Inspired: Barbecue Sauce Is Paying Off
In North Carolina, barbecue is a religion.
Fitting then that the label on Tay’s All-Purpose Southern BBQ Sauce proclaims Psalm 34:8: “O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusteth in Him.”
Tay is 11-year-old Taylor Hankins, of Cameron. Her golden ringlets and rounded cheeks mimic a Renaissance cherub. But the wind under Taylor’s wings is her father, Doug Hankins. The pair, along with Taylor’s mother, Angela (a teacher’s assistant), and sister, Christina (a dental hygienist), created and produced the recipe that took first prize in the Mild Barbecue Sauce category at the 4th annual N.C. Hot Sauce Contest held Sept. 11 in Oxford.
Taylor’s involvement was threefold: She loves barbecue, she likes to be in the kitchen and she wants an education.
“The money we make can help me get through college,” Taylor intones, gravely.
Not culinary school. Not even seminary. Taylor wants to be an archeologist.
The sauce was born of another necessity. Money was tight as Christmas 2008 approached. The family decided to make their gifts.
“My dad’s a very good cook,” Taylor says.
Doug, a chef-apprentice at the Holly Inn and Woodlake Country Club, now builds roads for the state.
“We dabbled with a sauce recipe a friend gave us, but it was too strong,” her father says, “so we started to mess with it.”
That entailed purchasing empty medicine bottles, some ribbon and labels. Doug tested their first five-gallon batch (not too sweet, not too hot, right in the middle, Taylor says) on fellow congregants at Beaver Creek Baptist Church in Cameron.
Don Overton, of Cameron, spoke for the multitude: “You’ve gotta put this on the market.”
Other worshippers liked the sauce so much that they offered to pay for ingredients if only Hankins would bottle them.
“We’re a central sauce,” Doug explains. “There’s so much competition between the east and the west in North Carolina. We combined the two, so we’ll be the peacemaker of barbecue sauces.”
Not only was the sauce being slathered on pork from Doug’s (whole) pig cooker at demos, it has been spotted on chicken, fish, shrimp, linguini, burritos, fried cabbage, corn on the cob, burgers, steak and even Overton’s scrambled eggs.
By June 2009, Doug had raised $8,000 start-up money from private sources. The recipe was tested by state labs for acidity and pH levels.
Doug peddled a first run of 560 16-ounce bottles to hardware and variety stores in Moore and Lee counties. He suggests a retail price of $2.99, considerably less than other gourmet sauces.
“Our method is to sell low and sell long,” he says.
Tay’s, based on ketchup, spices and vinegar, contains no gluten or MSG.
Soon, production grew out of the kitchen and into Bobbees Bottling in Louisburg. The label bore the Goodness Grows in NC seal bestowed by the N.C. Dept. of Agriculture Consumer Services and a spiffy website, www.tayssauce.com, which lists retailers and advises that a portion of proceeds benefit Beaver Creek Baptist Church.
Because, Doug says, “God gave us the opportunity.”
Another opportunity knocks: Tay’s win at the N.C. contest qualifies them to compete against 100-plus sauces in a national contest in Georgia this month.
“That’ll get us into National Barbecue News magazine,” Doug says, hopefully.
So far, 7,000 bottles have been sold. That means, Doug says, God’s word has been disseminated 7,000 times.
Soon, Tay’s will introduce a sweet/smoky version.
Not bad for a first-time entrepreneur and his preteen daughter. Taylor, the company president, faces the public with an angelic smile and a prepared statement: “I recommend you put (the sauce) on everything so I can go to college.”
Don Overton has a loftier goal: “They’re taking religion out of school and public places. Anytime you can put a Bible verse out there, even on barbecue sauce, it’s good.”
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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