just, unfortunately, I just had my raspberry bushes cut down a little bit on that front, but I'm going to plant some peppers as well. I guess. Did you know that the Carolina Reaper guy is down in Fort Mill?

Kimo (03:51.859)

Yes, I just saw that. Yes, he came up with a new... How can you get any hotter than a Carolina Reaper? Yes, I... He is, but mine's not as hot, you know, mine's like, my excuse is not, cause yeah, I don't...

Bryan (03:58.802)

I know, right? I was just saying he should grow a few Hawaiian peppers for you as well. He's close by. I think.

For Christmas, for all of my friends, I want to give them one or two of your normal bottles and I want to give them like the California Carolina Reaper version of that as well, just as the gag gift, I think. You should really do up a batch for Christmas time. Yeah. Yes, absolutely. So, like, if we peel the onion a little bit, you're doing this for a few years now.

Kimo (04:21.371)

Oh, okay, okay. I can do that. I'll have to wear a respirator and make sure my gloves are good.


Bryan (04:36.502)

So like what are the accomplishments? How are things going so far in your business journey?

Kimo (04:41.127)

You know, I have some great mentors and Brian, you're one of my great mentors. Um, and.

I remember when we first started this journey, you said three to five years. That's how long I've known you. And I'm like, no way I can do this in a year or two years outside. No, you were right. I even told my other mentor, it takes, and this is my third year. And we're part of gotta be North Carolina and the North Carolina specialty food association. We're also FDA approved so I can sell anywhere in the world basically.

Kimo (05:18.609)


that you need to do when you deal with the FDA's because you have to do paperwork and the inspections and actually I found a co-packer, so we're doing that and then the next step would be a broker so he can get into the slots that I can get in because talking to buyers is extremely difficult and if he already has the experience, I'll just let him do it and we can go from there. So it's exciting, this year is, the momentum is crazy.

lot more wholesaling. I do L&L Hawaiian foods in Virginia and also we're going to start doing one here in Concord and I have a few other smaller places so no it's it's great.

Bryan (06:04.686)

That's awesome. Congrats on your successes. Yeah, they say, what is that saying? It takes nine months to make a baby, but it takes 18 years to raise a child, right? So hopefully three to five is reasonable all said and done.

Kimo (06:07.219)


Yes It is you know, but I didn't believe you folks I'm like now I can do this like nope

Bryan (06:23.794)

Well, I mean, there's so many hurdles to do a business the right way. And I think you're knocking them down one after the next. So it's so great to see your success.

Kimo (06:31.361)

Yes, I just take it one step at a time. And my wife partner, she's awesome and she does all the back stuff, because I'm not a nerd. So, you know, a lot of this stuff is still new to me. So we're a great team. You know, I have to give a shout out to my wife. She does a great job with the social media and stuff like that.

Bryan (06:42.806)

Yeah, that's good.

So, I mean, obviously, you know, you and I are mentor mentee type thing, and this is a podcast we're putting out to the plant-based community on that front. What is that role of community and how has that helped you in the food industry or other businesses and organizations that you've worked with?

Kimo (07:11.715)

I think because of my hot sauce is gluten free and is vegan because it is five simple ingredients and I know especially for gluten you have to be careful what you eat and this is a hot sauce that can help that community and even the vegans because you know vegans especially if you're plant-based you're going to look at a lot of times hot sauces have other things chemically or unnatural and this one is pretty much 100% natural you know so

So I would say the vegan and gluten free community enjoy my stuff. And they can use it on other stuff because a lot of times hot sauces are limited on their usage.

Bryan (07:54.678)

Yeah, and it's, yeah, it is that more milder flavor, but has the right, I don't know how to describe it, just that right extra kick. I put it on the salads, I put it on everything under the sun. Are you gonna go for that cool vegan seal of approval? Like that's a whole nother hurdle to go after. I'm gonna go with the vegan seal of approval.

Kimo (08:13.007)

It is. I know because I'm dealing with North Carolina Food Innovation Labs. That's a temporary thing. They don't do everything because they're smaller. But at least I can get my foot in the door where we can do, you know, the vegan, you know, authorization and even gluten free work. But I know that's a whole other testing process. I don't see any kind of hurdles with it because it really it's only five simple, you know, the peppers, as long as they're organic. But I know most peppers a lot of times are organic.

Bryan (08:33.538)



Kimo (08:44.022)

But I know sourcing now, especially in today's thing, it can be difficult or challenging to find the right peppers. Just because I know a couple of farmers and I know this year the farmers are having a hard time, especially here in North Carolina. I just went to my farmer's market and they're having a hard time with their crops just because of how the weather is.

Bryan (08:53.12)


For sure, for sure. What, so you're three years in now, what advice would you give a new plant-based business getting started today? Like, what would you tell them?

Kimo (09:16.939)

Take it one step at a time. Get great mentors to help you. Actually, I've become a mentor some of the food manufacturing companies here. And I see their excitement. And then I tell them, it's a lot of work. Depending on what you wanna do, if you just wanna start in North Carolina or you wanna go FDA, but just keep at it. You will find hurdles. You just have to overcome them and keep moving forward.

Bryan (09:34.486)


Yeah, absolutely. And I think you and I have similar personalities. We're kind of upbeat and positive, happy people, 99% of the time. So what are the little ways that you keep yourself motivated on this business and drive forward? You got like hopefully two more years and then you're gonna be at a nice good cruising speed. What drives you to keep expanding and motivating yourself?

Kimo (09:52.839)


Because I know I have a good product and I know a lot of people will like that, especially in my niche that I found and I think that's another thing too, an upcoming business, they have to find their niche. This is not a product that's sold to everybody, you know, or even whatever you do. So that takes quite a bit of time to find a niche. You know, you just keep...

Crushing the numbers and looking at it and with the customer, you know evaluations and things but just keep plugging at it if you know People will love your product That is in part of your niche. So

Bryan (10:41.88)


Yeah, absolutely. What is the what's like a good success story or a memorable story from one of your clients? Like I know I love your hot sauce. I've gotten a few bottles from you. You know, what's what's the what's the one that gets you excited?

Kimo (11:06.843)

I would say my culture. When I get in front of the Polynesian community, that was my biggest concern. Is this something that they're going to like? And when they love it and they buy several bottles and it's in Hawaiian stores, I think that's my seal of approval. Is that, okay, I'm doing the right thing, this is good. It's not commercializing the Polynesian community. It's sharing part of the culture.

they see that when they buy my product.

Bryan (11:39.306)

Yeah, absolutely. So what is the basic price of the hot sauce and how do you sort of balance that quality with the pricing strategy and making sure that anybody who wants to get it and try it can?

Kimo (11:52.408)

Um, my bottles.

Retail when I do my wholesaling is about $11 a bottle. When I sell it me personally, it's about 10. I do have a website just to because of shipping, it's a little bit higher. We do in-person deliveries. So I would say between 10 and $12, that's about the price for a small batch and it's comparable. I've never heard anybody say, oh, that's too much for a hot sauce. I've seen hot sauces go up to 15, 20 bucks.

You know, so I would say I'm in the middle of that You know once I start doing the co-packer or manufacturing the price may come down a little bit But due to you know, I use a glass bottle for this I don't do plastic just because you get that plastic after tasting if you put it, you know It's required to be in the refrigerator, but you still have that plastic taste That's and I try to do stuff with the environment where glass is a little bit more biodegradable, so

Bryan (12:39.01)


Absolutely. I do expect the Carolina Reaper version to be more expensive. So the pain and suffering you go through to make that version of it for sure. So like the marketing side of it, I'm just curious, you know, it's a very specific niche, which they always say, rich, niches are riches, right on that front. So.

Kimo (13:01.245)

Yes, yes, I don't know if my kitchen, shoot, I'm gonna have to open the doors at my kitchen.


Bryan (13:17.634)

How have you been tackling the marketing problem and getting the word out that this is here, it exists and how do you differentiate from, like it's that challenge about it's Hawaiian hot sauce water. Like, you know, there's like that weird area that you fall into. Tell us more about that.

Kimo (13:35.859)

Because it looks it's clear that's my Go to thing because people come over and go water. They think they can drink it. I mean you can drink it, but

It's clear that no such thing as a clear hot sauce. I think that's my marketing thing is people will at least come and see it or at least look at it because it is a clear hot sauce. They see the peppers and the fresh garlic that's on the bottom and then once they come over or you know they've heard it from a friend they're open to try it. So and it's a different one lot of times too if since it's so different people just try it because it is different.

Bryan (14:14.774)

Yeah, and I think, did you have a couple bottles you can hold up to the camera and let us see that cool stuff in the bottom and stuff? Mm-hmm.

Kimo (14:18.119)

Yes, yes. So this is my jalapeno and this is my original. This is the one I grew up on. So you can see the peppers and the garlic. You can use this. Now do not add vinegar to it after you use all the liquid. And then I also have a habanero as well, you know, that we do. And I do put a

Bryan (14:29.374)


Okay, that's good.

Dr. Monique (14:36.337)


Kimo (14:46.191)

So, you know, and then we have three different kinds of heats. So, you know, we can do that stuff like that. So, and it has a little story, you know, about the products and all the nutritional values and all that good stuff on the bottle. So, there's a lot of print just because, you know, we're FDA approved.

Bryan (14:54.384)


Perfect, perfect.

Bryan (15:08.318)

Yeah, absolutely. Well, Kimo, I appreciate you coming on the podcast with us here today and really love the fact that you're here, you're local and you're driving this forward. How can people get in touch with you and support your business and where can they find you online?

Kimo (15:25.287)

Well, they can find me at

Kimo (15:32.255)

If you follow our Facebook page, we actually do a giveaway every month. We give away three bottles. We don't charge anybody. This month we actually are giving a special gift from home. It's from Lynn's Cracked Seed. They are a local snack shop in Hawaii. We're doing a pineapple coconut balls and we also have some other things so that we could do that. We're on Twitter, Instagram. We're pretty much on all social media.

all of that like I said she's awesome on all that and she takes care of our website and

Bryan (16:05.878)

And I just want to make sure we get it right, because I love the way you say the name, but how do we spell it? Spell it for us one more time.

Kimo (16:12.203)

K-I-M-O-S-O-N-O-G-R-I-N-D-Z as in So.

Bryan (16:20.674)

Very cool. Thank, yeah, that is awesome, Kimo. Thanks again for being on the show and we really appreciate you tuning in to the Plant Based on Fire podcast.



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