When Keith Frost couldn’t find the quality of barbecue sauce he wanted, he decided to try his own hand at it.
Keith Frost, a consummate griller, was frustrated with run-of-the-mill barbeque sauces. Mere “spiced-up versions of ketchup” he complains. So began his quest for the quintessential sauce.
The backyard hobby soon became an obsession. Using fresh Oregon produce — sweet onions from Hermiston, garlic from Klamath Falls, plums from the Willamette Valley — the Rogue Valley native was soon serving up platters of ribs glazed with his Sweet Honey & Garlic BBQ Sauce, salmon marinated in Plum-Ginger Teriyaki Sauce, and T-bones garnished with Not-So-Hot Garlic Pepper Sauce.
“If you create a sauce with patience,” says the OSU graduate student, “you can add layers and complexity to the foods you eat.”
Once he enrolled in OSU’s Austin Entrepreneurship Program, Frost gained the business skills to parlay his culinary discoveries into a start-up. The Southern Oregon Sauce & Spice Co. got a big boost when it won seed funds from the Portland OSU Business Roundtable in 2005.
“Our sales have exceeded expectations,” says Frost, who at 33 is what OSU President Ed Ray calls an OTA (“older than average”) student. “We’re in eight stores, our Web traffic is off the charts, and we’re gaining traction.”
A graduate (summa cum laude) in agriculture with minors in animal science and business, Frost finds the time not only to run his start-up but also to pursue a master’s degree in agricultural education. “Ag-ed is natural fit for me,” says Frost. “My company is focused on ‘value-added agricultural products,’ and the Ag-ed program places special emphasis on leadership development and communication — two skills essential in the classroom or the boardroom.”
Like any talented entrepreneur, Frost is constantly pushing the envelope — expanding the customer base, growing the product line, envisioning the possible. A sugar-free line of sauces is one concept under development. New spices, too, are being rolled out.
“Now we’re looking for an angel investor to help us grow through this next phase,” Frost says. His goal? To sell 10,000 bottles of sauce before 2010.