Kenya McRae

Kenya McRae

Carrying On the Family Secret

By Kara Kennedy

Kenya McRae hopes that her family secret keeps perfecting itself.  A few years ago, she decided that she wanted to leave a family legacy, so she decided to move back to her hometown, Huntsville, Ala., to start her family’s specialty foods company, McRae Foods.

“After I graduated from college, I moved to Virginia and I couldn’t find anyone who sold good barbecue,” said Kenya McRae, President and CEO of McRae Foods, Inc.  “So I taught myself how to barbecue, my mom would send me the sauce that she had made when I was growing up.   I had cookouts where I served my barbecue and sauce, and people told me I should bottle and sell it.”

Kenya wrote a business plan and as “they” say the rest is history, and in 2007 she became the CEO of McRae’s Foods.   The company specialty is Mama’s Backwoods Sauces. McRaes Foods’ focus is specialty and gourmet sauces. These barbecue/cooking sauces have a very distinctive, down-home, rich, spicy, sweet flavor.   The company currently has three masterfully crafted flavors – Original, Sweet ‘N Sassy, and Spicy. Kenya describes the sauces in her marketing materials as a sassy mix with sizzle. I asked her where the name for the sauces came from and she told me that the name is derived from her childhood hometown of Yantley, Ala.   Kenya added,  “The recipe was created by my mom Edna, and we lived so far back in the woods, that I decided to use that in the name.”    All humor aside, the recipe for the sauce is a secret that Edna has worked on for more than 40 years. She goes on to say: “Mama’s sauce has an inescapable flavor of silky sun-ripened tomatoes and peppers with a good lick of sweet, Southern hospitality as well as, a few of mama’s secret dashes of this and that mixed in to make the sauce magic.”

Kenya got some of her inspiration for starting her business, by attending Chick-Fil- A’s Leadercast Program.  The program, according to the Chick-Fil-A website was started by John C. Maxwell because he wanted to create a conference that was open to all leaders, no matter what level of leadership capacity they served in currently within their organization.  Business leaders can attend the conference in Atlanta or view live broadcasts in one of the host markets.  Those attending learn how to “indentify and develop” their own leadership voice, which is the voice of change that creates new possibilities, according to the description of the program.  This year’s Leadercast program is coming up May 6.    For Kenya, the Leadercast program has inspired her to become a leader in her community and to share what she knows.  “Maxwell’s basic philosophy is to inspire, encourage and promote leadership in your community, which is something that I hold in high regard for me and my company,” Kenya stated.   Participating and giving back to the community, she told me are a part of the McRae Foods’ corporate mission.

After participating in the Leadercast program it is no surprise that Kenya doesn’t mind sharing her story of how she got started in her business.  So earlier this month, she released a new book about her life, that includes failures, successes and the trials and tribulations that she went through to get to where she is in life.  Also included in the book, is the formula that she has discovered and that she has used as her secret for success.  The book How To Be Sweet, Spicy, S.A.U.C.Y and Successful: Secrets from the Frontlines of Specialty Gourmet Sauces chronicles Kenya’s life as well as talks about this formula. Being intrigued by the acronym S.A.U.C.Y in the title of her book, I asked her what it meant: S– Succeed on your own terms; A- Appreciate your God given talent; U – Understand the market; C– Cultivate your brand; Y – Your action plan for success.  Which in my opinion stresses Kenya’s motto of approaching business on your own terms and understanding within you, what will make you successful in business.

The McRae’s Foods website has all sorts of recipes for you to try out.  You also can join the mailing list and purchase all the varieties of Mama’s Backwoods Sauces.   As for advice for those who would like to go into business for themselves, Kenya simply states, “You must succeed on your own terms and never compromise on your own individuality.”

You also can find the sauces locally in Birmingham at Whole Foods and The Fresh Market.    To find out more information about Kenya’s company or to order online click here: Mama’s Backwoods Sauces.

One Response to “Kenya McRae”

  1. Kenya’s BBQ is the best I’ve even tasted. I am so proud of her and how she has allowed God to use her not only in creating the sauce but in just being an encouragement to others by letting them know that if you follow your derams and trust GOD, you can do ANYTHING. God bless you Kenya McRae!

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