Smith House Manufacturing: Pivoting with the Community
An introduction to Monkey Spit/Smith House Manufacturing
Paul Smith is an entrepreneur with various backgrounds from singing/songwriting to emergency medicine. Perhaps having such diverse experiences is what enabled him to roll with the curve balls that life threw at him and make the best out of any circumstance.
For instance, when he found himself broke and back home on the Central Coast, he took the ingredients he had available and threw them together to make a meal. When he realized it was not edible in its original format, he pivoted, and made it into a new product. That product became Monkey Spit Hot Sauce, and he started sharing it with friends across the country while working on an ambulance, and gigging around the state. People liked it, and he kept getting requests for more. So, he obliged, and eventually started selling it in 2008 after investing his savings into the business.
As production grew, Paul tried outsourcing the manufacturing to a co-packer in Nevada. He was not pleased with the changes in quality that the company made, so he decided to keep production in house which led to the birth of Smith House Manufacturing. The facility is able to bottle not only Monkey Spit Hot Sauce, but other jam, jelly, and canned products that various entrepreneurs want to get to market. Paul and his wife Karen are happy to support other local businesses through this unique service.
“It was a mistake. I made a soup with my parents’ peppers and got about 5 tablespoons of it down but it was way too hot. So I got some corn chips and cheddar cheese, grated it and melted it and put the soup on top. I realized it wasn’t a soup, it was a hot sauce.” - Paul Smith
In 2017 Monkey Spit needed space to start processing their own product. There was an opportunity to fix up a building that the Nipomo VFW was taking over. It needed quite a bit of renovation before they would be able to use it. Paul had been volunteering for the VFW for some time, and they approached him to ask if the space would work for the expanding business.
“It needed a lot of work. It’s over 100 years old and it’s crooked, and not square. It needed a lot of construction. We needed funding in order to fix it up and get it back up to code.” - Karen Smith
The Slow Money SLO Solution
Karen knew that the business could use the support of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and set Paul up to present the business plan to the group. That’s where Karen met Jeff Wade (Founder/Executive Director Slow Money SLO), who kept in touch as the business grew, and eventually approached them about a lending project to get Smith House Manufacturing propelled to the next level. Through both a Kiva loan and a Slow Money SLO facilitated loan, the Smith’s were able to raise the funds required to update the old building.
“Jeff is a great mentor to Paul and he approached us about starting off our business on the co-packing side and this building would allow us to do that.” - Karen Smith
Monkey Spit has been operating out of Smith House Manufacturing for going on 4 years now. Being the only co-packer along the coast for hundreds of miles, they are able to offer a unique service to many small food entrepreneurs who want to control their product while scaling their businesses up to reach a wider audience. Paul and Karen are glad to be able to assist other food businesses like this and have found that, even through the COVID-19 pandemic, they are still getting new customers on the manufacturing side, and repeat customers on the hot sauce side. Being a food manufacturer means their business is essential and therefore the State was clear that they could keep running. The pair are grateful for the dedicated community of San Luis Obispo county that supports local businesses constantly. They continue to look for ways to give back and express their appreciation, especially for those who were not able to keep their businesses open during the pandemic.
“We are the only co-packer from Santa Paula to Salinas. It’s a small mom & pop business, we try to do the best we can. We have (and I mean this in a nice way) some crazy customers who will go to any length they can to get our product if they really want it. During the darker times of COVID we gave out a free bottle of hot sauce with every order to say thank you, we appreciate you.” - Paul Smith
What’s next for Monkey Spit & Smith House Manufacturing
Paul and Karen continue to manufacture products for new businesses at their facility in Nipomo, bottle their own hot sauces and jellies, and bottle Splash Cafe’s hot sauce as well. Whenever new customers come to ask about building their business, the Smith’s are quick to advise that they go through the process of presenting to the SBDC to get connected to business resources like advising, mentoring, funding connections, and/or Slow Money SLO. They know the growth of these young businesses as essential to fostering the local food community in SLO County, which is why they have also recently started a fulfillment service. Smith House Manufacturing will store and ship products (not just food products) from their warehouse space for small businesses that want to break into ecommerce, but don’t have the facility from which to do so. Yet another way that this local business is supporting other local businesses!
You can find Monkey Spit Hot Sauce and Smith House Manufacturing services on their website, at their retail location in Nipomo at 146 A South Thompson Avenue, and on the shelves at local shops like Farm Supply, Avila Barn, El Rancho in Santa Ynez, and others.
If you are a small business owner wondering what your next steps are to grow your business, take a look at our Resource Room to find information on commercial kitchen rentals, co-packing, county health department information, and more!