Mat Garthwaite has found himself at the helm of an Australian hot sauce empire. But his path hasn’t always been clear-cut.

“I didn't even like chilli when I was a kid,” he says. “Then as I got older, I got a taste for it and wanted more, as anyone that falls into it does.”

Formerly a touring DJ for Australian rapper 360, Garthwaite spent his early career travelling back and forth between Australia and New York, spending a few months at a time in each place. It was in New York that he got his first taste for specialty hot sauce.

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“There were lots of products available there that we didn't have in Australia at the time,” says Garthwaite. “It wasn't until I was living in New York and saw what was happening in the craft hot sauce scene that I thought, ‘One day I'd love to do something around that industry.’”

It remained a pipedream as he continued to pursue his music career, which almost saw him moving to the US permanently – until suddenly his visa option fell through and he was made redundant in the same week, giving him the push he needed to return to Australia and launch his brand.

“I ended up moving back in with my parents in Shepparton and starting the business from there,” he says. “I pretty much sat on my ass for like four months, building a website, writing product descriptions, creating the business and living off nothing.”

The shop began as an online operation specialising in sauces brought in from the United States. Though he already had enough US connections to stock his store, Garthwaite had his eyes set on the Hot Ones range (from the popular YouTube series of the same name). After he secured loan from CommBank, he was able to become the brand’s first Australian stockist.

"It is hard running a small business. A lot of people say starting is the hardest part but I think continuing is just as hard if not harder, because there's always a need for funding, be it for growth or inventory or staffing,” says Garthwaite “You've got to buy everything up-front and there's a very high minimum, so that loan helped us to secure a relationship with the supplier.”

At the same time, Garthwaite began to produce his own line of hot sauces, selling them online and at markets around Melbourne. Later, he launched his first physical retail store and hot sauce tasting room in Collingwood in 2021.

Along the way, Garthwaite was able to grow his business with further support from CommBank, after he received a loan from the bank.

“It helped with scaling the business as a whole, moving into a physical location, expanding our production with a manufacturer that we work with, staffing, and the opportunities that come with the business growth,” he says.

And he shows no signs of slowing. His primary focus at the moment is developing his house hot sauces, which have won several awards in Australia and the US.

“At this stage, the main goal is to expand the brand by releasing more of our own product and doubling down on our originals, which have become our bestselling products,” says Garthwaite.

There are also plans to expand the brand’s Melbourne presence and introduce physical shops in every major city. “We'd love to offer this kind of experience everywhere in Australia,” he says.

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