Unlikely Texas entrepreneurs turn chile-fueled idea into burgeoning sauce empire
With their long hair and beards, James Nelson and Jeremiah Tallerine look more like punk rockers than entrepreneurs. But don't let first impressions fool you: These two are the brains and the brawn behind Bravado Spice, makers of hand-crafted, artisan hot sauces.
As Nelson and Tallerine see it, hot sauce companies historically fall into two camps: Those that make a decent, mass-produced sauce and the others that make the hottest hot sauce possible. It was due time for a third party.
The pair's chile-fueled idea has grown into a burgeoning business in a matter of months, thanks to the unforeseen good fortune of a Kickstarter campaign — which brought in 273 percent of their original $7,000 goal — plus a dream-team dynamic.
The two signature sauces — roasted pineapple and habañero and crimson chili — are meant to be used as complements to dishes, not as a condiments.
Nelson is the culinary mastermind behind the operation. He concocted the distinct recipes, using fresh produce often hand-picked from local farmers markets. The two signature sauces — roasted pineapple and habañero and crimson chili — are meant to be used as complements to dishes, not as a condiments.
"He wanted to get his creation and creativity into the mouths of the masses," says Tallerine, who had the Internet business savvy to make that happen.
At barely a month old, Bravado Spice has already established a presence around its home base in Houston. The guys can be spotted at area farmers markets, and their sauces are stocked on shelves at Ruggles Green and Revival Market and featured on menus at food trucks such as Chi'Lantro and NOLA's Creole2Geaux.
They are also working with other brick-and-mortar restaurants to get their sauce featured in drinks and dishes. For example, at Royal Oak Bar & Grill, which hosted the company's launch party, the pair collaborated on a menu that included a Hawaiian pizza featuring Bravado pineapple sauce at the base, topped with melted cheese, salty ham and crispy red onion.
Nelson and Tallerine currently work out of Kitchen Incubator, taking over the building each weekend for the prep work and labor involved in filling several hundred bottles. But with a kitchen operations manager on staff and a new vendor signed almost every day, they're already quickly outgrowing that space.
Nelson acknowledges they chose the word "bravado" because it implied stupid and brave, but that blind gusto has gotten them this far. Bravado Spice is hoping to be everywhere in the city by the end of the year — and to become the first Houston-based hot sauce company to go national in the not-too-distant future.
"If you have an idea and you think it merits an action, just do it," Tallerine says.