Tell us about Wuju, how did this project come about? How did you come up with a name?
I saw a gap in the hot sauce world. Everything was all red, vinegary, and salty, and I came across this yellow sauce. My friend’s father had an amazing sauce that I thought I could adapt into a commercialized business, WUJU. I could make a sauce with a new flavor profile, consistency, ingredients, and a sweet side. In addition to this gap, there was also a void in myself to start a food business. I had just started a corporate career, but knew I wasn’t satisfied. When I came across this opportunity, I knew I had to try and run with it.
As far as the name, it was so tough to arrive at WUJU. I thought of so many names – some crazy ones like Amerinero, Stripes, Uncle Larry’s, among a bunch of others. One of my best friends and I were talking about names one day. As we talked about a dream to one day open up a business together, he jokingly suggested “WUJU,” which is a combination of our last names. It was a fantastic name and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I even justified it with “Oh, it can also be like Wu juice.” – that’s how much I liked it. It’s a funny story, but what’s funnier is that a lot of things from my business have come unexpectedly and naturally like that.
Tell us about your manufacturing process and product design for the product.
I knew I never wanted have a scalability issue, which meant finding a co-packer/manufacturer early. I started working with one in central Pennsylvania right as I was starting the business. They were specialty, one that worked with sauces frequently. Additionally, they happened to be relatively close to where my full-time role was so I could stop by before or after. They took a chance on me and were more flexible with order minimums and my options because it just so happened I had a loose connection with the project manager’s son by sheer luck. Networking really helped make things in that aspect a lot easier.
The actual design of my label was a challenge. Even after I had the name, I struggled to find a brand personality. My sister was helping me design the original label and we went through so many drafts before arriving at the right one. Around that time, I lost a friend to kidney cancer, which was a really difficult time. His mom posted a photo of him looking out into a beautiful sunset and I knew at that moment that the photo would be the brand identity for WUJU. The sunset was representative not only of my friend, who was an inspiration to everyone he met, but also the fact that WUJU can go on ANYTHING, which helped build our slogan, “From Sunrise to Sunset, WUJU.”
Tell us about your Kickstarter campaign. Did anything surprise you? Any anecdotes to share in creating and running the Kickstarter campaign?
It was surprising how involved it was. Even though I heard from people who had done crowdsourcing campaigns in the past and I had prepared as much as I could, there were so many things that I could not anticipate. For example, delays in getting the video ready, timing on the approval process, public relations activities that got pushed back, all that required me to be very reactive, while still taking care of a lot of priorities such as getting the launch party ready, discussing with friends about it, and being active on social media.
How did you create the video for your Kickstarter campaign?
I had a vision in my head to really showcase my passion and the sunrise to sunset branding of WUJU. At the same time, a crew of Drexel University (where I graduated) students were able to make the vision into one coherent and amazing video. They were so professional about everything and definitely way more resourceful and economical than an agency, which was also reflective of how much they actually cared for my project.
Can you share tips for those considering crowdfunding their project?
a. Be prepared, you absolutely NEED momentum at the start of the campaign.
b. Have a nice video – a lot of businesses neglect that, so it’s an easy differentiator.
c. Talk about it for a long time prior to build steady awareness with friends and family. Also, a lot of people actually don’t understand how Kickstarter works, so be sure to really explain it and again, keep talking about it.
d. Look at all of your options. There are alternative, more cost-effective solutions, but you have to make sure you understand which are worth paying less or more for.
What’s next for Wuju?
Selling online through my site, Amazon, and other specialty foods distribution companies, along with the traditional channels of retail like grocery stores.