Updated: Nov 29, 2022
One of our favourite blogs to research and write is our customer spotlight series. We love it so much because it means we get to chat to our amazing customers and learn more about them!
In this months customer spotlight we are talking to Shaun over at ChilliChump. Shaun is a star in the chilli growing and chilli product world. He has a successful Youtube channel with over 170,000 subscribers! He grows a wide variety of chillies. He sells his very own hot sauce and has recently started selling chilli seeds.
We were lucky enough to chat with Shaun all about chillies, Youtube and his love of hot sauce! Check out the full interview below to learn more about his company ChilliChump. As you can see this is our longest customer spotlight yet. We had a fantastic time chatting to Shaun and learnt so much.
I've just been looking at your websites, blog and Youtube channel. You are a very busy guy!
Yeah! The YouTube channel takes 20 hours, 25 hours just for recording and editing each week. And then on top of that, I'm running three businesses. So I run the sauce business, the seed business, and lastly I have developed IOT Gardening software called SeedsIO. It's provides the ability to track your plants, and also provides IoT functionality. There's about 3000 to 6000 daily active users on there. That takes up a large portion of time. Definitely a lot to keep you busy. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your company? How did it all start? My company came after the YouTube channel.
The company ChilliChump Ltd has been going for about three years. The company, at its heart, is for me to sell my sauces. Sauces with recipes that I've developed over time with a lot of experimentation. I have also started selling seeds this year through ChilliChump Seeds. I'm passionate about chillies and it’s nice for other people to also develop that passion and if they do it's a fantastic hobby.
It must be nice with the YouTube channel, you get that feedback so you can you put out a video about growing and someone will respond and then you know you've impacted their hobby. Putting out the videos that I do. I never did it because I wanted to be famous. I didn't do it because I want my face everywhere. I really don't like being in front of the camera, but it's a necessity. People will identify with you or your channel or your videos. Because your face is up there.
The reason I started my channel was because I wanted to help people. I have ended up helping people in ways I never thought I would be helping people because originally it was just, hey, I've come up with a new way of doing drip irrigation. That was the first video I ever did: Gravity fed drip irrigation. And I thought, hey, I'll share this idea with you guys. But what has ended up happening is I started sharing my growing and that sort of thing and a lot of people have been inspired. The channel started growing.
I get a lot of messages saying that my videos have changed their life. It’s taken them out of a depression or it's giving them something to focus on. And yeah, it's nice to see. That's really cool. To change the subject slightly where did the name ChilliChump come from? We eat chillies because there's this little fruit that hurts the hell out of us. We know it's going to hurt us, but we do it anyway, and we've got to be Chumps to keep going back for those hotter and hotter things.
We eat these super hot fruits and it gives you that endorphin rush and all the rest. But you're essentially getting endorphin rush because your body saying I'm in danger. You know, and we're doing this purposely to ourselves.
That's kind of where it came from. And I like alliteration as well. So Chilli Chump works out well for me. That makes complete sense! It’s a great name.
I watched one of your videos, the peri peri hot sauce recipe, which was your mum's recipe. Where do you get your inspiration for recipes from? To be honest, I owe my mum a lot when it comes to my creations. She's a fantastic chef and is very imaginative in the kitchen. She taught me from a very young age how to cook and more importantly, what ingredients work with each other.
I'm inspired by everything. I read a lot. I love travelling. So there's quite a few early sauces that were inspired by that. That's amazing. Speaking of your peri peri recipe and your YouTube channel. You've got over 176,000 subscribers. Which is very, very good. What made you start making the YouTube videos? It comes down to the fact I just wanted to share something. When I did that gravity fed drip irrigation. I was trying to find a resource online to show me what I was trying to do to see if somebody else had done it. And I just couldn't find anything out there, so I figured it out myself. I did a lot of experimentation and figured out how best to do it. And I thought, well, there's going to be someone else like me who's going to be searching how to do this. So let me share this out there. And that's what the internet's for, right? Let's get information out there into people's hands.
How has the YouTube channel helped your business? It's helped with the sauces. It made the business happen, to be honest. I never considered selling my creations. I've been making hot sauce and experimenting with hot sauce for decades. When I started sharing some of my videos, some of my recipes, I had people watching the video commenting: "I'd buy every sauce you sold!" Or "Can't you sell us some sauce?"
They put an idea in my head, maybe people will actually buy this. So from that perspective, it led to the business starting in the first place.
The first batch I ever sold, to test the waters. I made 20 bottles and I put my video out and published the listing in my online shop. I then got into my car to take my wife to visit her mum and we're in the car for about an hour and a half. And I kept hearing my phone ding, ding, ding. By the time we got to where her mum was. Everything was sold out. And I was like, whoa.
That was mind-blowing to me, right? People are spending their money, they are actually buying this? It's one thing to comment on a video saying you would buy them, but then actually buying it? That changed things. I started scaling up and that's obviously when I started speaking to you guys and started organising bigger orders of bottles. Because buying 20 or 50 bottles from Amazon or eBay, that can get expensive.
What makes your sauce stand out from other hot sauce produces? There's a quality to my sauces. My Blazing Buffalo extreme, I consider that one of the staples in my shop. It's inspired by sauces like Franks hot sauce, but it's hotter and it's got a richer flavour. You can definitely taste the chillies. There's more to it, there's more going on with it. There's not just a bit of spice and a bit of sweet, there's far more complex flavours going on. What's it like having all these chilli heads following you? Do they hassle you for the hot hot sauces? Honestly, the chilli community on the whole, they're such an amazing bunch of people. I've been very fortunate. In every community there's going to be some negative elements. But with the nature of my YouTube channel and the nature of my Facebook group and other social media, my community tends to be more on the friendlier side and people just wanting to help each other, 'cause that's the spirit I want to put out there. And most people respect that and will put that out themselves. Which is your favourite sauce to make and then eat? Blazing Buffalo. But purely because I love chicken wings. There's nothing better than well made chicken wings with a bit of hot sauce on. And the blazing Buffalo as a base is just fantastic.
It's a bit of a double edged sword. The most fun to make, because it's so risky is my super hot sauces. My skin stings for up to three days after making some of my hotter sauces. When I'm cooking, if you even slightly sweat, the fumes that are in the air connects with the sweat and then it absorbs in your skin and then you're going to be stinging for days, literally.
How did you learn about greenhouse automation? When I was ten years old my family got their first computer for Christmas. I quickly got obsessed with it, taking it apart, learning the software. I started coding after a year or two. And yeah, I just have a passion for technology.
The automation side, it comes from two factors. Number 1: I love the tech and there's some very, very cool tech that you can get today for cheap. And being able to code those things is awesome. Number 2: it is out of necessity.
I couldn’t manage the number of plants I have if I didn't automate what I do. When my wife and I moved to our new home in 2021, I didn't have my automation set up until the latter part of the year. Up until that point I was watering manually. Watering all the plants would take about 2 hours a day. That's each time, and when it's the height of summer, you're watering twice a day. That's just not viable. So automation is a necessity.
Where did your love of growing chillies come from?
I've always loved farming. I grew up on a pig farm. We dedicated about an acre and half to our vegetable plot. And there's a certain joy in growing things that maybe you don't really appreciate as much when you're younger, but I have very fond memories of it. At the time I think I'd have rather been inside playing on my computer, but I still enjoyed the times that I was outside tending to the farm.
When I came to the UK from Africa, I wanted to grow things. I wanted to start a little garden and I always loved chillies. I'm a practical person. So I wanted to grow something that was practical, and something that I wouldn’t get bored of. Chillies are the perfect plant…thousands of different varieties, beautiful flowers, and tasty fruit!
How many different types of chillies do you grow at the moment? This year I grew 98 varieties, which is the most I have grown before. But I will scale that back a bit in the future. I have about 450-500 plants in total. Depending on the sauces I have planned, I grow more of some varieties than others.
Next year I will likely grow fewer plants. I'll still probably grow nearly that many varieties.
I have growers all over the world that are sending me their hybrids that they've stabilised and some interesting stuff that's coming out. The trend at the moment seems to be these variegated or striped chillies. There's a really cool one called the Sugar Rush Stripey. Which looks like a sweet, like a candy. It's got bright yellow and orange stripes down the length of it. I've been growing them this year, and have seeds for them available in my seed store.
In regards to the future, what does the future hold for Chilli Chump? Who knows? If you asked me that question a year ago, I don’t think I could have predicted where I am at the moment. I'm trying to take things as they come. Of course I try to make decisions that help move the business forward, to expand. Where that ends up, who knows? Part of that is scaling up, and maintaining or improving the quality. Things like buying good quality bottles.
I have bought bottles from many different companies, different pricing, and different quality. Some bottles I bought would chip so easily if they knocked against each other, or fell over on the table. It was a long process to find bottles I was happy with.
When I found Sen5es,I tried some small batches and got great quality bottles. Being able to get them in bulk was great too.
The next thing was committing to bottle up 500 bottles of sauce instead of just 20, and trust that people will buy them! Next step, 1000 bottles, 10,000 bottles?
So those are the things that I'm pushing towards. I’ve invested in things like bottle filling machines, to make the process quicker and more consistent. We're investing in the future, where it lands up? I don't know. I know what I can hope for.
Personally the biggest thing I want to achieve is on the YouTube side of things. I want that to keep growing. I want to keep inspiring people.
It sounds very exciting! And finally, we did kind of touch on this in your in that last answer. But how do you rate Sen5es as your glass bottle supplier? I've been able to get Stuart on the phone whenever I need him. I know he's a busy man, but if I need something specific with an order that can’t be done through the website I will send him an email. Stuart phones me back almost instantly every time, we have a good chat and he sorts me out. So not only is the quality of the product good, but I also get great customer service.
What would you like to see from Sen5es in the future?
You know, as much as I don't like plastics or single use plastics, things like that, I think if that's something that you guys could ever get into that, it would be helpful. The fact that I ship my sauces globally, being able to reduce the weight of the packages would not only make it cheaper for my customers, but it would also go a small way to reducing carbon emissions from the the transport of the lighter packages.
It would also be great to have different coloured shrink capsules for the sauce bottles. I'd love to differentiate the heat levels of my sauces based on the colour of the caps, that would be awesome. Or even to differentiate the types of sauces that I'm doing. Like if I'm doing a limited edition sauce, using the Burgundy caps would be great.
Thank you so much to Shaun for joining us this month. Make sure you check out his Youtube channel to learn more about growing chillies and making hot sauce! You can also head over to his website to purchase his sauces.
What do you think? Should we bring in some plastic bottles or expand our range of heat shrink capsules? Comment below! Did you and your business want to be featured in our next customer spotlight? Let us know! We love hearing from our customers and it's great marketing for your small business. Thanks for taking the time to read another Sen5es blog. Keep up to date by heading over to our Facebook or Instagram page! Or you can subscribe to our email newsletter.
All the best The team at Sen5es