Dade City Hot Sauce Co. A hit with people who like it hot

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DADE CITY, FL – It was already a hit at restaurants in Dade City, Zephyrhills, and Lutz, but now word of Rhino Smash Sauce Co.’s spicy concoctions is spreading throughout Tampa Bay.

At the annual I Like It Hot Festival in Largo from September 11-12, Rhino Smash won two coveted awards: the Vendor Hot Concoction Award for its Apache’s Curse sauce and the Favorite Vendor Award, both People’s Choice awards.

Matthew Zambrana and Jason Reed were looking for “really good wings” when they came up with the idea to create their hot sauce in 2008.

“We’ve tried so many, and it was the same everywhere we went – generic hot sauce, butter, and maybe chili flakes or garlic added,” Zambrana said. “We both decided to start trying to make our own.”

After some trial and error, they created the Sweet Pepper Medium sauce. Their Phoenix and Lime Coriander sauces quickly followed.

“Our friends and family loved the gravy, and since we both loved to cook, we were like, ‘Hey, why not open a restaurant? “” said Reed.

It was easier said than done. With competition from big restaurant chains like Beef O’Brady’s and Hooters, they realized that a wing restaurant was not financially viable.

“The sauce recipes have been put aside and made on occasion for friends and family,” Reed said.

Years later, the two men return to their dream when a friend asks them to produce their sauce for his restaurant.

“We jumped at the chance,” Zambrana said. “It turns out there was a lot more to do and sell than we thought.”

The pair turned to the Pasco County Economic Development Council’s network of SMARTstart Pasco incubators for advice.

As the name suggests, business incubators nurture and support start-ups when they are most vulnerable, helping them survive and thrive, according to Daniel Mitchell, director of the SMARTstart program.

The program provides hands-on management assistance, access to finance, and connects startups with business resources and technical support services they might not have access to on their own.

Additionally, the Pasco program provides start-up businesses with access to shared office space and equipment until they are financially viable enough to go out on their own – typically within two or three years.

Pasco EDC’s three SMARTstart Mixed-Use Entrepreneur Centers are located at the East Pasco Entrepreneur Center, 15029 14th St., Dade City; West Pasco Entrepreneur Center, 4532 US 19, New Port Richey; and the new SMARTstart @ The Grove, 6013 Wesley Grove Blvd., Wesley Chapel.

The program recruits mentors, coaches, and industry experts to provide advice and help struggling new businesses create business strategies.

Entrepreneur Centers facilitate the process by providing coworking space with Wi-Fi, mailboxes, printers, copiers, scanners, meeting space, classrooms, private offices, commercial kitchen and a digital multimedia studio.

Mitchell said that not only does it save struggling businesses the cost of supporting their own offices, but other like-minded people are building businesses around them to serve as a support system.

With the help of the incubator, Zambrana and Reed said they were able to overcome the red tape involved in starting and running a business. Eventually, Rhino Smash Sauce Co. became a reality.

“We kept going and refused to stop,” Zambrana said. “Here we are today making sauces until our hearts are satisfied and I hope your taste buds are too.”

Rhino Smash eight types of hot sauces are available to order online.

They are also served at:

  • Main Street Pool Table, 38529 5th Ave., Zephyrhills.
  • Ax of Kindness, 38444 5th Avenue, Zephyrhills.
  • Commandough’s Pizza, 5841 Gall Blvd., Zephyrhills.
  • Mulligan Tavern, 5420 Gall Blvd., Zephyrhills.
  • Black Sheep American Pub, 18450 US 41, Lutz.


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