Move Over Heinz! Charlynda Nyenke Says Mutt’s Sauce Will Be America’s New Everyday Condiment
“Sweet, tangy, with a little bit of heat!” That’s how CEO Charlynda Nyenke describes “Mutt’s Sauce.”
The condiment was passed down by her grandfather, Charlie “Mutt” Ferrell. Mutt whipped up this sauce back in 1956. In his mind, people wasted a lot of condiments that ended up simply sitting the fridge uneaten. Fast forward to 2015 and Mutt’s homemade sauce recipe is now being shelved at Kroger.
Nyenke calls “Mutt’s Sauce” a one-size-fits-all condiment. It’s not just for burgers or glazing steaks, you can put it on anything you want. Fans of Mutt’s Sauce pour this bad boy on salads, tacos, kebabs, and even Bloody Mary cocktail.
Nyenke, a military veteran and Girl Scout, has only been in business for 1.5 years. MadameNoire linked up with Nyenke over the phone to get the scoop on what Mutt’s Sauce is all about.
MadameNoire: How did your grandfather get the name “Mutt”?
Charlynda Nyenke: He served in North Korea and Vietnam and every military person has a call sign so the Air Force called him “Mutt” because he had the ability to blend in anywhere. This was a good skill to have in Vietnam.
MN: You were distributing only 450 bottles when you first launched in December 2013. What are sales like now?
CN: We’re probably a little bit over 2,000 [per month] now. It’s humbling – that’s a word I use a lot. I think for any business owner that becomes successful, you have to have that dose of humility.
MN: When did it hit you that Mutt’s Sauce had the potential to become big?
CN: I think it was that initial sale we had. I joined the Chamber of Commerce; I heard that as a start up business owner, it is a good [organization] to join. As a member of the Chamber, they do a launch event for you and other business owners come to support you. I brought just 450 bottles for the launch, but I didn’t expect to sell all of it. I expected it to sell over the next couple of months and we sold out in just a week.
I asked my mentor, “What do I do?!” He said, “Well, you make more and you sell more. That’s how business works.”
MN: How did you end up partnering with Kroger?
CN: A gentleman attended a tasting we had at a store called Dots Market, a very old grocery store in Dayton. He fell in love with it. He went back to the senior citizen center and told all his buddies about it. And at Kroger, they would have Free Appetizer Fridays. So he would tell his friends to meet him Kroger. He would take a bottle of Mutt’s Sauce with him and pour it all over the appetizers.
The manager of the Kroger [ended up tasting Mutt’s Sauce] and thought my product was already in her store […] because of how awesome it tasted. But someone said, “No, it’s not in your store, but you have to bring Mutt’s Sauce to Kroger!” And that’s how it all began.
MN: You’re a military veteran and a Girl Scout. Did that background contribute to your business drive?
CN: My mother is a very driven woman. I’ve learned a lot from her. As far as education was concerned, she was going to school and taking care of my grandparents at the same time. It would have made her life easier to drop out of college and stop pursuing her degree, but she said she got her degree to show me that [education] is important. My grandfather was an Air Force veteran who inspired me to go into service; those two were very influential for me. And my grandmother would always tell me, “Don’t hold yourself back.”
MN: What difficulties have you stumbled upon with Mutt’s Sauce?
CN: When I bring in other people, I have to be mindful of hiring the right people because I think sometimes you get so desperate to not do everything by yourself that you’ll accept any kind of help. You should really pay attention to the people that you bring into your circle.
MN: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who would like to follow in your footsteps?
CN: One thing I’ve noticed about the Black-owned businesses that are starting out – some of them don’t do their homework. No one should know your business better than you do. The food industry, for instance, they have regulations – FDA standards you need to follow and you need to know those if you aspire to [partner with] a major grocery store chain.
Another thing is that mentorship is important. Don’t be afraid to find someone who [is knowledgeable.] They can take you to the next level. Seek out mentors and open yourself up to taking advice from others.
MN: What are your ambitions for “Mutt’s Sauce”?
CN: I think this country needs a new brand that you can call your “everyday” brand. If you look at the major brands — Hunt’s, Heinz – all these condiments do not have Black faces. I want to be on every shelf and in every household.
Mutt’s Sauce launched a Kickstarter campaign to take the business to new heights. Click here to become a backer.