From Seed to Sauce

Open Road — Week 1 by Team THIS

Our road trip began with Daniel Schneider, founder of Detroit Peppers, over breakfast at a diner in Detroit. Daniel spoke with inedible passion about the time he and his wife spent in Yemen as volunteers, and about their experience working with Yemeni refugees in Chicago.

Daniel had heard about the growing urban farming movement in Detroit that was transforming the numerous vacant plots of land. He also knew about the city’s large refugee population and was determined to continue his commitment to helping others; thus, Detroit Peppers was born. Daniel quickly bonded with leaders in both the Yemeni and Bangladeshi communities, and gained access to two vacant lots, including one at the Hope Center, an Islamic Center in Hamtramck. With the help of local community members and volunteers from across the country, he created urban gardens in those vacant lots, ultimately to provide access to healthy fruits and vegetables, something these immigrants had in their home countries but lacked in the US. We heard stories of community members coming up to Daniel with huge smiles, sharing their excitement over seeing familiar crops in Detroit Peppers’ gardens. It became clear to us that Daniel helped the refugees feel that Detroit was home. The gardens also provided an educational experience for local children, demonstrating how to grow crops, including over 100 different varieties of peppers!

Detroit Peppers expanded rapidly, and while Daniel was largely successful in securing funding through grants and donations, he knew that he needed to develop a revenue stream to support the development of existing urban gardens and the addition of new sites. To that end, Daniel began using the peppers grown on the plots of land to create Bisbas, a spicy Yemeni sauce, which he sells to assist with funding, and to provide jobs for Yemeni women in the community.

Because Bisbas sales only began in 2017, Daniel wanted to determine the best way to grow that business going forward. We knew that he could probably produce Bisbas at scale to reduce costs and sale price, but because the product is so new, we weren’t sure if product demand would support that higher production volume. To help, we assessed key advantages and drawbacks of three different production methods — continue outsourced production as is and monitor demand more closely, utilize a shared commercial kitchen, or partner with a co-packer. Then we reached out to comparable companies and food processing experts to understand the startup costs required to launch local production of Bisbas in a shared kitchen. We used these analyses to develop a three-year plan, detailing growth milestones and how each would require shifts in production methods.

To address the demand side of the business, we helped Daniel with marketing research. We analyzed different sauce companies’ successful Kickstarter campaigns to determine what type of language Daniel could use to encourage donations, and donation tiers that warranted different “thank you” gifts. We also wrote brief copy for Daniel to quickly and succinctly describe Detroit Peppers and Bisbas, highlighting common benefits sought by consumers. We also dove into marketing channel research, to help Daniel determine the appropriate sales outlets for expanding his business, such as farmers markets, donors or grocery stores.

We were so inspired by Daniel’s commitment to his community, and we’re so excited to watch Detroit Peppers’ Bisbas business grow and flourish.

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