Jeff and Bethany Meadows are opposites when it comes to their taste in hot sauce. But they agree on one thing: No family dinner is complete without it.
Jeff is what his wife calls a “serious chili head.”
“I’ve always loved hot sauce, and over the years I’ve built up a tolerance for a lot of heat,” Jeff said. “I enjoy experimenting with different flavors and food combinations. There is such a wide range of flavors and every hot sauce recipe is different.”
Bethany, a native of Canada, said she likes to spice up her dishes with a lot less heat. “I didn’t grow up eating a lot of seasoning and spices on anything, so I’m on the other end of the spectrum.”
It’s no wonder that hot sauce takes center stage on the table when the Birmingham-area couple, their seven children, sons-in-law and two grandchildren gather for their family dinner every Sunday night.
“We cook a big meal, play cards, sing karaoke, have a bonfire or watch a movie on the deck,” Bethany said. “We love hot sauce, and it’s always on the table.”
Bethany said it was at a recent Sunday dinner that the idea originated for turning the family’s passion for hot sauce into a company.
On May 12, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple boldly stepped out and launched their new subscription service, Get a Little Hot. It promotes and sells handcrafted Southern products to people who want to “eat with fire” and spice up their meals.
“There’s never a perfect time to start a business,” Bethany said. “You just need to start, work hard and be passionate. You can’t wait just because there’s something going on like COVID-19.”
Bethany said she and Jeff are looking at their new company as an opportunity.
“With social distancing, more people are shopping online,” she said. “We are filling a gap by helping do what we can to meet the changing needs of this new environment.”
What sets Get a Little Hot apart?
Bethany said when the family started talking about their new company, they decided the key ingredients would be “Southern culture and family traditions.”
“The hot-sauce industry can sometimes be edgy, but that’s not who we are,” Bethany said. “We came up with the idea of promoting Southern hot sauce companies and Southern culture because the South is something we can fully embrace as a family.”
Get a Little Hot features hot sauces made by small Southern companies, many of which got their start crafting products in home kitchens and selling them at farmers markets.
Bethany and Jeff have been connecting with hot sauce companies through their Facebook group, “Fire-Eaters.” They have also gotten word about companies from other businesses, friends and family. In only a month, the couple has added more than 50 brands to the product lineup, with sauces ranging from extremely mild to “hot enough to roast a lizard.”
“When we get in an order of a new hot sauce, I start thinking about what I can put on the grill to taste test the new brand and flavor,” Jeff said.
Bethany and Jeff are doing more than selling hot sauce. They are sharing the unique stories behind each company.
“It makes it that much more fun to try the hot sauce when you know the story behind it,” Bethany said. “It’s the stories of people who are handcrafting their meemaw’s recipes; a brother and sister who grow their own peppers and turn them into hot sauce; and a veteran who, for every bottle he sells, sends one to a soldier overseas. These owners are passionate about what they do, and they are excited to tell their stories.”
The Meadows are posting the stories on their website blog and social media. They are including a “teaser card” in each box to give customers a taste of what makes the hot sauce different.
“People who like hot sauce really like hot sauce, and they love talking about it,” Bethany said.
The Meadows’ story
Starting new ventures is not unusual for the Meadows family.
Eight years ago, Bethany, a single mom with five kids – four of whom are adopted – met and married Jeff, who has two children of his own. Bethany was already operating a marketing agency. Several years later, the couple launched their real estate and construction companies.
The Meadows and their family now have big plans for the future of Get a Little Hot, like adding barbecue sauces and marinades to the product lineup. But more daring than that, they want to take their story nationwide by creating a YouTube reality series with their family dinners and love of hot sauce at the center.
“Since other activities like sports have been taken away during the quarantine, people have been home with their families and have had more time to reconnect,” Bethany said. “I think a reality show based around our family and hot sauce will resonate with people right now.”
Jeff said getting their new business off the ground has been hectic but fun.
“Since we are also working full-time jobs, time is probably our greatest challenge,” Jeff said. “However, we are getting our adult kids involved and making it a family company. As with any new business, we are working hard to get our name out there and build our reputation as a seller of quality Southern hot sauces.”
Customers can choose from three subscription services (one to three bottles of sauce mailed monthly or quarterly), select a gift box or basket, or buy individual bottles of a sauce. To sign up for a subscription or make a purchase, go to www.getalittlehot.com.