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Staying Spicy in Lockdown with Trop Flavor Co.

“It’s not about getting knocked down…it’s whether or not you get back up.”

In other words, you can’t control what happens to you. You can only control your response. 

When COVID hit, like many other people, Kenny Cousins and David Zheutlin were left with time on their hands. They decided to do something with it. 

The Trop Flavor Co. sat down with ONE37pm’s Bo Templin to tell their story.

<div class =”code”><blockquote class=”instagram-media” data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-permalink=”https:\/\/www.instagram.com\/p\/CHQlw6RHTwy\/?utm_source=ig_embed\u0026amp;utm_campaign=loading” data-instgrm-version=”13″ style=”background:#FFF;border:0;border-radius:3px;margin: 1px;max-width:540px;min-width:326px;padding:0;width:99.375%”><div style=”padding:16px”> <a href=”https:\/\/www.instagram.com\/p\/CHQlw6RHTwy\/?utm_source=ig_embed\u0026amp;utm_campaign=loading” style=”background:#FFFFFF;line-height:0;padding:0 0;text-align:center;text-decoration:none;width:100%” target=”_blank”> <div style=”flex-direction: row;align-items: center”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 50%;flex-grow: 0;height: 40px;margin-right: 14px;width: 40px”><\/div> <div style=”flex-direction: column;flex-grow: 1;justify-content: center”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 4px;flex-grow: 0;height: 14px;margin-bottom: 6px;width: 100px”><\/div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 4px;flex-grow: 0;height: 14px;width: 60px”><\/div><\/div><\/div><div style=”padding: 19% 0″><\/div> <div style=”height:50px;margin:0 auto 12px;width:50px”><\/div><div style=”padding-top: 8px”> <div style=”color:#3897f0;font-family:Arial,sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-style:normal;font-weight:550;line-height:18px”> View this post on Instagram<\/div><\/div><div style=”padding: 12.5% 0″><\/div> <div style=”flex-direction: row;margin-bottom: 14px;align-items: center”><div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 50%;height: 12.5px;width: 12.5px”><\/div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;height: 12.5px;width: 12.5px;flex-grow: 0;margin-right: 14px;margin-left: 2px”><\/div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 50%;height: 12.5px;width: 12.5px”><\/div><\/div><div style=”margin-left: 8px”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 50%;flex-grow: 0;height: 20px;width: 20px”><\/div> <div style=”width: 0;height: 0;border-top: 2px solid transparent;border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4;border-bottom: 2px solid transparent”><\/div><\/div><div style=”margin-left: auto”> <div style=”width: 0px;border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4;border-right: 8px solid transparent”><\/div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;flex-grow: 0;height: 12px;width: 16px”><\/div> <div style=”width: 0;height: 0;border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4;border-left: 8px solid transparent”><\/div><\/div><\/div> <div style=”flex-direction: column;flex-grow: 1;justify-content: center;margin-bottom: 24px”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 4px;flex-grow: 0;height: 14px;margin-bottom: 6px;width: 224px”><\/div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 4px;flex-grow: 0;height: 14px;width: 144px”><\/div><\/div><\/a><p style=”color:#c9c8cd;font-family:Arial,sans-serif;font-size:14px;line-height:17px;margin-bottom:0;margin-top:8px;overflow:hidden;padding:8px 0 7px;text-align:center”><a href=”https:\/\/www.instagram.com\/p\/CHQlw6RHTwy\/?utm_source=ig_embed\u0026amp;utm_campaign=loading” style=”color:#c9c8cd;font-family:Arial,sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-style:normal;font-weight:normal;line-height:17px;text-decoration:none” target=”_blank”>A post shared by Trop Flavor Co. (@tropflavorco)<\/a><\/p><\/div><\/blockquote></div>

ONE37pm: When did things take that next step and kick things into another gear?

Trop Flavor Co.: Quarantine. This was a quarantine project to start. We are roommates, friends. This became something where it went from two people who love sauce…to making hot sauce, blending things up, and giving them to friends.

ONE37pm: So this is nitty gritty, in the dirt, you are creating something.

Trop Flavor Co: I was legitimately trading hot sauce for things like radishes. It was your classic tale of a quarantine hot sauce company…It was pretty organic. 

When it comes to the actual ingredients of the sauce… they have a secret they are willing to share with ONE37pm. 

Trop Flavor Co.: Some experimentation with mezcal…there are a few drops in every bottle. 

ONE37pm: See, now you are speaking my language.

Trop Flavor Co.:   We threw some in sauce and brought it to our bartender friend. They loved it and we decided that we should drop a product. 

ONE37pm: When you are putting out a product like this, I feel like you could go two different ways. You could have your product vary greatly from your competition. Or you could go in a different route with marketing and branding, where you think your company has a bigger difference from your competition. 

Trop Flavor Co: I feel like it’s the local aspect. During this time, it was about being opportunistic. We had to use our two skills to launch the brand—the equity between us, our friends. And our skill sets, we leaned into them—our similarities and differences. So people feel part of David, part of Kenny, in the sauce. As a startup, whether you already knew us pre-existing or at a pop-up, That differentiated us. Flavor-wise, we take that seriously. The idea of hot sauce is generally “metal.” The flavor of peppers is delicious. Prickly pear, mango, or papaya, so the chance to surprise people in the flavor profile that won’t crush you, I think it’s a marriage of both.

<div class =”code”><blockquote class=”instagram-media” data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-permalink=”https:\/\/www.instagram.com\/p\/CHZBzWVMdBl\/?utm_source=ig_embed\u0026amp;utm_campaign=loading” data-instgrm-version=”13″ style=”background:#FFF;border:0;border-radius:3px;margin: 1px;max-width:540px;min-width:326px;padding:0;width:99.375%”><div style=”padding:16px”> <a href=”https:\/\/www.instagram.com\/p\/CHZBzWVMdBl\/?utm_source=ig_embed\u0026amp;utm_campaign=loading” style=”background:#FFFFFF;line-height:0;padding:0 0;text-align:center;text-decoration:none;width:100%” target=”_blank”> <div style=”flex-direction: row;align-items: center”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 50%;flex-grow: 0;height: 40px;margin-right: 14px;width: 40px”><\/div> <div style=”flex-direction: column;flex-grow: 1;justify-content: center”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 4px;flex-grow: 0;height: 14px;margin-bottom: 6px;width: 100px”><\/div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 4px;flex-grow: 0;height: 14px;width: 60px”><\/div><\/div><\/div><div style=”padding: 19% 0″><\/div> <div style=”height:50px;margin:0 auto 12px;width:50px”><\/div><div style=”padding-top: 8px”> <div style=”color:#3897f0;font-family:Arial,sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-style:normal;font-weight:550;line-height:18px”> View this post on Instagram<\/div><\/div><div style=”padding: 12.5% 0″><\/div> <div style=”flex-direction: row;margin-bottom: 14px;align-items: center”><div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 50%;height: 12.5px;width: 12.5px”><\/div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;height: 12.5px;width: 12.5px;flex-grow: 0;margin-right: 14px;margin-left: 2px”><\/div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 50%;height: 12.5px;width: 12.5px”><\/div><\/div><div style=”margin-left: 8px”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 50%;flex-grow: 0;height: 20px;width: 20px”><\/div> <div style=”width: 0;height: 0;border-top: 2px solid transparent;border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4;border-bottom: 2px solid transparent”><\/div><\/div><div style=”margin-left: auto”> <div style=”width: 0px;border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4;border-right: 8px solid transparent”><\/div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;flex-grow: 0;height: 12px;width: 16px”><\/div> <div style=”width: 0;height: 0;border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4;border-left: 8px solid transparent”><\/div><\/div><\/div> <div style=”flex-direction: column;flex-grow: 1;justify-content: center;margin-bottom: 24px”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 4px;flex-grow: 0;height: 14px;margin-bottom: 6px;width: 224px”><\/div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 4px;flex-grow: 0;height: 14px;width: 144px”><\/div><\/div><\/a><p style=”color:#c9c8cd;font-family:Arial,sans-serif;font-size:14px;line-height:17px;margin-bottom:0;margin-top:8px;overflow:hidden;padding:8px 0 7px;text-align:center”><a href=”https:\/\/www.instagram.com\/p\/CHZBzWVMdBl\/?utm_source=ig_embed\u0026amp;utm_campaign=loading” style=”color:#c9c8cd;font-family:Arial,sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-style:normal;font-weight:normal;line-height:17px;text-decoration:none” target=”_blank”>A post shared by Trop Flavor Co. (@tropflavorco)<\/a><\/p><\/div><\/blockquote></div>

ONE37pm: When you have two people leading the way, a duo. Do you think you are your yin to your yang or are you both with the same vision, the same goal. What do you think your dynamic is?

Trop: I wouldn’t say yin and yang. We def have a number of shared interests and traits but are different people. I think we balance each other well. People say don’t go into business with friends. I think the reason is often because the friendship will overcome the need for business. We might be on the fire escape right now, but we are going to have a meeting. We are going to treat it with that same respect. Hot sauce is not our job, it’s our side project that is turning into something fun and exciting. 

Kenny: I have a more social media, strategic background. David doesn’t have an Instagram. As friends, partners, we have moments where we see things from different angles, but are saying the same thing. 

<div class =”code”><blockquote class=”instagram-media” data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-permalink=”https:\/\/www.instagram.com\/reel\/CH0kneVn06R\/?utm_source=ig_embed\u0026amp;utm_campaign=loading” data-instgrm-version=”13″ style=”background:#FFF;border:0;border-radius:3px;margin: 1px;max-width:540px;min-width:326px;padding:0;width:99.375%”><div style=”padding:16px”> <a href=”https:\/\/www.instagram.com\/reel\/CH0kneVn06R\/?utm_source=ig_embed\u0026amp;utm_campaign=loading” style=”background:#FFFFFF;line-height:0;padding:0 0;text-align:center;text-decoration:none;width:100%” target=”_blank”> <div style=”flex-direction: row;align-items: center”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 50%;flex-grow: 0;height: 40px;margin-right: 14px;width: 40px”><\/div> <div style=”flex-direction: column;flex-grow: 1;justify-content: center”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 4px;flex-grow: 0;height: 14px;margin-bottom: 6px;width: 100px”><\/div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 4px;flex-grow: 0;height: 14px;width: 60px”><\/div><\/div><\/div><div style=”padding: 19% 0″><\/div> <div style=”height:50px;margin:0 auto 12px;width:50px”><\/div><div style=”padding-top: 8px”> <div style=”color:#3897f0;font-family:Arial,sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-style:normal;font-weight:550;line-height:18px”> View this post on Instagram<\/div><\/div><div style=”padding: 12.5% 0″><\/div> <div style=”flex-direction: row;margin-bottom: 14px;align-items: center”><div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 50%;height: 12.5px;width: 12.5px”><\/div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;height: 12.5px;width: 12.5px;flex-grow: 0;margin-right: 14px;margin-left: 2px”><\/div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 50%;height: 12.5px;width: 12.5px”><\/div><\/div><div style=”margin-left: 8px”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 50%;flex-grow: 0;height: 20px;width: 20px”><\/div> <div style=”width: 0;height: 0;border-top: 2px solid transparent;border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4;border-bottom: 2px solid transparent”><\/div><\/div><div style=”margin-left: auto”> <div style=”width: 0px;border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4;border-right: 8px solid transparent”><\/div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;flex-grow: 0;height: 12px;width: 16px”><\/div> <div style=”width: 0;height: 0;border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4;border-left: 8px solid transparent”><\/div><\/div><\/div> <div style=”flex-direction: column;flex-grow: 1;justify-content: center;margin-bottom: 24px”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 4px;flex-grow: 0;height: 14px;margin-bottom: 6px;width: 224px”><\/div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4;border-radius: 4px;flex-grow: 0;height: 14px;width: 144px”><\/div><\/div><\/a><p style=”color:#c9c8cd;font-family:Arial,sans-serif;font-size:14px;line-height:17px;margin-bottom:0;margin-top:8px;overflow:hidden;padding:8px 0 7px;text-align:center”><a href=”https:\/\/www.instagram.com\/reel\/CH0kneVn06R\/?utm_source=ig_embed\u0026amp;utm_campaign=loading” style=”color:#c9c8cd;font-family:Arial,sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-style:normal;font-weight:normal;line-height:17px;text-decoration:none” target=”_blank”>A post shared by Trop Flavor Co. (@tropflavorco)<\/a><\/p><\/div><\/blockquote></div>

ONE37pm: I ask this to a lot of people. But when you are in a business where your product is determined by the public… the people get to decide if your hot sauce is good. How do you guys balance-taking what the audience is saying versus trusting your gut? “I know this is a good hot sauce. We need to trust our vision.”

Trop Flavor Co.: It’s def a lot of trial and error. You put something out and get feedback. But that’s the benefit of doing these pop-up events. We get the first-person testimonial. When we come across those really niche hot sauce heads, they taste our sauce and want it hotter. And that’s not what we are about. That’s some of the tough-guy stuff that we don’t want to deal with. When people actually taste our hot sauce and give us feedback that they want it a touch hotter, that is an easy fix for us. We can always add peppers… With any event we do, we bring experimental hot sauce. That’s rare to get that unlabeled, untested, you are the test market. We are looking for feedback. We are not the hot sauce experts. We are learning too.

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