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Q&A: FYM Hot Sauce founder Dane Wilcox on backing Dota’s Team NP

When I heard that FYM Hot Sauce, a company based out of Portland, Oregon, had entered esports by sponsoring Team NP, I was confused. What do hot sauce and esports have in common? According to Dane Wilcox, the founder of FYM Hot Sauce, more Dota fans are interested in high quality hot sauce than one would think. Team NP recently qualified for the Boston Major, providing the perfect opportunity to sit down with Dota 2’s hottest new sponsor.

Dane started FYM in 2012 after feeling dissatisfaction with the current availability of hot sauces, which lacked the flavor and heat he was looking for. By growing all his ingredients himself, Dane says that the quality of his ingredients shows in the taste of the sauce. Although a partnership between Jacky EternaLEnVy Mao’s new gaming organization and a hot sauce company might seem odd, this could be an interesting direction for esports sponsorships.

Cameron “Turbo” Regan: Why did you decide to become involved in esports? Why DotA in particular?

Dane Wilcox: Well, I’ve played video games my entire life. I’ve been a PC gamer since I was 15 and built my first computer. We had LAN parties almost every weekend when I was in high school. I’ve been around for the last 15 years playing video games on computers. I used to host maps for Icefrog back when I was in college, when I had access to my college’s FTP network. So that was something that I did there, and I’ve been around watching and playing Dota for longer than I care to admit. I thought it was something that I would like to support, because I’m tired of seeing E-Gaming Bets and G2A as the only sponsors.

CR: What drew you to Team NP?

DW: I actually talked with several teams, individuals and personalities. I was talking to NP, and I made a post on Reddit asking how people would feel about an esports sponsorship. That day someone had posted that they were disappointed because there was a drought of shitposts. There’s no patch notes, people aren’t complaining about the patch very much, so we need some more good posts. So I thought I would just test the waters because I was already talking with several people at that point – NP and some other teams – so I asked on Reddit how people would feel about this hot sauce sponsorship, and people seemed to respond well to it. So I decided sure, I’ll do it. I had been trying for years to get a hold of Dota pros to do sponsorships. For the last couple of Internationals, the last couple of years. So Beats did marketing, and the way they got their product out there was that they got celebrities to wear it. I have a good product and I think that a lot of people like hot sauce. It’s a very popular industry so I thought “What celebrities do I know?” I don’t know any, but what celebrities do I have a chance of talking to? I decided on Dota celebrities. I’ve been trying to get a hold of people for years, and finally we talked to EE’s new team and we both decided that it was a good benefit for both of us.

CR: Do you feel that it was difficult to become involved in esports as a first-time sponsor?

DW: I mean, I guess it depends on what you consider difficult. It was a lot of unanswered emails and Reddit messages. I contacted everyone, just out of the blue, to get a hold of people at Beyond the Summit. I just went and researched their business information and sent them hot sauce and tried to follow up with them later about it. It was a lot of trying to get contacts and hoping people responded.

CR: Did the players ask for samples of the hot sauce before committing to the deal?

DW: I had already sent samples off to NP when I posted that Reddit thread, and we started talking about the stuff. Because for me, I will only do something if — I will not have people try to say FYM Hot Sauce is good if they didn’t like it. I wanted someone who genuinely liked the hot sauce. So I sent it out to NP and they all seemed to like it. That was a prerequisite for if I’m going to work with someone. I think it does make a difference if someone likes the product that they’re pushing.

CR: How would you describe FYM’s sauces and the goal you set out to achieve?

DW: The goal that I set out for when I started doing this was that I wanted to be a household brand of hot sauce. I think I have a good one. It’s hotter than Sriracha. With Sriracha I felt like I had to use a lot of it. I wanted something that was a little more potent, but I also wanted to maintain a balance. Because all the hot sauces I had were really either super hot – like just going for novelty heat which I didn’t care for – or they were super vinegar-y. So I wanted something that was really flavorful and had a good heat level. I figured it should be something that I could make accessible to pretty much everyone. And it was a good hot sauce.

CR: I feel like there’s a war going on over who can make the spiciest sauce possible. Does it annoy you that people are trying to go for just heat instead of paying attention to how the sauce actually tastes?

DW: It doesn’t super annoy me because if that’s what they want to do, that’s fine. I don’t think there’s a huge market for that though. If I bought an ultra-spicy hot sauce then I would have it for years. It wouldn’t be something that I would need to buy again because I’m never going to need that much heat. Also I think extract tastes bad. But it doesn’t bother me that that’s what people want to do because that’s what they want to do and there’s a market for it, sure. But it’s more of a novelty thing. When I made the hot sauce for the first time, I made it because I wanted a hot sauce that I would like. I didn’t really like hot sauce at the time. I was pretty sheltered because I had only ever tried Tabasco, Cholula, and Sriracha. The ones at the grocery stores. The ones that everyone has. I didn’t really like any of them, so I went to make my own. I went off what I would like in a hot sauce and that’s what I came up with. The original was my dream, perfect hot sauce for me. What I like. I use it on pretty much everything. But if people want to make the super spicy ones more power to them. They’re going to sell less because there’s only so much that you can do with it. I can’t imagine that super spicy hot sauces are going to be around for that long or that it’s going to be a main business. There can’t be that much of a demand for it because you can’t use it that often.

CR: Do you think it’s difficult to achieve a good balance between heat and taste? How long did it take you to perfect the original sauce?

DW: Several years. It took me several years. I started out with peppers in my garden. I grew them for the first year and I didn’t know that they were all going to be ready at once, so I had too many and they were going to go bad if I didn’t use them. So that’s why I just threw them together from there. But after that I just kept experimenting and experimenting, and I finally came up with the new version. I still have the original bottles from the very first batches that I ever made. I just keep them in my closet to remind me. Maybe one day I’ll open them up.

CR: Which FYM sauce is your personal favorite?

DW: So the extra hot and the original are kind of what I use on everything. The green one is okay, but I’m more of a red sauce person. Right now I’m out of my own personal collection, so I use the original now. Sometimes I’ll throw the extra hot on something depending on what it is. I’m usually making new sauces all the time and trying them. I make a couple of gallons of hot sauce from my garden every year, and I use that throughout the year. I use that to try and test new types of recipes. I already have two more sauces I’ve already made that are really good. They’re based on beer. Those are in the process of being approved by the government now, but I’m going to have those out by mid-November. Late November at the latest. Those are super tasty.

CR: Did you see a sharp increase in orders once the sponsorship was announced?

DW: I definitely did see an increase in orders, yes. I got more traffic to my site than I’d typically had. I haven’t done too much advertising, and whenever I do advertising I end up selling a lot. But I hadn’t done too much advertising before that. I did see a significant increase in orders with people using the coupon code, “SupportNP.”

CR: Was it a challenge to make sure all the orders were shipped quickly?

DW: It is a challenge. I spent all my free time every day for four days just packing hot sauce. I had to do some family stuff in there too so it was very busy for a long time. It took a day longer than I had originally planned, but that was because I kept getting more orders at the same time.

CR: You must be extremely proud of Team NP as they recently qualified for the Boston Major. Does FYM have any plans to do a fan meetup or promotional event at the Major?

DW: I’m unsure at the moment. I haven’t talked about it yet because they only recently qualified, so we didn’t talk about what we would do after that. Are we going to do something? Probably. We definitely have talked about potentially doing something. What that is, we’re not sure. I will be going to Boston to support them and I want to do something while we’re out there.

CR: Any shout outs?

DW: Shout out to Team NP. They have gone way above and beyond with the hot sauce, and they’ve gone above and beyond with their play. They qualified for the Major in a very decisive fashion, and they’ve just been killing it. Good luck to all of them, and I hope they do well in the future.

Cover photo courtesy of Dane Wilcox