A versatile condiment that can be used as a spread on burgers, pizza or as a dip is the focus of a new startup based in Westport.

Little Rock markets multiple recipes of flavour punching sweet chilli sauce. Director and founder Tania Reynolds, along with her husband Josh, cooked up their first batch on a trip to Thailand in 2011.

Since then, they had dreamed of developing and marketing their own sauce. In 2018 they purchased a pizza base company, Pipis Bakery, made sweet chilli and parmesan pizzas, and got a good response to their product when attending a food show in Christchurch the following year.

Little Rock
Little Rock’s three flavours – Ginger, Original and Aromatic with kaffir, lime and lemongrass.

“People kept asking us, ‘where can we buy what you have on this pizza?’,” Reynolds said. “We let them know that it was our own sweet chilli sauce that we make. One lady said, ‘if you bottle this, I’d buy it’.”

So, they did – and the woman bought it.

Reynolds runs Little Rock with co-director and founder Liz Hansen, with support from their respective husbands Josh and Cam. This month they are relaunching into the market with hundreds of 350ml bottles of the sauce, which is made with organic apple cider vinegar.

There are three flavours on offer, Original, Ginger – and Aromatic with kaffir, lime and lemongrass. Also in the offering is a new website, where the sauces can be purchased online.

Hansen says the organic New Zealand apple cider vinegar is a key ingredient in the sauces.

“It’s what gives it that beautiful acidity that balances perfectly the sweet and the heat.”

Following that now infamous Christchurch Food show, they spent the following six weeks getting the sauce made in a commercial kitchen. They imported the bottles from China and made labels to prepare to market the sauce. The following month, May 2019, they travelled to the Wellington Food Show to try and sell 100 bottles of newly made sweet chilli sauce.

“We thought we would be taking it all home again and giving it away for Christmas, but we were all sold out within one day,” Reynolds said.

It was soon after that Reynolds and Hansen founded Little Rock, named after New Zealand being a ‘little rock at the bottom of the world’. In February 2020, Little Rock was GST registered and ready to launch.

The following month the country was locked down due to Covid-19, which was disruptive, and so this year they are having a proper marketing push.

“Now that we are getting used to living in this topsy-turvy world, it is time to rejuvenate Little Rock and (re)launch it.”

The whole startup process has been a big learning curve for Little Rock, Reynolds says.

Little Rock
Little Rock, named after New Zealand being a ‘little rock at the bottom of the world’.

“The biggest learning for us has been to bring production into our control. As soon as we started making our sauce ourselves, we were able to easily improve recipes, develop concepts and make trials.”

Also, as part of this month’s relaunch, they have enlisted the assistance of a business mentor, Kevin Stratful, which has made a positive difference.

“The right mentors bring a wealth of experience and ideas that you just don’t have at the start of a business and as you grow, they challenge and stretch you to be your best,” Reynolds says,

Reynolds says to be successful and achieve as a startup, an entrepreneur must have a vision, a willingness to take a calculated risk – and the grit to stick at it despite opposition.

“Underneath this I think a clear ‘why’ helps – loving what you do and seeing the big future picture.”

Story created in partnership with Development West Coast.

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