Former restauranteur manages challenges with sauce business venture
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After Kiki Aranita made the difficult decision to close her Philadelphia restaurant in July 2020, she turned to launch a bottled sauce company and work at her recipe-development career.
Aranita said she’s made strides in growing the Poi Dog Sauces brand while also managing supply chain challenges during the busy holiday season.
“Marketplace” host Reema Khrais checked in with Aranita about how her business is doing now. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Reema Khrais: So, when we last talked, you told me that you had to close down your restaurant because of the pandemic, but then you started a new business selling sauces. It’s been a few months now. How’s that been going?
Kiki Aranita: It’s been going really well, and obviously, I am learning every single day on the job — kind of like the way that I did when I started the food truck and the restaurant, and so it’s spreading more and more.
Khrais: Nice, and so how’s it been these last several weeks with your holiday orders? Have you been dealing with supply chain issues or any other sort of challenges?
Aranita: Yes. Hopefully by next year, if we’re talking again, I’m not doing the distribution myself. But yes, supply chain — oh, my god. So there was definitely delayed shipments. The pallet got lost somewhere outside of north Philly, and then the truck broke down, and it was just like every single day. I was like, “What happened?”
Khrais: So wait, do you have everything now? Are you ready for — I guess, you know, tomorrow’s Christmas.
Aranita: I mean, yes, but over the year I’ve had a lot of trouble sourcing for the Maui Lavender Ponzu, so that’s kind of on hold right now because the supply chain from Japan has still not really returned to pre-pandemic levels and availability.
Khrais: And you said you’re doing it all by yourself? Do you just like have packages and bottles everywhere? And labels? Like, what does it look like?
Aranita: So I actually use my now-husband’s restaurant as like the pickup and storage facility. I don’t know if he’s thrilled about it, but we’ve only been married a couple weeks, so he hasn’t had time to really get upset about it.
Khrais: So OK, your sauce business isn’t the only thing on your plate, no pun intended. You’ve also been working as a recipe developer at a restaurant, which sounds like the coolest job. What can you tell me about that?
Aranita: So the chef residency that I had at Volvér, Jose Garces’ restaurant here in Philadelphia — it was really, really busy and it’s packed. There’s just so many people in there eating my food, and that is something that I really missed because I haven’t had a restaurant in over a year. And the bartenders made cocktails with the sauces, and they were just so delicious, so wild.
Khrais: What was your favorite cocktail?
Aranita: Oh, my god, all right. One was mezcal mixed with chili pepper water and watermelon, and it was garnished with like a togarashi-dusted dehydrated watermelon, and that was so good.
Khrais: That sounds so elaborate. That’s a lot more elaborate than I expected. So I know that this is still an early business. Have you made any profit yet?
Aranita: No. I mean, it’s self-sustaining, which is great, I think, for a business that’s not quite a year old. As soon as I make money from selling sauces, it just goes into the development of the next batch, figuring out how to expand beyond Philadelphia and reach more Hawaii people. So every penny from the sauce business has so far been going back into the sauce business.
Khrais: Gotcha. Well, you said you got married recently, congratulations.
Aranita: Yes, thank you.
Khrais: What was that like? You know, going through wedding planning and doing all the festivities while managing your business?
Aranita: I mean, on my wedding day, I was both freaking out because it was my wedding day and I didn’t know where my pallet of chili pepper water was.
Khrais: Wait, it happened during your wedding day? When you found out that it was missing?
Aranita: Yes, but it’s OK. I had an absolutely gorgeous, utterly magical wedding. I know a lot of people say this about their weddings, but mine was really, really great.
Khrais: Yeah, I just actually got married this year, too, and it is stressful.
Aranita: Oh my god, congratulations.
Khrais: Thank you. Yeah, but wedding planning feels like a job in of itself, so I’m glad that’s behind you too, and you can focus on the business.
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