Started just 18 months ago, Rescue Dog Hot Sauce is now on shelves in retailers and in dishes and drinks in restaurants across the metro.
Tim Heitzman made some hot sauce as a birthday present for his brother. He gave some leftover bottles to some people working at local bars and restaurants.
That was 18 months ago, and now Heitzman is the owner of Rescue Dog Hot Sauce. And he’s created a specialty food line, Blended Kitchen, in partnership with Must Heart Dogs creating spice rubs, olive tapenades, pestos, hummuses and more.
“The reception was overwhelmingly positive,” Heitzman said about giving out his first batch of hot sauce. “A few months later, we made our first farmers market appearance at the Delmar Sunday Market. It didn’t take long to make it into the OKC Farmers Market after that.”
Farmers market appearances helped grow Rescue Dog Hot Sauce’s customer base. After a few months, Plenty Mercantile and Stash Goods in Norman were stocking the sauces on shelves. Heitzman added pop-ups and pairing the hot sauces with local beers.
“Once we did that, the sales skyrocketed, and the brand really became well-known all over OKC and Tulsa,” he said.
Heitzman added a partnership with Must Heart Dogs, a homemade doggy treat business owned by his girlfriend, Erica Baker.
“Her treats are immensely popular and she has people driving from all over the state to purchase them,” he said. “Since we began dating, we do pop-up events and markets together, and our combined love for dogs has really helped our businesses grow together.”
They also started Blended Kitchen together.
“Blended Kitchen has grown so fast since we debuted it in January that we’ve become Monday and Tuesday staples at the Stonecloud Brewing taproom in downtown OKC, where we make sandwiches that pair with our sauces on Mondays and we make street tacos that pair with the hot sauces on Tuesdays,” he said. “We’ve also been fortunate enough to start selling our products on shelves in a few local retailers and taprooms.”
At the heart of the growth, Heitzman said both companies put an emphasis on supporting animal organizations.
“For Erica and (me), food and happy pups are what matter the most to us,” he said. “That’s why many of our pop-ups include local rescue groups. Although we are for-profit companies, finding pups forever homes is just as important to us.”
As for future growth, Rescue Dog Hot Sauce is in talks with Crest, Homeland, Whole Foods and Reasor’s to carry the sauces. Not bad for a birthday gift given not even two years ago.