By: Bianca Strzalkowski

Branding evokes a feeling in customers that can create a loyal—and lucrative—following.

Entrepreneur Tom Geist understands the value of proper branding. The owner of SoCal Hot Sauce, formerly TG’s Hot Sauce, recently rebranded his entire company in anticipation of increased growth in the new year. His branding strategy focused on representing his product line in a way that resonated with potential customers.

“We would often get the question, ‘TG’s Hot Sauce? What kind of sauce is that?’ We needed a new name and logo that was more professional and let the customer know what kind of sauce they were looking at. SoCal Hot Sauce™ was the answer,” he said.

Before Geist operated a small business, he served in the military. He made the decision to enlist after the attacks of September 11th—a tragedy, he says, he could not ignore.

“We all remember where we were and how we felt when the planes hit the World Trade Center Towers. That lit a fire inside of me and weighed heavy on my shoulders,” he said. “I felt it was my duty as a young American to answer the call. Also, in my mind, I felt that I could not justify to my future children and grandchildren not doing my part to help my country at a time like that. I could not bear the thought of them asking me, ‘Why didn’t you serve in the war?’”

It was while in the Marine Corps that Geist learned skills that would aid him later as an entrepreneur: work ethic and self-discipline.

“Beyond preparing young Marines to win in combat, what truly distinguishes our legacy to our nation are the citizens we produce. We’ve heard the term ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine.’ I truly believe that once you are a Marine you will always be judged as a Marine and expected to uphold our ethos, ideals, and values,” he explained. “The great thing about the Marine Corps is that no matter what your MOS (job) is, you can be tasked to do anything …What all that leads up to is that anytime I am faced with a new challenge in business, I feel like I have already dealt with a similar situation before.”

Geist, who is originally from the West Coast, also discovered an affinity for hot sauce. While deployed to Iraq, he relied on the staple to improve the taste of the well-known meals served to service members, Meals Ready-to-Eat (MRE). Later in his career, he was transferred to North Carolina, where he realized something was missing—the classic flavors of Southern California’s “hole in the wall” taco shop sauce. After searching for a taste that reminded him of home, he decided to create one, leading to his present-day products.

He and his wife Brittany launched TG’s Hot Sauce while he was still on active duty. It started as a hobby, and they learned how to grow unique peppers and sold the products at local festivals. Demand began to grow. Geist transitioned out of the military and into a civilian job that he disliked. It was then he decided to pursue the business full time, and the couple rebranded in September 2016 to set the stage for future growth.

“TG’s Hot Sauce was just a quick, easy name we came up with so we could attend festivals. We used it as a hobby, and honestly we weren’t too attached to it,” Geist said. “With more professional logos, labels…and commercial production capabilities, we won’t be limited on how much product we can sell. We now have the opportunity to stock store shelves, sell wholesale to distributors, and land big corporate deals.”

He admits that even though owning a business comes with long work weeks, it does give him more control over his schedule and that means more quality time with his family.

“The biggest value that this brings is the flexible schedule that allows me to spend important time with the family and not miss those once-in-a-lifetime events,” he said.

With the new SoCal Hot Sauce brand in place, Geist intends to hit the ground running in 2017. He has set his sights on big goals, such as getting his products into big chain grocery stores, increasing online sales, and attending more festivals to be able to expand his customer base.

For information on the variety of flavors sold, shop online at SoCal Hot Sauce.