How this Air Force veteran found the secret sauce to keep his business afloat during the pandemic


The backstory itself is inspiring. A career military aircraft and inspector who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, Charlie “Mutt” Ferrell, Jr. also had cutting-edge cooking skills, embodied in what was literally a secret sauce that traveled with him throughout the world. ‘Asia, and ultimately the United States. For years, Mutt sauce was the highlight of many parties or barbecues until Mutt passed away in 2005.

He never thought of marketing his sauce in his life, but the recipe was a bequest that Mutt left to his granddaughter, Charlynda’s scales, who like his grandfather served in the US Air Force. After receiving this news in 2013, Major Scales finally decided to bottle it, label the sauce with his name and face, and a company was born.

Charlynda Scales, co-founder and CEO of Mutt’s Sauce (Image credit: Mutt’s Sauce /Facebook)

Mutt’s Sauce was successful, buzzed, got media coverage in the mainstream… then the pandemic struck.

“Mutt’s sauce was getting better and better every year before the pandemic. In the fall of 2019, we had opened an Amazon online store and were promoted by CNBC as well as Yahoo Finance for our growth trajectory, ”said Scales, founder and CEO of Mutt’s Sauce during a recent exchange of information. emails with TriplePundit. “We hadn’t really embraced e-commerce and didn’t really know how to handle the volume of online orders.

At one point, Amazon suspended the company’s online store as the online retail giant’s algorithm concluded that Mutt’s Sauce was not filling orders fast enough. The news was not a huge disruption for the company, as its business model was largely focused on selling at in-person events and festivals. The summer of 2020 was looking promising, as these months were reserved for various events.

Enter in March 2020.

“I gave birth to my first child and I had planned exactly six weeks of free time before traveling [with her baby] – at all events, ”Scales explained. “The news of the pandemic came the day I was bringing him home. My email inbox was full of cancellation notifications: every event I booked that year was canceled without a refund. “

The business advice she had received in previous years then resonated with her; for example, many mentors who had worked with Scales had long encouraged her to turn to an e-commerce business for several years. “The traffic on Amazon was scary to me,” Scales continued. “It is true that having too much demand is harmful if you are not ready to respond correctly.”

From March to May 2020, Scales and Mutt’s Sauce were in corporate remodeling mode. She revamped and reopened the company’s website, allowing for a more transparent process when receiving online orders. The entire product line has been re-evaluated so that it can become more profitable. And, the company received funds from the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP), which the company used to develop packaging that is easy to assemble and can help prevent breakage during shipping.

The pivot was underway, but Scales ran into a few challenges. “It took a long time to institute processes and re-examine all costs of goods sold, and we were under an invisible clock to sink or swim,” Scales explained. “In the beginning, the resources offered by the government did not take into account the food industry, so the PPP was basically whatever was readily available. On top of that, we had to learn how to manage our existing contracts – the grocery stores – when people only cared about buying the essentials. “

Luckily for Scales, his veteran status opened doors for him. “Having an American-made product owned by veterans helped during the pandemic. The support of the local community and Americans as a whole has been steadfast and humbling to say the least, ”said Scales. In addition to PPP funds, the company also received a grant from the local chamber of commerce, allowing the southwest Ohio-based company to purchase new technology that helped fulfill online orders.

The board of Scales was also GOAL, a non-profit organization that connects volunteer mentors from small businesses across the United States SCORE also runs a host of programs in partnership with women-owned startups and small businesses, operates a small businesses and also offers personalized consulting services to black entrepreneurs.

“SCORE has always been there for Mutt’s Sauce,” said Scales. “I worked with the SCORE team to create webinars for other veteran entrepreneurs and they gave me a platform to talk about my journey, which led to increased sales as well as ‘great references for other business opportunities. “

According to Scales, Mutt’s Sauce is now doing well despite the hardships the pandemic has placed on the company. “Our sales were higher and now we know we can thrive as an e-commerce product. On top of that, we are even more connected to our customers and veteran colleagues, ”concluded Scales.

For July 4, Scales, a proud black entrepreneur and Air Force veteran, TedX speaker and winner of a wide range of awards, agreed to share a recipe with 3p. You can find more at Mutt’s Sauce’s Facebook page and Instagram feed.

Mango Salsa, courtesy of Mutt's Sauce
Mango Salsa, courtesy of Mutt’s Sauce

Image credit: Mutt Sauce /Facebook


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