When qvc shuffled off to Buffalo during its "Quest for America's Best" tour last year, it took a fledgling business under its wing. Within five minutes on the home shopping channel, 7,000 bottles of Buffalo-Style Authentic Chicken Wing Sauce were sold, giving three New York entrepreneurs the break they were looking for.
"It opened a lot of doors for us," says Sasha Yerkovich, co-founder of Buffalo Style Foods Inc. "The sauce sold out in five minutes. We were delirious!"
But Sasha isn't counting her chickens before they're hatched; she and the other two founders have kept their day jobs. Walter Zoladz III, 35, who created the sauce in 1986, is an independent landscaper who marketed the sauce on his own for a while, selling a few hundred cases a month to local supermarkets from his Buffalo home.
When Sasha and her husband, Edward, moved to New York in 1993 and reunited with Zoladz, a childhood friend, they immediately recognized the potential for forming a team. "We have complementary skills that cover every aspect of the business," explains Sasha, who is an advertising sales director for a magazine in addition to handling advertising, public relations and marketing for Buffalo Style Foods. Edward, a TV writer, had researched mail order businesses for several years, looking for the right product.
But the sauce barely came together in time for its QVC debut. The product was designed, bottled and labeled in the two weeks prior to going on the air.
"It was a hellish two weeks," recalls Sasha. "We had to hand-label 14,000 bottles. A big shipment of glass broke. It was mass hysteria. But everybody around here kind of pitched in."
The trio's efforts paid off. Sasha says they've recouped their start-up costs, and the QVC exposure spiced up their 1995 Christmas sales.
Their first taste of success has left the partners hungry for more. "The second phase is to place the product in gourmet food stores," says Sasha. Having garnered shelf space in two large Buffalo gourmet stores, the threesome's business is poised to take flight.