After concocting a batch of hot honey for a fried chicken recipe in December 2015, Ames J. Russell decided to use the sweet and spicy topping as a holiday gift for family and friends. He sent out 100 bottles and, soon after, began getting phone calls: “Ames, we loved your hot honey, we put it on everything. We’re all out – where can we get more?”
At first, Russell brushed off the requests, telling people they’d have to wait until next Christmas. But then he had an idea. Just short of a year later, his Hot Southern Honey, sourced from honey producers up and down the Shenandoah Valley and infused with the mild heat of red chili peppers, was available at retail.
Russell first came to SCORE when he competed in SCOREcard, a business model canvas competition in Richmond, Virginia. SCORE mentors John Anderson and Fred Thompson helped him prepare for the competition. Russell says, “My work with my mentors was invaluable not only in preparing the event but most importantly for establishing a basis for long term business success.”
Through his work with SCORE, Russell quadrupled the number of stores that sell his product and has scaled his growth to be financially sustainable.
AR’s Hot Southern Honey is now available at 115 retail locations across five states, as well as eight restaurants and schools. Russell accomplished all this while simultaneously working a separate full-time job.