What ignited the spark in you to start your business? Tell us the story of how you and your business idea first met!
As a Christmas gift in 2015, I made a Hot Southern Honey (pure, natural Virginia wildflower honey infused with red chili peppers) and packaged it in 8 oz bottles. In February and March of 2016, I started receiving calls from friends exclaiming how much they loved my Hot Southern Honey, how they used it on everything, and how much they wanted more! They kept asking me where they could purchase it. I shrugged off their requests at first and asked them to wait until next Christmas! Into June, the calls kept coming. I realized there was sufficient interest to warrant executing a proof of concept effort.
What are the principles, values, or motto behind your business? What impact do you want to have on the Richmond community?
I love the energy, fun, and creativity alive and well in the food and beverage scene in Richmond. Much of this is fueled by desire to partake in low profile, locally sourced, healthy, artisan products. In a larger sense, I want to be recognized as “The Sweet Heat of the South,” and I want the complexity of my #sweetheat to influence menu and cocktail choices far and wide. However, it all comes back to Richmond and Virginia, where the concept of Hot Southern Honey drizzled on fried chicken lights faces up!
What has been your most satisfying moment in business so far?
After spending months getting my product and operation organized and legitimized... then pulling a full all-nighter producing that first large-scale commercial batch... and taking MUCH longer than I anticipated... I had an “ah sh*t” moment where I wondered “what in the world have I gotten myself into?” Yet, as I carried on and announced on the @AmesHotSouthernHoney Facebook page that my #sweetheat was ready and available, my Facebook page lit up like a Christmas tree. It was very affirming, and I was on my way to begin proving the concept.
Did you grow up in Richmond? What’s your attachment to the city? What’s your favorite part about Richmond?
The first four generations of Russell’s lived in the Shenadoah Valley and then migrated on to Ohio, California, and beyond. 26 years ago, I met my wife in Central Park in NYC. She grew up in Richmond. Coincidentally, a job brought me here and her home - much to the joy of her parents. Apart from the burgeoning food and beverage culture of Richmond, I love its proximity to the Bay (where we have a house), to Tidewater, and to the mountains, where I frequently hike and camp.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve been told people enjoy your Hot Southern Honey on?
It is AWESOME on so many things, and I’ve heard some really terrific ideas. Over the holidays, I was at a party. I was introduced to a woman (as Ames, of course), and she asked, “Are you Ames of Ames’ Hot Southern Honey?!” When I confirmed it, her level of excitement bordered on agitation. I asked her the same question, “What’s the best thing you’ve put my Hot Southern Honey on?" To which she practically screamed, “a SPOON!!"
Ha! We love that. Thanks so much, Ames, for joining the RVA to Go team and sharing your story!
RVAers... want some #sweetheat? Try an RVA box with it!