The “Queen of Condiments” Dishes About Being a Foodpreneur

by Susan Johnston

2 min read

Global Industry Analysts predicts that overall sales of condiments, sauces, dressing, and seasonings will reach $72 billion by 2015. Twenty-three years ago, before America’s condiment craze really began, Lisa Lamme opened Le Saucier, the country’s first shop focused on hot sauces.

Just as tastes have evolved, so has Lamme’s business. She’s since closed Le Saucier and opened Gypsy Kitchen, a gourmet wine and cheese shop in Quincy, Mass. Her own hot sauce concoction, Gypsy Juice, is now distributed in stores and restaurants across the country. And Lamme’s first cookbook, The Gypsy Kitchen: Transform Almost Nothing into Something Delicious with Not-So-Secret Ingredients, was published by Adams Media earlier this year.

What’s the secret sauce of Lamme’s business success? The Intuit Small Business Blog caught up with the “Queen of Condiments” to find out.

ISBB: You’ve created several business ventures around hot sauce. What inspired you to focus on that niche?

I was very unhappy with what’s going on in the market. I wanted flavor instead of stuff that’s been diluted. I was going for quality and I wanted something that is complementary to the American diet and adds some pizzazz to food. I’d always been tweaking this recipe I had and people kept asking me to bring it to BBQs, so I finally decided to make it myself.

Your bio mentions that you opened that first shop without a business plan or assistance from bankers and investors. How did you do that?

I started a mail order business first, and I had to go into retail because people were showing up at the door looking for condiments, and I was getting bushels of mail. It was crazy. It was a little store in Roslindale, Mass., which I funded through the mail order business.

How has your business weathered the recession?

The recession has hit a lot of people, so you have to listen to what customers want. If the customers want chocolate and you give them noodles, you’re not going to stay in business. Quincy is a big cheddar neighborhood so [Gypsy Kitchen] has a lot of cheddars to offer. We also offer really good customer service, and I think that’s not being offered in most big retail chains. We know all of our products, and we give out recipes.

Has your cookbook contributed to your overall business?

The cookbook uses a lot of condiments from the store, and it has absolutely increased interest in the business. It puts Quincy on the map, and helps locals identify with the store.

Any advice for other foodpreneurs?

Do your homework first, and make sure you have a viable product. I tested out many of my recipes on my customers before they were in my book. You definitely want to take things slowly and test the waters before you do something. If you’re manufacturing, you don’t want to just go to any manufacturing plant. Tour your manufacturing plant and make sure it’s clean. Protect your recipe, and if you’re really serious, you want to trademark it. Copying is the best form of flattery, but you’ve got to protect yourself as well.

Lastly, if you have a drive and a passion, it will show. Confucius said, “If you find a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life.” I’m now helping other people launch their businesses, and I love it.

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