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St. Charles hot sauce business owners win ‘Small Business Person of the Year’ award in Illinois

Chris and Mary Ginder’s company Gindo’s Spice of Life, located at 2020 W. Main St., Suite P, creates hot sauces, but for those who think it’s all about the heat, they want people to know that it’s so much more.

“Hot sauce doesn’t have to be an afterthought or a condiment that you drip on your food to mask a mediocre dish or to burn your senses useless,” the Ginders state on their website. “Our sauces are designed to inspire creativity in the kitchen and enhance food by adding flavor, aroma, color, texture and even nutrients.”

The Ginders, who are Batavia residents, recently were honored with the 2022 U.S. Small Business Administration’s Illinois Person of the Year Award.

Winners from each of the 50 states were recognized May 5 during the National Small Business Week Virtual Summit’s Awards Ceremony.

This year’s Small Business Week theme, “Building a Better America Through Entrepreneurship,” highlights the resilience, ingenuity and creativity of the award winners who, like millions of small businesses, have navigated challenges from the pandemic and contributed to our nation’s economic comeback, according to a news release from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“The Ginder’s story is one of creativity, smart business sense, diligence and community spirit,” said Batavia Chamber of Commerce communications and membership coordinator Shirley Mott, who nominated the couple for the award. “Congratulations to a fine business expertly owned and managed by this dynamic husband-wife team.”

Ideas for Gindo’s hot sauces come from everywhere, Chris Ginder said. It might be from a meal they enjoy at a restaurant, something they discover at a farmers market or an introduction to a new pepper from Peru.

“I stay open to things,” he said. “I take an idea and bring it into my kitchen.”

The Ginders like to source the ingredients for their products from other local businesses. Their first collaboration in the area was with Endiro Coffee in Aurora, resulting in Gindo’s Espresso Habanero Peri Peri sauce. It includes other ingredients such as Hungarian paprika, smoked sage, Dutch cocoa and more for a “rich and complex” hot sauce with a “delicate bitterness and enticing heat,” according to the business’s website.

Chris Ginder makes a new batch of hot sauce in the kitchen of the Gindo’s Spice of Life St. Charles headquarters. Gindo’s owners Chris and Mary Ginder each won awards recently from the Small Business Association.

The couple collaborate with other local businesses, including Mighty Greens Farm and Garlic Breath Farm in Elburn, Gordon Heat in Oswego, Muirhead Farms in Plato Center and Two Beekeepers in DuPage and Kane County.

The Ginders began their business 14 years ago in California before moving to Batavia in 2015.

Once they settled in, they joined the Batavia Chamber of Commerce and began working with the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Waubonsee College, where they attended classes and received coaching and mentoring. The couple are graduates of the Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center’s Business Accelerator program and are involved in their alumni committee to support other growing small businesses.

The Ginders were on the brink of receiving funding to build out their manufacturing facility in 2020 when the pandemic hit.

Chris and Mary Ginder, owners of Gindo’s Spice of Life in St. Charles, each won awards recently from the Small Business Association.

Funding for the facility disappeared and restaurants, which made up a significant portion of their revenue, closed.

“After a quick moment of panic, we decided what we needed to do was to make sure that people didn’t forget us,” Mary Ginder said. “We built up our social media presence and began to focus more on our online marketing. We also started offering free local delivery within 20 miles in the Tri-City area.”

Through the Small Business Development Center, they were able to obtain disaster relief funding and continued to grow their collaborations, online business and farmers markets portion of their business. By December 2020, they had updated their business plan and were showing sustained revenue.

They were able to secure a loan through the Small Business Administration, which helped them complete their new manufacturing facility and St. Charles storefront last spring.

“The ribbon-cutting for their grand opening in December 2021 was one of the most well-attended during the pandemic, a testament to how the area communities value and support Gindo’s Spice of Life,” Mott said.

Chris Ginder said having his own kitchen, rather than accessing rental kitchens, has made a big difference in having more control over the production process. The Ginders are able to have more transparency regarding the process, and having everything on-site makes it easier and more efficient.

St. Charles has granted the business a special liquor license, giving the Ginders more freedom to host tastings in the new facility. The Ginders said it’s a good way to test things out, as well as introduce people to new products.

Gindo’s recently introduced a new promotion in which customers who visit the store and make a purchase during May will be entered into a drawing to win a tasting for up to 12 people. The winner will be announced June 1 on Facebook.

“Every week we develop a new flavor,” Chris Ginder said. “I’ve been doing that for five years and haven’t run out of ideas yet. I always try to set the trends. I like to try new fun things that no one else has thought of.”

Chris and Mary Ginder, owners of Gindo’s Spice of Life in St. Charles, each won awards recently from the Small Business Association.

Gindo’s hot sauces are available at retail stores, farmers markets and in restaurants, where their products are used as ingredients in meals. Visit Gindos.com for information on where to find their products, a list of their partners, recipes that include their hot sauces and more.