Small Biz Startup: The Spicy Wench

Christine Hoffman, owner of "The Spicy Wench" brand of jams and jellies , a home grown business venture run from her Harris Drive home in the city of Watertown.

THE INITIAL IDEA

The Spicy Wench owner, Christine E. Hoffman, was looking for a way to utilize some sweet and spicy treats from her garden that she planted in 2009. Her husband and son had requested a myriad of peppers be planted, so she took to making pepper jelly and drying her harvest. She tested her products on her husband, a civilian contractor working in Iraq, and his friends overseas. Perfecting her recipes, she launched The Spicy Wench in 2011.

TARGET CLIENTELE

Locavores worldwide who are looking for products planted, harvested and produced with high-quality food from Northern New York.

“We get most of our sales online, but a lot of people [in Northern New York] still don’t know about us,” Mrs. Hoffman said.

In addition to her now-famous pepper jellies, which are divided into categories on her website such as “Sweet, Mild and Medium Pepper Jellies” and “Hot and Really Hot Pepper Jellies” with names like “Sadist” and “Masochist,” Mrs. Hoffman also produces ground spices, fruit jams and pepper and herb seasonings.

THE JOURNEY

In 2009, Mrs. Hoffman quit her local government job as a planner for the city of Watertown. The following year, she wanted to dedicate more time to spend outside and decided to plant a garden. As with many gardeners, an abundance of produce left her thinking what to do next. At the urging of friends, family and her husband, she went into business in 2011, planting even more peppers than years past and began purchasing goods from other local producers.

Contracting with Cross Island Farms on Wellesley Island and Garden Hill Farms in Champion for produce, and manufacturing her goods at the Farm House Kitchen in Sackets Harbor, Mrs. Hoffman has been able to keep up with not only local demand but demand worldwide.

According to Mrs. Hoffman, since the launch of her website, www.thespicywench.com, she has shipped foods nationwide and to countries overseas, including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, South Korea and England. She keeps in touch with her customers by sending out a bi-monthly newsletter and via her Facebook page.

Where: Watertown
Founded: 2011
Web: www.thespicywench.com

The name for the business was derived from a nickname Mrs. Hoffman’s husband, Troy A., gave her: “saucy wench.”

“Because I talk so much,” she said. “So when he said I should start selling peppers, I said the business should be called ‘the spicy wench’ instead of saucy.”

She’s taken branding the business a step further by enlisting her daughter, Alexandria L., and niece, Amanda S. White, to drum up business during the summer months at fairs and festivals. The cousins can’t be missed in their red dresses, high-heeled boots and other Renaissance-era attire.

“It’s always great to see the tough guys try to beat her,” Mrs. Hoffman said of her daughter, who has a stomach groomed for spicy foods. “She likes to see them cry. They puke, but she has a stomach of steel. This girl can eat horrific stuff.”

Fairs and festivals have helped Mrs. Hoffman bring her products to locales throughout the north country. This summer she spent Wednesdays at the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce weekly farmers market, and stopped by the annual French Festival in Cape Vincent, Cream Cheese Festival in Lowville, Made in New York Festival in Sackets Harbor and Autumn Festival in Wellesley Island. According to her Facebook, Mrs. Hoffman has applied to become part of the Sterling Renaissance Festival for this upcoming season as well.

— Ted Booker and Kyle R. Hayes