‘Humility will take you further than money:’ Mutt’s Sauce owner grows her business during pandemic

Air Force veteran shifted to growth mindset, focusing on marketing, engaging with local organizations.

BEAVERCREEK — After unprecedented setbacks by the pandemic, a local mother and Air Force veteran rebuilt her business from the ground up. Charlynda Scales, founder of the nationally acclaimed Mutt’s Sauce, reimagined the business, which celebrates her grandfather, as e-commerce first.

This month, the Dayton Daily News is profiling Black-owned businesses in the region as part of the celebration of Black History Month.

The Mutt’s Sauce business model was 90% in person prior to the pandemic, with festivals and events forming the backbone of sales. After giving birth to her son David in March 2020, Scales woke up to her whole calendar of events for the year – and her entire projected revenue – gone.

“Zero projection of revenue, a new baby and a pandemic. It was a challenge,” she said. “We have essentially restarted Mutt’s Sauce since 2020, and learned how to thrive as an e-commerce brand.”

The pandemic put Mutt’s Sauce back in startup mode. Scales shifted back into a growth mindset, codifying exactly what costs were going into production, where cuts could be made, and investing heavily in marketing.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

“E-commerce is easier to scale. The biggest setback currently is having the capital to market the products on all our sales channels, and making sure you have all the help you need to fulfill them,” Scales said.

Since making the change to e-commerce, Scales appeared on a podcast in June 2020. The company sold $16,000 worth of sauce in the next 24 hours. Mutt’s has also since partnered with QVC, selling 4,000 bottles of sauce for a ten-minute-long segment.

Mutt’s Sauce has also doubled down on engaging with local organizations, creating a limited edition sauce using bourbon from Dayton Barrel Works, and donating $5,000 worth of sauce to community kitchen House of Bread through a grant.

“The best support is locally,” she said. “You’re not going to grow as a brand if you don’t focus on the people closest to you.”

Mutt’s Sauce is headquartered in Beavercreek, and packaged in Dayton. Mutt’s Sauce has been in business for eight years, and is named for Scales’ grandfather, Charlie “Mutt” Ferrell Jr. Ferrell, who joined the Air Force as an aircraft mechanic at the age of 18 in 1951 and served until 1972.

Her grandfather was the first person to salute her at her commissioning ceremony at Clemson University.

“The Silver Dollar salute is what it’s called. It’s one of my most precious memories,” she said.

Ferrell was known for the sauce made from his “secret” family recipe, originally developed in 1956. When her grandfather passed, Scales thought that his recipe might be gone forever, until her mother handed her an envelope with the only written copy.

“All of his children were still alive. I’m the third grandkid. I’m not a chef, and in a family of really great cooks, I’m the worst one,” she said.

Nonetheless, Scales has been bringing her grandfather’s sauce to American households since 2013, with a goal to end 2022 at over six figures, and have Mutt’s Sauce in at least one American household in every state.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Being an e-commerce brand means being on the raw edge of internet public opinion. Black founders also have to weigh growing their business online with the spotlight that comes with the territory.

“While I love the term ‘representation matters,’ and glad to see so many companies come forward with grants and opportunities to close these gaps and increase diversity, it’s a different burden altogether to be ‘the representation’,” Scales said.

In order to be the change, Black founders have to be in the room where decisions happen. Fighting for a place in those spaces isn’t easy.

“I’ve seen founders shy away from board positions or grant opportunities because ‘I didn’t see any minorities’ or ‘I don’t want a handout’. Ruby Bridges was 6 years old when she willingly endured death threats from adults for daring to integrate our schools,” Scales said. “Someone has must be the first. Someone must be the blueprint. Someone is you; someone is me.”

Mutt’s Sauce is carried locally at Dots Market stores, the Wright-Patterson AFB Commissary, several local Krogers, and Maria’s Unique Foods in 2nd Street Market.

The greatest advice Scales ever received from her grandfather is “Humility will take you further than money.” Her experience as an Air Force veteran and a company founder has shaped her approach to business and life.

“Our sauce is symbolic of a greater mission, to bring American families together. Especially now, the more we can focus on what unites us, the stronger we will be as a country,” she said.

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