Ahssa Gourmet Sauce is a bona-fide hit. The Korean-style sauces are available at Walmart, on Amazon, and at Arizona gourmet grocery AJ’s Fine Foods. But owner Kay (Yun) Weldon has some regrets about how her company started.
“ I wish I had more brand research and the necessary connections early on,” she says now. She thinks she could have achieved that with networking. But her time to do reach out was limited -- when she launched Ahssa in 2016, a spin-off of a previous company, Yashi Fine Foods LLC, she was working full-time. She now wishes that she’d taken the plunge earlier to be fully committed to her own business from the beginning.
But Weldon was no newbie to the world of culinary entrepreneurship. Before she started Yashi in 2009, she owned a restaurant for a decade near her home base of Mesa, Arizona. “Over those 10 years, many customers and friends told me to bottle and sell my sauce,” she recalls.
Culinary amateurs aren’t the only people who love the fat-free sauces. When Welton first met with her co-packer, the company’s Cordon Bleu-trained corporate chef tried her product and told her, “I have been making chicken wings for a long time but yours taste much better.”
Ahssa, whose name comes from a Korean slang word that translates as “awesome,” currently offers seven flavors, including its very own gochujang, a sweet Korean hot sauce. What’s unique about Ahssa’s version is its lack of corn syrup, which is true across the brand. The rest of the sauces range from sweet-and-tangy to hot-and-spicy (and yes, there’s a Korean barbecue one for bulgogi buffs), and all are intended to be used on any protein, vegetable, or just rice. “My unique sauces are versatile for grilling, baking, marinating, stir fry, glazing, and dipping,” Weldon says.
Hers is a story not only of the American dream, but of a small family business made good. Weldon immigrated to the US in 1973, and her adopted country became the place where she got married, had two children, and grew her business. Her son is the force behind her active social media presence. She credits much of her company’s popularity online to Ahssa’s frequent posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. And that wild-haired logo? It was designed by her grandson when he was just nine.
Weldon proves that it’s never too late to start an ahssa new business. For a taste, visit ahssafoods.com.