IT ALL STARTED WITH YOGA 🧘🏻♂️
Nine years ago I signed up for a yoga teacher training in Denver and met Rachel. Little did I know that she would change my life forever. We’re no typical love story so don't get too jealous - even though I consider her my soul mate, it took several years, two divorces and the help of one badass therapist for us to be together but I count myself lucky to call her my partner.
FIRST, THEY MADE US CLEANSE 😬
The yoga training began with an Ayurvedic cleanse. This was the first time that I ever really paid attention to what I was eating. I looked at the ingredients of everything, including my beloved squeeze bottle sriracha that I discovered had sugar as the second ingredient, as well as potassium sorbate and sodium bisulfite (which is also on the 2010 Hazardous Substance List). Really???
I stopped buying products full of cheap, disgusting ingredients and decided to make things from scratch instead – including my own sriracha. I had never made hot sauce before so I straight-up had no idea what I was doing. I’m a nerd so I took a lot of notes and slowly made progress on my batches. I also had a blender of chili peppers explode in my face. Learning takes time...
WILD FERMENTATION 🕺
My first stabs at sriracha weren’t fermented and they also weren’t that good. I didn’t really know what fermentation was but I did know that beer is fermented and beer is amazing so fermentation must be amazing. Looking back, I totally nailed that one.
Wild fermentation is freaky. You basically add enough salt to something, leave it out at room temperature and let the magic microbes do the rest. Once I started fermenting my chili peppers, it really was magic.
SO MANY CHILI PEPPERS 🌶️
After my yoga training ended I did what every queer yogi who stopped washing their hair with shampoo and started lathering themselves with coconut oil instead would do... I moved to Brooklyn. I volunteered at Queens County Farm and when the farmers got word that I made my own sriracha they let me harvest as many chilis as I wanted. I had already figured out that fermentation was key to flavor but had I mostly been using the one or two varieties of chili peppers I could find at the grocery store. The more peppers I used, the more complex flavors I got in return. This is when I became obsessed with flavor.
I officially incorporated the business in 2012 but sourcing chili peppers in the big city was tough. The climate doesn't support it and I could only find one distributor in the Bronx who would source small amounts for me. It wasn't glamorous and it was super was expensive. I was also going through a divorce, in therapy and ready to go after what my heart really wanted - the girl from yoga. So I laid all my cards on the table and booked it back to Denver.
The last four years have been a whirlwind of folding our lives together and growing up this little business. We converted an old salon in Denver into a commercial kitchen so Jojo's could have a new home but the space was only 323 sq. ft. so we knew it wasn't going to last forever. That's when we got in touch with Chris Markuson, the Director of Economic Development for Pueblo, CO. He's the guy that helped the Arkansas Valley Organic Growers (AVOG) become a farmer cooperative and trademarked the Pueblo chili pepper.
Not only did this connection put us in front of farmers who could grow chilis directly for us, AVOG had already started transforming an old middle school into a food hub and makers space. I loved the vision and the ability to be right down the road from our chili farmers. So we took over the old cafeteria and Jojo's got a new home.
WHERE MY FARMERS AT? 👨🌾
The Pueblo kitchen and HQ has been a real game changer for Jojo's. Now we're sourcing our chilis and our heirloom garlic directly from Pueblo farmers.
With more time and space in our new kitchen we are really geeking out, especially when it comes to our superhots. These are XXX HOT srirachas made with some of the hottest chili peppers in the world: Carolina Reapers, Apocalypse Scorpions, Chocolate Ghost Peppers, 7-pots, CP-115's, etc.
These batches vary from pretty hot to stupid hot. Chiliheads love them for their dense, fermented flavors and they've grown to have a cult following.
LOVE HARD, GIVE A FUCK ✊
I can remember wanting my own business since I was twelve. That's also how old I was when I home-schooled myself so I could stay home with my dad to take care of my mom who was diagnosed with ALS the year prior. We took care of my mom and my baby sister while my step-dad went to work and my two other siblings went to school. I eventually went back to school as well but within a few short years, my mom was gone.
I grew up quickly and learned a lot of precious life lessons early. Everything I've done since then has been effected by that experience. It's the reason I want to work for myself - so I can author my own life and spend time with the people I love. It's also the reason I ended up in therapy and in yoga.
IT ALL COMES BACK TO YOGA 🙏
Yoga means to yoke, or unite and I know that part of my purpose is to help others. Every year Jojo's Sriracha hosts a FCK ALS fundraiser to support the Rocky Mountain Chapter ALS Association. They work directly with families who experienced the same thing I did and work to make their lives a little easier.
If there's one thing I've learned in life and in business, it's that you can't do it alone. The people that support my business are like my family - many of you have been around for years watching me (and Jojo's Sriracha) grow up. If you're new to the fam, welcome! And if you've been around, thank you! The only way I get to keep doing this sriracha thing is because of you.