In our “5 Minutes with an Entrepreneur” series, we pass the mic to Michigan entrepreneurs we’ve supported to hear their stories, including the spark behind their business, challenges they’ve faced, and what motivates them to keep going.
Next up you’ll hear from Marushka Baoh, the founder & CEO of Baoh Blaze. Through her bold, savory sauces, Marushka is bringing the flavors of Cameroon to metro Detroit and beyond. Keep reading to learn the spark behind Baoh Blaze, advice Marushka would give other entrepreneurs, challenges facing small businesses, and more.
Tell us about your business.
Baoh Blaze is the premier home for African flavors. We make homemade African pestos, marinades and hot sauces. My business is black owned, female owned, immigrant owned and our focus is not just on produce high quality sauces and dips, but also in making a positive impact in our communities by ways of sustainable packaging and shipping, health conscious recipes diverse for all palettes and by cultural enrichment through our support of other minorities businesses and organizations like ourselves.
What was the spark behind your business?
As an international student, I struggled with homesickness when I first came to the US. One big part of most cultures is food. Not only was I missing my family, my hometown, my friends, but I also was missing what I consider my comfort food. One big aspect of Cameroonian cuisine is spices and flavors. When I finally stumbled across habanero peppers here, I started recreating home recipes with ingredients I could find and making African hot pepper sauces in large quantities so I would never have to rely on Tabasco or Sriracha again for that flavorful heat. Then my friends started tasting it and raving about the taste while struggling through the heat. That was the spark behind my business!
What makes your business stand out?
There are no hot sauces on the market like this, literally. There are no companies making Cameroonian hot sauces. Most folks who enjoy those types of sauces (which are consumed in most countries in African and the Caribbean) have to make them themselves. Habaneros are extremely hot and hard to handle and cooking these sauces can be an assault on your nose glands. Our sauces take all that stress and effort away. Our pesto is also unique as there are no African pestos on the market and all of our sauces are made with spices only found in West Africa.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs?
Believing in yourself and your business is the most important thing. That’s what will drive you to seize every opportunity possible, that’s what will push you to stay the course when you encounter obstacles (and there are a lot of them). That’s what will keep you motivated when it’s hard to do so! Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your vision as much as you do!
What’s the biggest challenge facing small good food businesses?
The barriers to entry are high: licensing, cost of customer acquisition, food and packaging shortage, highly competitive retail spaces. The biggest thing is to educate folks about your product and marketing to them, especially for a unique product most people do not know about. The food industry is also very saturated. Too much good food from all over the world out here! 🙂
What motivates you?
My family! I want to be successful to make my family proud, to take care of them and to leave a legacy for our family name!
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made that others should avoid?
Procrastination – many entrepreneurs won’t admit this but for me, I’ve struggled through this pandemic with staying motivated in the face of a lot of personal and family struggles. When you do not manage your time well, you can lose the attention of the folks you are trying to retain as customers or partners. However, I believe in my business so much that I am refusing to dwell on the mistakes I’ve made because of procrastination and I wake up every day starting over and carrying on!
In one sentence, could you describe how working with Michigan Good Food Fund has helped your business?
I have truly appreciated working with my business counselor as well as Jamie Rahrig because of the hands on advice and feedback they provide. My counselor is a no nonsense lady who gives very targeted and specific information and strategies. Meanwhile Jamie does an excellent job with providing financial guidance, resources and it’s a pleasure to build a strong relationship with her. Michigan Good Food Fund has been one the most resourceful partners I’ve worked with!
Want to try one of Baoh Blaze’s African pesto or hot sauces? You can order their delicious products at BaohBlaze.com/shop.
Interested in working with the Michigan Good Food Fund? See if your business is a good fit here.