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The Self-Made Man: David Tran

Huy Fong Foods—makers of Sriracha hot sauce—isn’t your typical start-up business. They don’t have an official Facebook page or Twitter account, they don’t seek out much press, and they don’t even advertise their hot sauce beyond a plain-spoken website. In a business climate that preaches nonstop consumer outreach, Huy Fong stands calmly aloof from their customers, happy to just make their famous hot sauce and let their reputation spread by word-of-mouth.

Fans of Sriracha aren’t shy about literally singing the sauce’s praises either, if this terrible fan-made rap song is any indication.

But despite the company’s unorthodox relationship with the public, Huy Fong Foods founder David Tran is an entrepreneur if there ever was one, and his success story is a testament to how much one can achieve through hard work and a quality product.

Tran was born in Vietnam, and became a sauce maker in the mid-1970s, selling an oil-based sauce made with peppers from his older brother’s farm. He bottled this sauce in recycled baby food jars scavenged from U.S. military bases and sold them through local distributors. HYPERLINK “″According to Gold Sea, it gained local notoriety as an ideal condiment for roast dog. Better hope PETA never hears about that one.

Unfortunately, Tran’s Chinese ancestry made his life difficult in Vietnam, so he saved up enough money to buy space for himself and his family aboard a Taiwanese freighter called the Huy Fong, which took them to America. After initially landing in Boston, Tran and his family moved to Los Angeles, where Tran started making his current Sriracha by hand in his tiny office and selling it out of his van.

Tran’s goal wasn’t to make money, although he has, but to make really good hot sauce; in his opinion, American hot sauce was terrible. He also wanted to make something as ubiquitous as ketchup, something that people reached for without thinking because it made food taste better.

Curiously, Tran didn’t think his sauce would sell to anyone besides other Asian immigrants, but once it did, he kept his company’s growth slow and steady by keeping prices low. Tran hasn’t changed his wholesale prices in 30 years, and Sriracha is about $4 per 28-ounce bottle.

Tran doesn’t compromise on his ingredients, either. His packaging suppliers tried to get him to change it for American customers’ tastes, and Tran’s response was “hot sauce must be hot. If you don’t like it hot, use less…we don’t make mayonnaise here.”

David Tran’s success was built on determination and a quality product, both of which are highly endorsed by TSB as ways of making your mark as an entrepreneur. We also endorse Sriracha when you have a cold, because it clears you out like nothing else on this planet.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at

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