Ryan Demirjian Tells Us How He Turned His Family Recipe into a Business

Ryan Demirjian, the founder of a company that carries decades of family tradition in a bottle, tells us about what it’s like to run the hot sauce brand Kill Sauce. At twenty years old Ryan’s father, Avo Demirjian immigrated from Lebanon bringing with him his family recipe. He pursued a career as an aerospace engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory for many years. In 2014 Ryan decided that it was time to share the family recipe with the world. Since then, Kill Sauce has grown to be sold at individual retailers, as well as stocked in chain stores. Here is what he had to say about the success of Kill Sauce so far.

Habanero by Kill Sauce

GH: What is your brand extension strategy?

RD: Kill Sauce is definitely a bit disruptive, especially in the food scene.  But the way I see it, that’s not a bad thing. I think we can do a lot with Kill Sauce.  There are many avenues we’d like to pursue ranging from spices to oils, snacks, and possibly even beverages.  Interestingly enough, we’re currently in the process of launching our hot wings pop cup at Smorgasburg LA, which is one of our main markets on Sundays in downtown.  As you may have guessed, we’ll be pairing all our sauces with wings to create the ultimate tasting experience. In terms of dream goals, it sounds ridiculous but I really think we could use a Formula One team.  It just fits with the brand!

GH: Who is on your management team and what does each bring to the table?

RD:  The management team is basically just me, but I do have a lot of good help around me.  My dad is a huge help, so he and I work on a lot of stuff together. I also have freelance help with web design, and Instagram marketing starting soon.

GH: Where did the recipe for Kill Sauce come from?

RD: We’ve always been big consumers of fresh peppers and hot sauces.  But in 2013, my dad started to make some fresh sauce at home, which would become our first sauce – Habanero.  The idea was to considerably reduce the sodium content often found in hot sauces, eliminate the unwanted preservatives, and capture pure flavor out of each pepper without overwhelming everything with heat.  After testing it with friends and family with no business model in mind, it became a hot commodity. We couldn’t make enough to give away. At that point, I decided it’s time to officially label these small bottles of lightning.  

GH: With Kill Sauce being family grown, what have you learned about entrepreneurship from your father and what do you hope he’s learned from you?

RD: We’re very different. My father was born in Aleppo, Syria, but grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. I was born in Los Angeles so we come from starkly different backgrounds. He’s an Aerospace engineer by training and naturally sees all problems from a scientific vantage point. He naturally excels at troubleshooting and eliminating possible errors through testing, which makes him instrumental in recipe development.  Recipe development in the food business is much different than it would be in a home kitchen. The challenges are often insurmountable as a product is converted from a small pot home recipe into a commercial grade formula. Safety, consistency, supply, cost, margins of error, seasonality, heat levels (in this case), flavor – every factor is magnified and presents a different challenge.

As an LA native, I’m much more in tune with the branding, marketing, and execution of successful brands these days.  The artistic direction of Kill Sauce has been of critical importance for me. Although I’ve worked in the corporate world for nearly 10 years, I’m much more in tune with the creative elements in business.  

I am always concerned with disconnecting and viewing our products from a 3rd party perspective – the consumer.  We live in an oversaturated, digitally deafening age. Every day there is less time to captivate an individual with your marketing message.  Competition is infinite. This is the area I tend to focus on mostly while crafting the Kill Sauce narrative.

I think both my father and I have brought very different expertise to the table which has allowed us to learn from one another.

GH: Can you tell me more about the meaning behind the Kill Sauce slogan “use liberally. Live longer”?

RD: Hot sauce has often been a typecast actor on the stage of food products. Many consumers expect it to rely on gimmicky antics to stand out, and the integrity of ingredients is often compromised to achieve this end. This is contrary to our approach to recipe development. We believe that hot sauces should not be hot for the sake of being hot, nor should they include excessive salt, sugar, or chili extracts for flavor. Instead, they should be crafted with a focus on fresh peppers and natural ingredients without preservatives.  Each Kill Sauce variety is thoughtfully designed to both showcase and balance the unique flavor and heat of each pepper. On that note, we believe Kill Sauce should be used liberally to maximize flavor while engaging in a healthy experience.

GH: What’s made Kill Sauce successful?

RD: Success is a relative term.  In my opinion, there are significantly larger companies with 100x the cash flow that may be deemed unsuccessful.  The key is not focusing on financial success, which is where many entrepreneurs or companies lose sight of their mission and derail.  While the numbers are important to keep you alive, it’s all about making sure you’re passionate, inspired, and that your product reflects the same. The minute your passion doesn’t shine through, it’s time to close up shop.

GH: If you could do it all over again, would you do it the same way? If not, what would you do differently?

RD: My answer to this question will probably be different in 5 years. We’re still small.  Right now I don’t think I would change anything. Also, these days there is no one way to get to where you’re trying to go. You just have to keep knocking until your knuckles bleed.  We’re just going to keep going and learning from our mistakes. Thankfully none of them have been detrimental thus far.

GH: What are your goals for the brand this year?

RD: This year we’d like to secure a few anchor customers (10+ stores) as well as regional distribution. Up to now most of our customers have been independent single-store retailers.  However, this past year we were picked up by World Market, which took us nationwide into 220 locations. We’ve barely scratched the surface, and the real fun and work is about to begin.

Learn more about Kill Sauce here.

Interview with Stephen Chin: Skills Needed for Financial Consulting

The Senior Business Directory was able to sit with financial consultant Stephen Chin. He briefed us on his financial consulting firm, Financial Structures and Advisory, Inc, what he does as a financial consultant, and what skills are required for those interested in this line of work.

Stephen Chin, Financial Structures and Advisory, Inc.

Tell us a little about your company Financial Structures and Advisory, Inc. What is your background in financial consulting?

I started my financial consulting firm in 2003. With a background in commercial banking and capital markets, my firm provides financial consulting services to private companies in the middle market to the lower middle market space. FSA is focused on supporting private companies that are owned by families, individuals, and partners, and these firms are geographically located in the northeast. The companies can range up to about 60 million to below 5 million dollars, including some which are early stage.

Clients usually retain my services because something significant is happening with their company – perhaps someone is trying to buy into their business, or buy them out. Or perhaps the company is looking to grow, but not sure how to fund it in terms of accessing debt or equity. Or they are looking to sell themselves while retaining a minority position to benefit from a second bite at the apple a later dat

How do you consult your clients on these significant events?

More often than not, business owners tend to take great pride in the business they run and may think their business is more valuable than what a buyer, or the market, would consider fair.

My job is to take the owner through an evaluation process and pair it with their personal ambitions and objectives. If they can think they can sell for 10 times EBITDA, but the reality is only 7 times, what does that actually translate to? Do they delay a sale to give them time to improve their operations and supporting infrastructure? Can they improve their internal accounting and financial reporting? Do they have appropriate legal support? Do they have something basic such as an employee handbook or an operating manual?

If they have all of those, then maybe they can hit ten times multiple EBITDA sale price. If ten times EBITDA gets you X amount of dollars in the bank, there are many other factors to be considered. Let’s say the owners receive Y dollars offer for the sale of 100% of the business and the buyer has no interest in keeping them on during the transition (which is unlikely – usually buyers want owners to stay on board 6 to 18 months during the transition.) What are the tax consequences based on, where are you located? What is the dollar amount in the bank you need in order to lead the lifestyle you want? These are all major components of the decision making process.

Many business owners have never gone through an exercise with their accountants to see what a sale translates to. Often, after tax, the amount they sell the company for will translate to significantly less money in the bank. Many times the amount does not match their financial expectations for selling the company. So that’s very important to consider.

Business owners have to look at how they are financially situated in order to determine whether or not they are in a position to acquire debt to grow.

What skills are necessary to be a financial consultant?

You have to have ambition and be dedicated. The typical 9-5 schedule does not work from our perspective, simply because that’s not the nature of the business. It’s not a production type of environment; it is more of an intellectual exercise and your job is to help your client achieve his/her objective in their timeline, not yours.

Commitment and accountability are both important. If your commitment cannot be met by a certain date or time, then that information needs to be shared and explained. You pick up the phone or send an email. In a professional way, you advise your counterparty that there is going to be a delay, whether it will be a day or an hour. That kind of diligence is absolutely required.

When you’re dealing with money, when you’re dealing with dollars and cents, it goes beyond what’s on the ledger or the financial report. Everything that we touch has to be treated confidentially and has to be treated with care – as if it is your own money. Financial consultants need to be diligent, timely, and professional. At an emotional level, they have to take possession over whatever it is that they’re doing.

As far as skill set is concerned, it is best to have someone who has some basic understanding of accounting and finance.

We are not an accounting shop; we are a finance shop. We are an advisory shop. Accounting is not a requirement, but knowledge of accounting, experience with numbers and looking at what the numbers mean – that is essential. How did these numbers show up on a financial report? What underlies these numbers? What does accrual accounting mean as it relates to a financial report?

The ability to communicate clearly is also very important. It’s important to be able to take your ego out of these conversations. There’s a certain humility that is required. Arrogance has its role, especially if you’re at the negotiating table, but humility is important because I’ve never met anyone who is right 100% of the time.

Job Hunting Tips: Resumes That Land in the A Pile

It can be a tight job market and recruiters are inundated with resumes. In fact, many recruiters only spend 6 seconds giving your resume a first look. Many people send in their resumes and don’t hear back.

How do you craft, write, and design your resume so that it will not get lost in the “black hole” of resumes?

How do you write your resume for the job you want, not just the work you’ve done in the past?

In this video, Shira Harrington goes through the process that recruiters actually go through to find the best resumes.

Shira Harrington will teach you:

-how to write your resume to speak to where you are going, not just where you’ve been.

-how to brand yourself

-how to customize your resume

-how to find your “tribe”

-how to identify your career goals

Share your insights and comments with us, and make sure to follow the Senior Business Directory on Youtube!

Senior Business Directory Selfie Contest

Are you an entrepreneur looking for community? Are you looking to connect with mentors and potential clients? The Senior Business Directory exists to provide a curated library of resources as well as an intergenerational ecosystem to support Senior-owned businesses and Baby Boomer entrepreneurs.

Submit your selfie video to seniorbusinessdirectory@gmail.com

To be a part of our selfie contest, record a 15-30 second video of yourself talking about:

Your name, company name, and what your business does

What inspires you to be an entrepreneur?

Why do you want to be a part of the Senior Business Directory?

Where Can I Submit My Video?

Submit your video to dan@flobel.org or seniorbusinessdirectory@gmail.com to enter the contest!

The Importance of Branding in Sales Promotion for Growth

Branding is fundamental to your success as a company. Before you can ever sell a product, you have to be able to tell your customer what the product is. And to stand out in today’s digital marketplace, you need a strong brand identity to rise above competitors.

Building brand identity takes thoughtful planning and brainstorming. It can be difficult to set aside the resources and time for brand building if you are a solopreneur or run a small business. However, the time and effort you dedicate to branding will determine your success once you actually start marketing your business.

A simple way to look at branding is to ask yourself – what is the identity of my business? What colors, images, and mood will your customers associate with your company? Is the tone professional or cheeky? What words will pop into the minds of your customers? Will it be your company name, a catchy slogan?

Pia Silva, brand strategist and writer for Forbes, writes in her latest Forbes article “When You Need Branding And When You Need Marketing:”

Try to market a business with no clear voice, focus, message, or reason you’re better than everyone else, and you’ll spend a bunch of time and money to get zero results and then think that this whole “marketing thing” doesn’t work.

To start investing time and effort into your brand, stay up-to-date on what industry experts are saying about branding. The Florence Belsky Foundation, parent company to the Senior Business Directory, hosted a panel with marketing experts from a variety of industries to share their insights on branding. In this panel, you’ll hear from a wide range of experts such as Jay Baney of Capturepoint to Bruce Ditman, the Chief Marketing Officer at Marcum LLP.

Watch the video HERE on Youtube.

Let us know your questions and thoughts in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you!

Make sure to check out the Senior Business Directory on social media! We are on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. Hope to connect with you soon!

3 Ways to Find a Home Remodeler for Aging in Place

Why working with a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist may be helpful. A decade and a half ago, when our kids were young, we added rooms to our home to create more space for family and friends. In our 40s at the time, and with retirement not yet in sight, my wife (an elder care specialist), suggested we incorporate elements into our design that would make our home suitable for chasing future grandchildren from room to room. Our plan ultimately incorporated one-floor living, wider doorways and lever-style door handles.In short, we made our home ready to age in place.

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How I became an entrepreneur at 66

It’s never too late to reinvent yourself. Take it from Paul Tasner — after working continuously for other people for 40 years, he founded his own start-up at age 66, pairing his idea for a business with his experience and passion. And he’s not alone. As he shares in this short, funny and inspirational talk, seniors are increasingly indulging their entrepreneurial instincts — and seeing great success.