Today, his company offers frog jam, elderberry elixir and elderberry jam (all labeled as “Miss Henrietta’s”), along with 14 other products that generally reflect the flavors he enjoyed growing up in Savannah.
Roberson didn’t start out to build a food-based business, but food was always in the background.
He traveled to Australia as a civil site project manager to work on wastewater treatment plants, where he discovered freshwater crawfish that grow to the size of a lobster. After negotiating with the Georgia Department of Agriculture, he was able to import 25 crawfish to Georgia, and began raising them and learning about aquaculture. He’s had successes and failures in his experiments with temperature and environment, but he continues to work on the process, and hopes one day to be marketing the crawfish as Georgia “freshwater lobster.”
When he tried a blueberry vinaigrette at a restaurant, he came home and started tinkering in the kitchen to develop his own recipe. “It was not a success,” he said. “My version tasted like blueberry cough syrup. So, you get some failures, but you hold on to the ones that work out.”
Something that did work out was his line of “zombie” hot sauces in three strengths. “A friend who is an avid fan of ‘The Walking Dead’ told me I had to do something that would appeal to all those zombie fans,” Roberson said. “I came up with hot sauce in three levels, ranging from the mildest, Zombie Psychedelic, to the hottest, Zombie Armageddon.”
The hot sauce project started when he was given 20 pounds of habanero peppers from the experimental gardens at the Armstrong campus of Georgia Southern University. “I’m working with them on our aquaculture project,” he said, “and they use the waste water from the tanks where they grow tilapia to grow peppers and other vegetables in a soilless environment.”
That hot sauce led to salsa, which led to ketchup ... Roberson always is working on the next great idea.
He was able to get his products into the Savannah Whole Foods Market by writing an essay on why his sauce should be in that store. His pitch accepted, he went to the store every single day to give out samples and build up interest. “I was there every day, as if I was an employee,” he said. “I remember the very first person who made a purchase, and the confidence she gave me.”
“Give back and lift someone up” is Roberson’s motto, and that led him to create Tiger’s Awesome Sauce, a project done in conjunction with Savannah State University. “I remember looking for my first job,” he said. “I bought a new suit, did the interview, and the gentleman was nice, told me he liked my energy, but he wouldn’t hire me, because I didn’t have any experience. I knew one day I wanted to be in the position to give college students business experience, so they wouldn’t have to overcome that hurdle.”
He ended up creating TigerCo Marketing, with the goal that students will go through a four-year program and be able to leave with four years of business experience. The revenue from sales goes back to the university’s College of Business Administration, to fund microloans for those students, and to help them start their own businesses after they graduate.
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