Though she’s always enjoyed toying with recipes, U.S. Army veteran Tracey Richburg would have never imagined she’d one day be running a booming condiments business with products sold in 40 stores across six states.
In honor of Veterans Day, the Georgia woman shared the unlikely journey that led her to the Savannah Sauce Company — and she shared what fuels her philanthropic work for veterans past, present and future.
From 2001 to 2006, Richburg worked as a medical lab specialist in the Army, a role that took her all over the nation.
“I was stationed in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Fort Benning, Georgia, Fort Sam Houston, Texas and Fort Wainwright, Alaska,” she told Fox News. But unlike many of her peers, Richburg enlisted a little bit later in life.
“It’s something that I always wanted to do, but put it off until I was 30,” she said of her inspiration for joining the Army. “I was a late bloomer there! I made it through, God bless… especially boot camp at age 30!”
Always inspired by “cooking” and "experimenting,” Richburg and business partner Mike Roberson set out a few years later to launch their own company, although the veteran revealed that they didn’t initially intend to sell condiments.
“We were going to get into another type of business, and we purchased a distributorship from a couple. When we got it, they had sauces sold in a couple of stores, in Whole Foods,” Richburg recalled. “There were some issues with the quality, and we didn’t want it to be a negative influence on our brand. So we asked Whole Foods if they’d allow us to come up with something to replace that.”
“We ended up coming up with two [Savannah Sauce] hot sauces that replaced the ones we already had in there. We used to do demos in the stores with the hot sauce, and people would say, 'I don’t want to try it, I don’t like hot sauce.' And that gave an idea of how to expand,” she continued. “From there, we [started selling] ketchup, mustard and BBQ sauce, too."
In September 2014, the Savannah Sauce Company was born, and the rest is history. Though the brand recently celebrated its 5-year anniversary, Richburg admitted it’s still surreal to see her products on store shelves.
"Any military member would tell you — we have to take care of those who not only served with us, but those before and after us."
“It’s that sense of accomplishment. Being able to go into the store, see it on shelves, [especially] when it's something you didn’t really intend to do, or get into that line of business,” she said. “To actually see it, it feels good.”
Though the Savannah Sauce Company has enjoyed success, with its all-natural, preservative-free hot sauces, ketchups, BBQ sauces, relishes and marinades currently sold in over 40 stores (including select Whole Foods locations) and online, Richburg emphasized that the social responsibility of her business is a critical part of what fuels her fire.
In giving back to the community, she’s partnered with the “Tiny Homes for Big Heroes” project to help build homes for veterans in need. Doubling down on the effort, Richburg even released the “Tiny Homes For Big Heroes Project Cookbook” to raise funds and awareness for the cause.
And in a larger sense, she agreed that her military experience has made her a better business owner.
“It’s that sense of living up to your responsibilities. We were always taught to never leave a battle buddy behind. Any military member would tell you – those who are out [of the service], still enlisted, anyone who has ever served – we have to take care of those who not only served with us, but those before and after us,” she said.
With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, Richburg revealed that the Savannah Sauce Company products will always have a special place at – and beyond – her dinner table.
“I love to use the [seasonal] Cranberry Salsa on leftovers, like put it in a turkey sandwich. Instead of cranberry sauce, there’s the salsa and add some stuffing,” she said.
When asked to answer the difficult question as to what her favorite Savannah Sauce Company products may be, Richburg listed the Georgia Peach Salsa, Savannah Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce and Frog Jam (a special blend of figs, raspberries, orange and ginger) as top choices.
After hours, the veteran added that she enjoys running her second business, Lady Barkington Dog Treats, and keeping her flight skills sharp as an FAA drone pilot.
Please join Fox News and Fox Business for our special #ProudAmerican Veterans Day coverage beginning at 6 a.m. ET on Monday.