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About 2002

Q&A
Janis M. Dalessandro, 2000


How did d'Oni Enterprises come about?
Actually, by accident. I am basically a vegetarian and am too busy to cook most of the time and I can't eat anything unless it's spicy. I woke up one morning, turned to David and said: Oni, I want to start a sauce company! He gave me his typical answer (which I always take as a yes), okay, Oni, will you get me some coffee?

I knew in the back of his head, he knew it would be a good thing since he had been supporting my hot sauce habit for about 9 nine years. I guess I should really say he Enabled me to continue with my hot sauce habit by taking me all through the Caribbean and paying cab drivers to take me to remote stores (I mean stores with out doors and some with Fresh BBQ out back, since I don't eat meat I wouldn't know if the smell was always good). He also knew that one of my most prized posessions (besides my wedding ring and my family) is my bottle of Andy's Spitfire. It has never been opened, dusted weekly and sits prominently on the top shelf of my collection.

From there I had to contact my friend Eileen (who makes the best salsa in the universe) to help. From there we had to get the best sales person (thankfully, I got him that cup of coffee)...and the rest is, as they say, history?

That sounds too easy. Was it that easy?
No. I say that now after 5 years of working on it. When we started we had no idea how to get any of the ingredients, bottles, nutritional analysis, FDA approval. We started by going to an amateur contest in San Diego, by Hot Licks. There we were greeted by all kinds of wonderful people who gave us so much information. Mike and Diane of Ring of Fire talked to us for hours on the do's and don'ts. We ended up winning first and second place in that competition, judged by hot sauce manufacturers...we had to believe we had something. One really nice couple was so in love with our sauces, they offered to invest in our company right then and there. We managed to do it without the investment, but what a great compliment.

Winning a contest is good, but then what?
Then the really hard work began. The business plan, perfecting the recipe for mass production, creating labels and POP material. Eileen and I spent months, no years, working on the recipes. To get your product to taste how you intend it to, you must have a good co-packer and a good food developer. We finally found the best: Karen Swisher and John Kidde of Sona and Hollen. We were really lucky to have so many people take us under their wings and endure our many questions! The funniest part of our adventure in the kitchen was often knowing that recipe was perfect by opening the lid to the blender. Our products have a certain "happy-dancing" scent (and yes, I am teased constantly for that statement until they open the bottle and smell), it took two runs at Sona & Hollen to get the scent right.

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