My Feet Are Killing Me
- and I Couldn’t Be Happier -
I know it’s been too long since I posted a blog, but I finally made it back. I’m sitting on a puddle jumper back to Baton Rouge after an exhausting and altogether delightful trip to New York for the Summer Fancy Foods Show. It’s three days of A-game, barking pups, and yapping at anyone who will listen about Swamp Dragon hot sauce. Trade shows are exceptionally rewarding for me, because nearly everyone who steps up to the booth is a qualified decision maker for restaurant, distributor, grocer, journalist, or other industry professional. My feet had only stopped hurting from the National Restaurant Association convention I attended only a few weeks prior.
Even more rewarding for me is that when these industry professionals hear about the world’s first truly bourbon-based hot sauce (or vodka-based hot sauce, tequila-based hot sauce, or rum-based hot sauce), they get excited. They taste it on caramel corn, and they know it’s something completely new. They marvel that I found a way to sell a liquor-based hot sauce without offending adulterated food laws or invoking alcoholic beverage laws. The grocery and distributor pros get really impressed at Swamp Dragon’s shelf life (beyond three years). And I feed on their excitement. I love hearing how they’ve avoided hot sauce all these years because they can’t take the vinegar taste or smell. I get a genuine charge out of it. I love the range of reactions (The most common is “Woah! That’s hot! - pause pause - But it’s GOOD!”)
Did you know that Swamp Dragon hot sauce is approximately 15 times less acidic than other shelf-stable hot sauces, and as a result, tummy issues are far less likely? Like a whole lot less likely? Those food pros like to hear that too!
I flagged a guy walking past the booth. He was a French Chef Instructor and swore he hated spicy foods, and would not even try Swamp Dragon. He mentioned vinegar, and it took some explaining, but when I said he could finally add a touch of spice to ceviche without molesting the acid balance in the dish, he changed his mind. I put a bit of Rum Dragon on some caramel corn. He loved it. And yes, he said “That’s hot! But it’s good!” He spent another twenty minutes at the booth, and invited me to speak at his class anytime I’m in his area. The whole thing is humbling and feels amazing. Lots of people tell me my enthusiasm is contagious, but the reality is that it’s their enthusiasm spreading like a wildfire of happiness.
I was invited and honored to speak about my experience at the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator at the “Lessons from the Incubator” sessions. It was just a few minutes with a microphone, but it was wonderful to throw some love and gratitude to LSU, Dr. Marvin Moncada, C.F.S., and the Food Incubator at the AgCenter, all of which without, Swamp Dragon would not exist.
I’ve never worked this hard in my life, and I’ve never been so happy to work so hard, whether web design, graphics and label design, store demos, sales calls, promotions, commercial production, or trade shows. I typically miss breakfast and lunch during trade shows, maybe trying to scarf down some insufficient morsels at the back of the booth; but I regret it every time. Dang, there went someone with a Whole Foods badge on, and here I sit with a mouthful of vac-packed mass-produced turkey sandwich, acting like mild starvation matters.
All business is personal, and the food business is new to me. I’m beginning to see some of the same people more than once because of the aggressive trade show schedule. I love that. I love seeing a familiar face in a show of tens of thousands. It makes me feel like I might be starting to belong.
Claiming my space in an unfamiliar crowd is and will be a process, I understand. But for now, I just need to rest these pups, get the new labels approved, and add a variety pack of one-ounce sample bottles to the list of SKUs. And oh yes… call every one of those fantastic people I met at the Specialty Foods Association Summer Fancy Foods Show!