Unkle Drew’z Ginger Sauce Starts Production with Business Plan Competition Winnings
By Becky Kramer
Brighton Maughan’s friends raved about his dad’s homemade ginger sauce. Whether it was used as a marinade for grilled meat or a salad dressing, they said it should be bottled and sold.
Their endorsements prompted Maughan to create Unkle Drew’z Ginger Sauce for the WSU Business Plan Competition. His team—which included his dad, Drew Maughan, and his WSU roommate, Cole Hensley—won the $15,000 Herbert B. Jones grand prize this year.
Unkle Drew’z used the money to produce its first commercial batch of the sauce in June.
“There was so much interest, we pre-sold the first batch,” says Brighton Maughan, an entrepreneurship major at the Carson College of Business. “Whether it’s on chicken, beef, pork, or vegetables, people love it. We say it makes healthy food taste good.”
Maughan took Entrepreneurship 486 last spring. Marie Mayes, director of the WSU Center for Entrepreneurship, walked the class through how to start a business.
“From marketing plans to financial projections, Professor Mayes helped us create a realistic plan,” he says. “When I had questions outside of class, even if it was 8 or 9 at night, she’d email me back.”
Maughan and the team also worked with WSU’s Food and Research Facility on the testing required for FDA approval to sell the ginger sauce. His dad was closely involved in Unkle Drew’z startup, and Hensley—a computer science major—did the heavy lifting on the company’s research needs.
Business Plan Competition judges were impressed by the company’s development and Maughan’s pitch, which he spent hours practicing in front of family and friends.
“I’m a pretty introverted person, so I’ve always been kind of nervous about presenting,” he says. “This really developed my confidence and brought out a different side of me.”
Twenty-eight student teams across three different leagues competed in this year’s competition, representing nearly 150 college and high school students.
“The secret to Unkle Drew’z first place win was their understanding of the specialty foods industry,” Mayes says. “Brighton worked hard to move the company forward, and the team made good progress on bottling, labeling, and finding a co-packer.”
Company roll-out continues
Maughan, who will graduate next spring, plans to continue Unkle Drew’z roll-out during his senior year at WSU. “It’ll be a busy stretch, but I’m excited about what we’ve got in the works,” he says.
Maughan and his dad envision selling the ginger sauce through specialty grocery stores and to restaurants and catering services. They’re currently looking for an advisor to give them suggestions on wholesale distributing.
They’re also exploring options for direct sales to consumers. That could include online sales through Amazon and Etsy, and in-person sales at the Washington State Fair, Taste Washington, and other festivals.
Prior to the competition, Maughan and his dad planned to bootstrap the company—reinvesting their profits in the venture to avoid the need for outside financing. The judges encouraged them to develop a contingency plan so they can quickly ramp up production if needed.
“That was such helpful feedback,” Maughan says. “We need to think about being ready to scale up if our sauce gets super popular.” His dad is already experimenting with spicy and low sodium versions of the sauce.
The annual Business Plan Competition helps spur innovation and entrepreneurship in the region, Mayes says.
“Some of the student teams go on to launch companies,” she says. “Other students gain skills and confidence they take with them to work for startups. Yet others become innovators at existing firms because they have developed an entrepreneurial mindset.”
Learn more about the WSU Business Plan Competition