Generation Z is projected to be a highly entrepreneurial generation, and some members are wasting no time establishing this legacy. Sixteen-year-old Tyla-Simone Crayton, creator and CEO of Sienna Sauce, is a shining example of what we can look forward to from the future business owners of America.
The teen entrepreneur has created her signature secret sauce at the age of 8, launched her Sienna Sauce company in 2017, has expanded her business to include three flavors (Tangy, Lemon Pepper and Spicy), and is working on an upcoming hot sauce line, Sienna Lit. In 2019, Sienna Sauce is currently sold in over 70 retail stores in the United States and is available for purchase online.
Sienna Sauce sold over 50,000 bottles in 2019 year, has brought in over $190K in revenue to date, took home the award-winning sauce at Sauce-A-Holic in 2018 and 2019. The most memorable moment so far, according to Crayton, was when she was honored with the first-ever Youth Entrepreneur Pinnacle Award given to her by the Houston Black Chamber of Commerce.
No high fructose corn syrup or unhealthy additives are used in the sauces, and they can be used on a variety of meats and vegetables, making them a healthier and more convenient alternative to some sauces on the market.
Crayton recently landed $10,000 in the Essence New Voices + Target Accelerators Pitch Competition and plans to use the funds to finalize her hot sauce and get it to consumers as soon as possible. “It went amazing!” she said of the pitch competition, in which she went up against nine other Black women entrepreneurs. “We’re looking forward to being a part of a community and seeing what that brings and hopefully moves our business even more forward over the next course of the year with the money that we just got. It’s going to be amazing.”
Crayton was inspired to create her original sauce when her favorite wing restaurant closed and she wanted to try and recreate the shop’s wing sauce recipe. “I ended up coming up with something better,” she told Atlanta Black Star during a recent interview. “It was just me, a late night, my mom was having a wing and wine Wednesday, I woke up, and a lot of my aunts and stuff were at my house, and so my mom cooked and she was talking about how she didn’t have any sauce. I was like, ‘Let’s play around and try and make some!’ and we ended up coming up with the base of the sauce, which is now Tangy.”
Crayton knew she’d perfected the recipe when she and her taste-testers, her family, couldn’t get enough of it, but the sauce was almost lost when Tyla-Simone and her mom, Monique Crayton, realized they hadn’t written the ingredients down. “The funny thing is we almost forgot the recipe because we just threw a bunch of random things in there at first, but then I remembered, so I went back and I put all the ingredients in there and it’s been history since then.”
In order to spread the word about the sauce, Tyla-Simone and her mother got creative and sold wings from their home for a year in 2017. With Monique making the wings and Tyla-Simone supplying the sauce, Sienna Wings, named for the Sienna Plantation community in Houston where the Craytons reside, was born. In 2018, a year after they launched Sienna Wings, they officially launched Sienna Sauce.
Although she’s busy running her own business, Tyla-Simone is still a student and credits prioritization with helping her balance homeschooling and work. “For me, it’s always been about time management. … That’s why I always say ‘Take it day by day, and take every day by storm,’ because every day can be different, but no matter what you do in that day, you should do it to the max, the fullest.”
Crayton also attributes her success to the support and stability provided by her mother. “My mom has been my rock. Ever since Sienna Sauce started, she always kept it real with me and told me, ‘If you’re going to do this, you’re going to do this.’”
“I’ve always had that drive in me, because she was an entrepreneur for most of my life, so I’ve watched her hustle, I watched her sell different things to pay the bills,” she explained.
The Craytons fell upon hard times along the way, becoming homeless and staying with friends for over a year, which only made Tyla-Simone see the true strength her mother possesses. “After we became homeless, I saw her work and she made sure that we were never mentally homeless, just physically out of place. I always since then really looked up to her.”
Tyla-Simone may have learned a lot by watching her mother, but now it’s her mom who is doing a lot of the learning through watching her daughter’s journey so far. Monique quit her job in 2018 to support Sienna Sauce full-time as COO, but makes it clear that she’s not the decision-maker in the company. “A lot of people automatically assume that I’m running the business or that it’s my sauce … but then when they meet her and see her, they see how she really has her head on her shoulders operating her business, she’s the one making the final decisions in her company.”
The company has been receiving recognition over the past year, and to help fund her business, Crayton has been sweeping it up in the competition department. In addition to the Essence Pitch competition, she’s also been awarded $25,000 in the Side Hustle Showdown on “GMA: Strahan, Sara & Keke” and $10,000 in the REVOLT Pitch Competition for young entrepreneurs and, more recently, Crayton was a runner-up in the contest that Chamillionaire and E-40 created last year, where they offered to give a $25,000 investment to a minority or female-owned startup.
“Chamillionaire has an app, it’s amazing, it’s called Convoz. I downloaded the app and he was having a competition to win $100,000 and so I entered the competition and I became one of the first finalists, and that’s how I really came into contact with him personally,” she said of how the rapper’s investment into her company came to be.
“After the contest ended,” she added. “He chose a winner and he said everyone else that was a finalist, he would invest in their company if they were approved to get on the Republic.co platform.” Republic.co is the main platform used by Sienna Sauce to secure investors, including Chamillionaire. Launched in 2016, the equity investing website was created to bridge the gap between small businesses and the general population within the United States, and focuses on crowdfunding investments for diverse, mission-driven startups.
Crayton’s business goal is to create community and legacy. “For Sienna Sauce, since I started this company I’ve always told all of my supporters that in this journey that I’m taking to build a legacy and have a sauce company that’s passed down through generations, I want to bring people up with me.”
Tyla-Simone looks to achieve her business goal by sharing the wealth through a youth sales program that is still in development, and would inspire and incentivize young people to sell the sauce, earning 40% of the profits. She also plans for the program to provide quarterly Zoom Q&A sessions with herself and participants, and speakers to educate youth about entrepreneurship, financial literacy, how to engage customers, and what to do when you’re told no.
A Sienna Sauce subscription service is also in the works. The program will launch in early June and will offer customers the opportunity to have their favorite sauce delivered to them automatically. The program also includes free shipping, recipes, and insights into new products.
Looking further in the future, the sky is the limit as far as Tyla-Simone is concerned. “It’s exciting but frightening to think about because I can see everything,” she said. “We plan on being in movie theaters, arenas, more supermarkets. We want to get into Target, of course, Whole Foods, Safeway stores around the country, schools, we’re already in talks with 16 schools to get our sauce in there. … Anything can happen.”
“It can go into literally every industry that you could possibly think of,” she explained. “Media industry, music industry, people rap about sauce all the time maybe someone will rap about Sienna Sauce. We’ll have product placement, we hope, in movies and shows, that’s a goal of mine.”
As for her mother Monique’s hopes for Tyla, they’re the hopes that all parents have for their kids: To be healthy and happy regardless of which path she chooses in life. “It’s humbling to watch her grow into this experience and I believe it’s my job as a parent to support whatever it is that she wants to do.”