What’s the weirdest food combo you’ve ever heard of? Is it as strange as hot chocolate with cheese, as soggy as pizza dipped in soda, or as sweet as fries drizzled with pancake syrup? Now, what about sneakers and hot sauce? They may not sound that appetizing together, but one man’s obsession with this uncanny combination began the creation of a spicy hot flavor you’ll definitely get the kick out of.
Before everything started, there was just Varian David, a sneaker enthusiast who liked to rock a fresh pair of kicks while eating food with a little extra kick. You see, Varian loves hot sauce, and by that, I mean he loves it. “I was going through hot sauce like I was drinking water and I was spending a lot of money just making sure I was keeping up the supply. I have a bottle of hot sauce in my backpack at all times. I also have a squeeze water bottle at home that I fill with hot sauce, which I use for cooking purposes.”
Refusing to sacrifice his savings or his hot sauce, he decided to make his own that won’t break the bank and will satisfy his taste buds. And from that little recipe he found online, with a few tweaks here and there, and the accumulation of all the interesting and happy accidents of the past seven years has led to the KickswithVeeHots sauce everyone knows and loves.
Varian worked as an independent contractor up until the beginning of this year, but because of the global pandemic, everything came to a halt. “Covid gave me the time and space I needed,” he said. “Coincidentally prior to it, I was working on a production job for a major company and had my own hot sauce while we were at lunch. A few of the guys there asked if they could try it and they all loved it. I suppose that stuck and it was the needed motivation for me to take that leap forward.” And with that leap forward, KickswithVeeHots was born.
“KickswithVeeHots is a hot sauce brand. A friend of mine that created the platform Sneaker History and the Sneaker History podcast dubbed it possibly the first-ever sneaker-inspired hot sauce [brand].” The unique name of the business came about because of Varian’s love for both sneakers and hot sauce. “It started with my Instagram sneaker account name @KickswithVee, and I love wordplay so this plays into both sneakers and the kick you get from the hot sauce and spicy foods in general,” he added.
When creating his hot sauce, Varian boasts, “I like to make my sauces what they are supposed to be. Meaning, if I'm giving you a habanero hot sauce, the main ingredient is habanero. Not a mix of different peppers.”
“Secondly, most of my hot sauces are fermented. It takes me about 2 -21/2 months to get a batch ready. So, it takes time and care to make sure everything goes correctly because there are only a few things I can personally control and everything else is left to time and nature. Lastly, all my sauces are handcrafted, small-batch, and artisan-made. They are not just marketing buzzwords, trust me, a lot of time and care has gone into every bottle.”
Currently, KickswithVee Hots has three products that feature the three habanero based fermented hot sauce flavors. The Habanero, the original, is a “One Size Fits Most”, which pairs well with almost everything, the Mango Habanero, and the Pineapple Habanero.
“The Mango and Pineapple flavors bring that tropical feel and sweetness, that many people are also familiar with. A lot of people look at me funny when I say habaneros are naturally sweet, once you get past the heat, so pairing my sauce with those tropical fruits was a no brainer.”
Varian also plans to launch a Carolina Reaper edition of the sauce. “The Carolina Reaper sauce won't be fermented...or at least for the moment. I might try and make a fermented version at some point.”
There’s much to look forward to as he expresses his excitement over the last sauce that he can’t disclose just yet. “It’s going to catch them off guard.”
Seven years ago, he began his hot sauce journey with one online recipe. Seven years from now, Varian hopes the business continues growing and, who knows, become the next Sriracha success story.
To those who aspire but are hesitant to start their own business, Varian says, “Don’t overthink things. It’s the one major thing I do on a consistent basis, which has hindered me many times over. However, starting KickswithVeeHots was one of the first times I said screw it and went with it. If you have a proof of concept or are getting a lot of positive feedback with what you’re doing, go for it. It may not necessarily be the thing that you make a living out of, but it could also turn into a successful side hustle that makes life easier for you.”
So, want to make the most out of life? Don’t be afraid to add some spice.