Elijah Cady is a thriving entrepreneur and co-founder of 13 Stars Hot Sauce. Elijah started his career as a technical support specialist before joining the air force in 2012. Since then, he has worked in a number of IT positions for various organizations, including, Netsimco at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
With a passion for entrepreneurship, Elijah founded his hot sauce company in 2019 alongside his friend and business partner, Sean. Inspired by “the ludicrous amount of pepper plants,” grown by his father in his backyard garden every year, Elijah and Sean first sampled their product at a tailgating Patriots game. After receiving abundant positive feedback, they decided to launch a Shopify business.
As a way to give back to their local community, a percentage of proceeds from their hot sauce sales is donated to veterans, first responders, and their families. The business also donates to pets for vets to enable disabled veterans to connect with service animals.
What inspired the name of 13 Stars Hot Sauce company?
Sean is my partner at 13 Stars Hot Sauce. While he was on deployment with the military, he was juggling ideas about starting his own business. My dad grows a ludicrous amount of pepper plants every year in his backyard. He provided us with several gallon bags full of jalapenos. I decided I’d try and make a sauce. We brought some bottles to a Patriots game and we had a group of people sample the recipe. Everybody loved it and asked where they could buy it. We decided that we were going to start a business from that hot sauce. The problem was we didn’t write the recipe down, so we spent the next six months trying to recover the recipe. But once we got it, we started an online Shopify business.
What does your role look like?
My partner is the person who is involved with 13 Stars Hot Sauce full time. I do my part, but my daily tasks are on my weekly notes on the “to-do list” . I do the ordering of products, check inventory levels. I also do some design work for any merchandise or clothing and other items we may produce.
How do you stay motivated and productive throughout the week?
As an entrepreneur, I would say the desire and willingness to learn and constantly improve is an important quality to have. You are going to run into failures, fairly consistently, some small, some big, but certainly consistently. But you have to have the ability to take those failures and learn from them, rather than get discouraged from them. I think having that ability is an important habit to finely tune.
Can you provide some insight into your creative process?
A lot of our ideas are inspired by our customers who are in the market for a particular flavor or ingredient that they can’t find elsewhere. When we get suggestions, me and Sean usually sit down and brainstorm potential recipes. Then we go to the local supermarket and see what we could find for the ingredients. If we find the ingredients locally, we order them from one of our providers. That is when we begin to create a new sauce together and it is typically trial and error until we find a combination we both love. We were perfectionists, so it usually takes a little bit longer than probably it takes most hot sauce companies. Once we found what we would like we would give some friends and family samples and have them give us any feedback before we put it out to the public.
How can businesses give back to local communities?
I’m usually not a trend follower; however, I do believe that all businesses should do their best to support a cause that they feel passionately about and take an active role in their community. Having a cause that benefits other people restores faith in humanity. It reminds you that not everything is about making the dollar. Some people are really trying to use their platforms to give back to people and their cause. I do truly enjoy that aspect of our business. It is one of the things that I’m most proud of about our business.
What advice would you give to other individuals looking to start a business?
We started the business in 2019 rather than earlier. The delay came from the fear of risk. I think taking the risk is the hardest part. But if you take a risk and it fails, you learn from the mistakes. Had I taken a bunch of small risks, I would have learned very quickly. Starting earlier would have helped me at 23 rather than 30. Not being afraid of taking risks is something that I would have liked to teach my younger self.
As a business professional, how important is goal-setting to success?
The first thing would be to set goals on a regular basis. A lot of times people think of setting goals as a long-term requirement, one, five or ten years out. Some people think to list goals on a daily and weekly basis. That is something that you fall into practice on and want to continue. It is important to take that time to write down daily and weekly goals. Second, It is important to take care of your body and mind and keep yourself in physically healthy shape. You can work out or go for a run for thirty minutes a day. Keeping your mind healthy is equally as important as keeping your body healthy to accomplish balance within and achieve success.
What strategies have helped you to grow your business?
My partner and I separate our tasks. Our personalities complement each other very well in our business. We go to each other for advice in certain scenarios, as a business partner or just a mentor in general. Finding business mentors is a good strategy. Surrounding yourself with people who are knowledgeable and want to help you succeed in business are good mentors. Most entrepreneurs want to help other businesses, at least at the smallest stage where we’re currently at.
Is there any type of software you can recommend to our readers?
One of the best tools we use for 13 stars is Shopify. We use it as our website and our ordering platform. My partner did most of the design for our website. It takes a lot of time and effort to learn and make it good, functional, and appealing to the eye. But it takes a lot less time and effort than learning what it would take to code an entire website from scratch. It provides a point-of-sale system and ease of use.
Can you provide an example of a professional obstacle you were forced to overcome?
The biggest failure I’ve had is by not verifying other people’s work. It is me verifying my partner’s work and my partner verifying my work. Verification is critical to avoid a loss of product. For example, initially, we would start by immediately putting ingredients into our cooking vessel not verifying that all of the ingredients were accounted for. We lost the product that was sitting in the kettle, because we were five pounds short on the last ingredient, which just completely changed our recipe. Had we verified ingredients first, we could have just gotten five more pounds of that last ingredient. We would have had a full kettle rather than having to scrap everything. We resolve this issue by establishing a process to verify orders are complete, and we always verify ingredients before we begin our cook as to no longer encounter product loss.
In your opinion, what are some exciting new business endeavors happening now?
I believe real estate is a business to get into where you can set yourself up for success. There are not many moving parts. Like having a consumer-packaged goods business such as cloth. You have multiple different ways you can make money with things like appreciation, and rental income. I would say that is the best business idea that I have.
What is your favorite quote?
“I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be, to mind you who denies to another this right, makes us slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it” – Thomas Paine.