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In the case of ‘hot sauce versus law school,’ hot sauce wins

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Rooster Sauce Owners
John de Mars, the founder and CEO of de Mars’s Rooster Sauce, is flanked by his partners Cully Wakelin and Mike Boroughs (WHS class of 2004). Courtesy photo.
Most fulltime students in their first year of law school are constantly under a time crunch.

They rarely have extra hours in their day to do anything else besides hit the books and cram for one exam after another.

Not so for John de Mars. In between studying for his classes, the WHS alum (2005) began doing research aimed at one of his personal interests —  entrepreneurship.

He eventually found himself deep into market data and immersed into the world of spices.

“I enjoyed law school,” says de Mars, “but the thought of starting my own business seemed far more rewarding at the time, not to mention that I have always had a lot of energy towards the entrepreneurial side of life.”

He adds, “When I conducted the market research, I found the spice market to be one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. and the world. I saw a low barrier to entry, little overhead required and a market growing at 5-8 percent a year.”

The local man, who admits he loves to cook almost as much as he loves to eat, began tinkering with hot sauce recipes to see if he could come up with something more novel and unique than the ubiquitous Tabasco he was accustomed to using on much of his food.

“I wanted something different,” he explains, “something that I could eat a lot of and feel okay about eating a lot of, and there just wasn’t too much variety out there when it came to hot sauces.”

With the help of other like-minded spice devotees, de Mars developed what is now de Mars’s Rooster Sauce.

It’s an all-natural, vegan, gluten-free, locally sourced, gourmet hot sauce made from fresh habaneros, jalapenos, garlic, organic curry, cider vinegar, black pepper, tomato paste, cayenne powder and a touch of organic cane sugar.

An olive oil base gives the sauce a creamy consistency. “We got lucky with the flavor,” comments de Mars, “and sales started to take off. I found a solid team of bright people (Mike Boroughs, a 2004 WHS grad,  and Cully Wakelin, a current student at Evergreen State College) to take on as partners and bid adieu to the law school grind.”

The local man emphasizes that Rooster Sauce is a “good product,” one that is delicious and packs a “worldly flavor of heat,” as well as promotes a healthy lifestyle.

The company, which was formed last summer, is located in Olympia, but its production factory is in Gold Bar.

As de Mars explains: Rooster Sauce is primarily a web-based company, however the product can now be found in about three dozen grocery stores and restaurants between Olympia and Seattle.

In discussing the company’s current and future goals, the local entrepreneur says, “First and foremost, we want to keep our fantastic customers in awe by our quality of product and customer service. As for growth, we want to grow to 50 clients in the greater Seattle/Eastside area by the end of this year and continue to expand our online sales and in-store/restaurant sales on an international level. In the future, our aim is to get Rooster Sauce in every military MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) and on the first manned mission to Mars. We’ve already sent samples to NASA. We also want to make de Mars’s Rooster Sauce a household name in China.”

According to de Mars, the response to the product has been overwhelmingly positive.

He believes it’s due to the sauce’s flavor, heat and versatility, making it ideal for a wide range of food, from eggs and potatoes to pizza, sandwiches and steamed veggies.

It can also be used as a rub on chicken, fish or various types of meat.

“Basically, you can put it on anything you want for a boost of flavor and heat,” he adds. Several Seattle restaurants such as Local 360 and Portage Bay have begun featuring the sauce tableside and de Mars is seeing online orders come in daily from all over the country. “It’s rewarding to look at how we have grown in one year and very exciting to think about where we will be as a company one year from now,” he comments. “Also, it’s satisfying to know that we are directly contributing to people’s healthy eating choices by offering an all-natural, locally-sourced product.”

For more information about de Mars’s Rooster Sauce: www.hotroostersauce.com.

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