It didn’t take long for Yellowbird Foods to make a sizable impact on the hot sauce industry. Launched in 2012, the all-natural line of spicy condiments has won several regional tasting awards, made a cameo on the Showtime series, Billions, and been touted as “The Next Sriracha.” For this edition of What’s in Store, we traveled to Yellowbird’s San Marcos, Texas, production warehouse where co-founder Erin Link broke down how the team uses multi-user accounts to get work done without wasting time.
Growing up in Houston, Texas, Erin was never one to back down from a dare involving spicy foods. She worked in authentic Mexican restaurants throughout college, and her first hot sauce love was Cholula. “The joke was someone would always say, ‘I’ll give you 5 bucks if you can just eat this habanero whole,’ and I was always the one to do it,” she remembers.
In 2011, Erin met her partner and co-founder George Milton, and the pair immediately bonded over their love for spicy eats. They were obsessed with Huy Fong’s Sriracha, using and finishing one large bottle a week on their food. But Erin and George eventually found themselves at a dietary crossroads when they decided to cut foods with artificial fillers out of their meals.
“We were looking for the perfect hot sauce that had whole ingredients and zero artificial fillers,” Erin says. “That just didn’t exist, so we decided to make our own.”
It took about a year of trial and error before George developed what’s now known as Yellowbird’s Habanero sauce. Even though it started as a hobby, close friends and family were hooked. Neither Erin, with a background in design and front-end development, nor George, a talented musician, had any experience in the food industry. Erin simply told George, “You make it taste good, and I’ll make it look good.” From there, they set out to bring their dream of a farm-fresh hot sauce business to life.
Yellowbird’s current lineup of fiery selections includes Jalapeño, Blue Agave Sriracha, Serrano, and Ghost Pepper flavors. [Spoiler alert: They’re all delicious.] Their bottles—which feature the brand’s fierce-but-pint-sized mascot—have made a home on shelves in natural food retailers across the U.S., including Whole Foods and Sprouts. As far as the daily duties, George works on developing and fine-tuning recipes and managing production, while Erin tackles all of the customer-facing duties, including marketing and sales.
Erin says she and George wanted to make the branding more fun and approachable than traditional hot sauce lines. Gone are the graphics heavy on skulls and flames, and in their place is what she refers to as a “more approachable hot sauce.” Part of that approachability includes the Yellowbird blog, where the team shares recipes (Habanero Broccoli Mac and Cheese, Maple Sriracha Cauliflower, etc.) that utilize their different sauces.
It wasn’t until 2016 that Erin and George could afford to hire a staff. And as the business has grown, so has the competition. “It’s becoming easier for anyone to create any food brand,” Erin says. “It’s easy to get on the shelves, but lasting on the shelves and still being top of mind when customers are shopping is probably the biggest challenge for everyone.”
The ability to manage time constraints on tight deadlines is why Erin and the team use the multi-user accounts feature. She says Yellowbird uses other tools for parts of their business that don’t offer the multi-user account feature, “so we’d get logged out while we were working on something and we lose tons of work because somebody else logged in and didn’t tell us.”
The capability to share the newsletter and campaign building duties is huge for Yellowbird. The staff has 4 people signed up as admins which means that, at any given time, multiple people are simultaneously working on different elements. Whether it’s updating customers on new flavors and ingredients or sharing another Yellowbird-inspired recipe, getting the message out is a total team effort.
“One person might be working on the design, one person the copy, while another person’s working on digging into reports,” Erin says. “The multi-user account feature makes it possible for us to get more things done in a much shorter amount of time.”