Today’s episode features Barbara Lezcano, owner of Sweet Babs© Sauce, a Mojo, multipurpose sauce. Barbara grew up in Miami and is the daughter of immigrants. She was adopted when she was 12 days old. She started Sweet Babs© Sauce as a way to share her family’s story and to “bring love to the table©” for families everywhere. Our interview goes over how she came up with the idea for the sauce, what the process is like to bring a food product to market, and why supporting small product-based businesses is so important.
Currently, Sweet Babs© consists of two sauces: Mama’s Mojo and Papa’s Mojo. The Mama’s Mojo sauce is based on her grandmother’s classic recipe, while the Papa’s Mojo is infused with ghost pepper for a bit of a kick. You can find her sauces at Chamberlin’s, Lucky’s Market, Ancient Olive, Petty’s Meats, Orlando Meats, and many other retailers in the Central Florida area.
1) Sweet Babs Sauce was a way to honor Barbara’s family.
Barbara grew up in a loving family that always welcomed others. It was lovingly referred to as the refugee house because whoever the person was could stay over and have a bed to sleep in if needed.
Part of that experience was gathering around the dinner table, spending time with friends and family as they all enjoyed the yummy food from the kitchen. One popular item in their house was her grandmother’s Mojo sauce. This is a sauce made from citrus, garlic, and spices that originated in the Canary Islands where Barbara’s grandmother was from.
Barbara found herself in her 30’s with no creative outlet and a need for some type of change. As she contemplated what to do, the idea of her family’s Mojo sauce kept popping up in her head. It was beloved by so many, and for years people kept telling the family to bottle the sauce and sell it. “A lot of our memories are embedded in food,” Barbara said. “It’s one of the most intimate ways you can nurture someone. “
So Barbara started exploring what it would take to build a company around her family’s recipe. “It started as a hobby,” Barbara told me, “but when I sat down at the dinner table to make a business plan, I realized for me it was all about that feeling I got.”
As she conducted market research, she discovered there really wasn’t anything like what she wanted to develop on the market. Most other sauces were filled with chemicals, and artificial flavors, but Barbara wanted to offer a product that was all-natural and allowed access for busy families to achieve a slow cook taste to their meals. “I could see a gap in the marketplace,” she said. “I could see people want to go back to slow cook taste with convenience.”
Barbara quickly realized that what she wanted to sell was a feeling to families. “It’s that feeling you get around the dinner table, those memories you make,” she said. “Our slogan is ‘bring love to the table’ for that reason.”
She decided to name the sauce Sweet Babs as an homage to her family. Babs is Barbara’s nickname, and Dulce, her family’s last name means “sweet” in Spanish. Sweet Babs was a reflection of all that history.
2) Going from an idea to an actual product is a lot of work.
The question Barbara gets most often from people is about how to take a recipe idea and turn it into a physical product. “Going from, hey, this is an idea, this is a concept in my head to a physical product on the shelf was decision fatigue,” Barbara told me.
First, Barbara recruited her father’s help, and the two of them spent a year developing the recipe to be ready for commercial production. To do this, Barbara reached out to her network and followed every lead she could. “Whether you’re a team of one or not, no one does things alone, ever,” she said.
Pretty quickly, Barbara realized she couldn’t make the sauce at home. She needed to figure out what she could concentrate on and where she would need to spend money. One of Barbara’s contacts in her network introduced her to a co-packer, a company that bottles sauces for commercial use. With that introduction, Barbara realized that her skill set was better utilized in the marketplace as the face of the company, and the sales force behind building relationships with customers instead of spending all her time in a commercial kitchen making the sauce.
Also, because Barbara didn’t have a background in food, she chose a manufacturer that has all the material, supplies, and could follow all the necessary laws that needed to be followed. That was something Barbara would have had to learn all herself, which would have taken a lot of time and a big learning curve to accomplish was she needed to do.
3) Following her passion inspired others in her family to do the same.
Barbara started this project as a hobby for a creative outlet. When her daughter was seven, she felt she had lost herself a bit and needed a way to find it again. “Following this rabbit hole was a part of my creativity. But following this rabbit hole was a way to show my daughter that she could do anything and she had her whole life ahead of her,” Barbara said. “I didn’t want her to lose touch with that, quite honestly.”
Another lesson Barbara wanted to teach her daughter was the importance of finding an identity outside your career. “What do you do is not a leading question because it doesn’t get to the heart of who you are,” she said.
A career was something she had put a lot of clout into making her identity about before she had a daughter, and she became a stay-at-home mom for a while. Her perspective definitely shifted after her daughter was born, and that led to Barbara reflecting on how she wanted to define her own identity.
As Barbara has grown Sweet Babs Sauce, her daughter has been watching, and now has little fear when it comes to her own entrepreneurial pursuits. She even raised over $100 in 90 minutes by selling lemonade for the homeless. Barbara told me she knows all this good comes as a result of Barbara not shielding her daughter from all the aspects of owning a business and following passions as an adult.
She also recognized that her pursuing her passions and building this business has pushed her mother and father too. While they don’t always understand everything Barbara is doing, she can see that as a result of following her passion, her parents are doing the same.
4) Supporting your small business community is extremely important.
“The bulk of the people that really make this community work are the small business owners,” Barbara told me.
When you support small businesses, it has such a multiplier effect in the community. That’s because small businesses are run by your neighbors and friends who live in your community. They are the innovators, the disruptors, and they help shape what the community you live in looks like.
Plus, when you support local businesses, the money goes back into your community in larger amounts than it would through a larger corporation. With the holiday season nearing, there will be many opportunities to buy gifts for all your loved ones from local artisans, makers, and food entrepreneurs. Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is always a great time to head out and see what great products you can get for loved ones this holiday season.
5) Listening to your inner voice is very important.
“All of us are perfect in our imperfections,” Barbara told me.
She believes we are all born perfect, even if that isn’t in the eyes of humanity specifically. However, it took her a long time to get to the point where she was able to believe that and follow her own voice.
Barbara tries to make sure she listens to that inner voice that tells her what she wants or needs. It took her a long time to realize, but she has great instincts and has learned it’s important to pay attention to them. She also looks at challenges and failures as a way to learn, and she wants to ensure she learns the right lessons so she doesn’t get herself back into the same situation again.
Another lesson Barbara has learned about herself is “big problems are relative,” she told me. “If you have a big problem, create bigger ones.”
For example, Barbara was having a hard time designing the labels. Instead of working on that project because it was burning her out, she decided to schedule tastings with potential store buyers. All of a sudden she now had timelines and deadlines to deal with, and the label issue did not seem like such a big problem anymore.
Creating bigger problems is one way Barbara is able to focus her perspective on the bigger picture, and to not let that inner voice bring her down when she might be a bad headspace.
About Barbara Dulce Lezcano
Adopted at birth by Cuban immigrants, Barbara was raised in Miami and studied Music Theater at New World School of the Arts, before giving up the arts to study Economics in Tallahassee. After almost 2 decades in finance, she moved to Orlando and yearned for more creativity. Barbara grew up eating Cuban food with a shovel, so when she sought to infuse purpose and heart into her work, Sweet Babs© was born.
Barbara founded Sweet Babs, a line of all-natural, vegan and gluten-free sauces based on her Cuban family’s classic recipes. By combining quality ingredients to create big flavor, Sweet Babs empowers you to bring love to the table, spend less time in the kitchen, and more time with your loved ones. They are available at retail stores throughout Florida and online for nationwide shipping.
Barbara is active in her community and serves on the Board of Directors for Harbor House of Central Florida, an organization that works to eliminate domestic abuse. She is a champion of women in leadership and promotes empowerment of women in all walks of life. She believes women supporting each other is a force to be reckoned with, and in leading by example. That begins at home, with her 7-year-old daughter, who has already deemed herself an artist. Lover of living-out-loud, music, and ice cream, Barbara is a lifelong writer, musician, and mom to a sprightly senior Maltipoo.