What started out as an experiment of sauces found in various parts of Asia has become a budding business working to perfect the art of hot sauce making, focusing on locally grown jalapeño and habanero peppers and honey and fresh, simple, all-natural ingredients. River City Flame is the brainchild of Paula Horne, who after retiring from the military took her hot sauce recipe to market.

Paula spoke with Foodboro about how she got started with entrepreneurship, the challenges of starting a business, her approach to work/life balance, and what she recommends for other early-stage food founders.

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Before starting River City Flame, what were you up to?

I ran a redesign & home staging business and was a real estate agent.

What led you to entrepreneurship?

I was also working as an office manager after the real estate market went bust and was bored. And why sauces? I’d been “playing around” with the hot sauce recipe since I retired from the military. I realized that I had a winning product.

Retail relationships: do you sell mostly DTC? What retailers do you work with?

I sell online and also work with mostly small specialty stores (gourmet grocers, etc).

Any other brands in the industry that you admire?

Danny Balboa’s Sauce Co from Melbourne, Australia! The business is owned by a woman who has managed to navigate and overcome some of the same issues I have with running a hot sauce business.

What sets you apart from other brands out there?

River City Flame sauce is not just hot, it has a real depth of flavor.  My rubs are simple sea salts (Celtic and Cherrywood smoked flavors) infused with jalapeno & habanero peppers.

What have been the challenges of navigating the CPG industry?

Finding an affordable commercial kitchen in my area.

As a founder, what do you do to take care of your health, “turn off” work?

I walk, read, cook and garden.

Find a mentor who can help you navigate the ins & outs of running your particular type of business.

What advice do you have for early-stage entrepreneurs?

Find a mentor who can help you navigate the ins & outs of running your particular type of business.

What food and beverage trends are over-hyped and which are here to stay? 

Plant-based burgers and Milk Alternatives I think are just a thing of the moment, but I think Kombucha and gut health is here to stay.

What does the future look like for the brand, what are you currently working on?

I’m considering expanding my brand using different (hotter/spicier) peppers. Right now I’m experimenting with peppers to find the right combination.

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