Little Junior’s Gourmet Sauces:
My name is Riddell Fairfield, the founder and creator of Little Junior’s Gourmet Sauces. I came to California from Wisconsin with the intention, hope, and dream of expanding my Little Junior’s Gourmet Sauces (LJGS) business to the West Coast. I wanted to create a better life for myself and ultimately, my children. The Covid-19 pandemic was still looming when I got to Los Angeles in January 2021. My plan was to bring the sauces to local Farmer's Markets as I wanted to establish myself here like I was starting to do in Wisconsin. I didn’t know where to start but I knew I had to find a way to get my sauces into as many homes as possible and that started with customers tasting them. But the possibility of providing samples of the sauces was not safe or feasible as we were still in the midst of the pandemic.
I actually started LJGS back in my hometown of Milwaukee, WI back in 2012 as a passion project. I got inspired to create the LJGS brand and wanted to open a BBQ catering business. Growing up I was called Little Junior by my family and close friends hence the name Little Junior’s Gourmet sauces. I saw a need to bring food to an industrial park but I wanted to use my own sauces and recipes. So I started researching the process of finding ways of creating various sauces and flavor profiles. I wanted to create something different but also what customers wanted. I had my children and friends and family member's children taste test the sauces I was creating until I found the perfect blends.
I had worked in retail management for over 20 years and have always had an entrepreneurial mindset. My 20-year marriage was in trouble and I had to make a transition so in 2017 I stepped out on my faith and decided to concentrate on LJGS full-time. I was told on several occasions, “If you put this sauce in a bottle, I will buy it!” and that started my quest and journey. But I came across several adversities and challenges that I didn’t know how to overcome. I needed consistent bottling suppliers, fresh ingredients, marketing resources, and capital.
While in Milwaukee, I was trying to find a way to make money, build my brand, and network all at the same time. I was a one-man band in every way. My goal was to build the brand by awareness at Farmer’s Markets and eventually manufacturing the sauces for supermarkets, restaurants and with the vision of opening my own restaurant. I found some success in Milwaukee as I was a regular at several local Farmer's Markets. I started to feel like LJGS was a real business and had plans of going to bigger Farmer's Markets in different parts of the country. I also approached a couple of “mom-and-pop” stores and they contracted my sauces on their shorts shelves.
Just when I thought things were going in the right direction, in 2020 the pandemic hit my business hard as well as my marriage and I subsequently lost my hope and will to keep going. My 20-year marriage ended and I lost my family and my home. So my close cousin, who recently moved to California, reached out and told me to come and start over in Los Angeles. I didn’t know what to expect but anything was better than the pain and failure I was experiencing. So I prayed and packed up LJGS and moved to California. I was going to recreate the success I once had in Milwaukee with this new move.
However, in January 2021, we were all still dealing with the fallout of the pandemic and I needed to overcome the fears I was having of leaving my hometown of Milwaukee, being in a new city and state, and wondering if my sauces would ever be tasted and a success in California. The Farmer's Markets in Los Angeles were not as lucrative as I had hoped and my cousin wound up moving to Las Vegas and I was on my own. Soon my resources and the PP grant were depleted before I knew it due to the cost of living in Los Angeles which was more than I anticipated. The only car I had broken down for the last time and now I had no way to get around. This had me second-guessing if I could make it in California or at all. I had left my kids to pursue my dreams and nothing seemed to be working out.
At this point, I was trying to find a way to keep going and looking for resources to fund my LJGS business and get the LJGS brand out there. Then I found out that ride share offered rental cars for drivers. So I started renting a car and driving for one of the biggest ride-share companies in Los Angeles to help keep a roof over my head. This gave me the flexibility to pay my bills and also come across networking opportunities for LJGS. I have been able to meet all types of people who encouraged me to keep going with my LJGS business. I was also encouraged to give samples to those interested in tasting great sauces and those I could network with.
It has been a challenging last few years, but I am finally making some strides again with LJGS. Taking care of myself through life’s challenges has been extremely hard to overcome and though LJGS has been a blessing and changed my life for the better, I hope to gain new ground and profits in the coming new year. My vision is back on track to be a part of larger Farmer's Markets and manufacturing LJGS to be on the shelves of supermarkets and a variety of stores across California, America, and beyond.