Associate professor of Bible Mac Sandlin partners with the Waldron Center to connect students with his hot sauce business.
Associate professor of Bible Dr. Mac Sandlin is known for many things, including his southern drawl, flowing locks, and passion for teaching in the College of Bible and Ministry. But people may not know about his entrepreneurial side, which manifests itself in his homemade, locally sourced hot sauce. Sandlin began his hot sauce journey when he gifted a batch to his brother-in-law, who loves spicy food.
“I like to cook, and I like to be creative in my cooking, so I thought “I’m going to make some hot sauce for my brother in law,’” he said.
Sandlin’s first attempt at the sauce was, in his own eyes, a failure, but it only set his sights for greatness.
“It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good; that made me angry, because I had failed to make good hot sauce,” Dr. Sandlin said.
Determined to make a better product, Dr. Sandlin began to research the craft.
“I started reading about it and trying a whole lot of different hot sauces and reading about peppers and capsaicin levels, and I really got into it,” he said.
Eventually, he settled with a chipotle sauce, which favors a smokey taste. His base sauce is called “2 Dollar Pistol,” and it utilizes several unique ingredients in addition to peppers, such as orange juice, garlic and vinegar.
“When you go buy hot sauce at the store, it’s going to be made of chili powder, water, vinegar and salt, but I wanted mine to be more complex,” Dr. Sandlin said.
But what is a hot sauce without peppers? Sandlin sources his most important ingredient from his dad, Mr. Don Sandlin, who grows them in his home garden in Beebe, Arkansas.
“We usually plant jalapenos, habaneros, ghost peppers and cayenne, and Mac makes different flavors of sauce out of the different peppers,” Mr. Sandlin said.
The Sandlin sauce lineup includes Baby Dragon, 2 Dollar Pistol and Arkansas in August, each one increasing in spice level.
“Baby Dragon is made from cayenne, 2 Dollar Pistol is made from jalapeno, and the hotter ones like Arkansas in August are made from habanero and ghost peppers,” Mr. Sandlin said.
Once the recipes and supply of ingredients were established, Sandlin began the process of selling the sauce. He was initially thwarted by Arkansas’s Cottage Food Act, which required a license for selling hot sauce. For the time being, Sandlin decided to give his concoction away to close friends and family, chalking it up to a low-key side gig. He soon gained a cult following.
“So it’s right before Thanksgiving break, and I put a Facebook post out and was like “Hey, if you’re looking for a stocking stuffer, I’ll sell you a bottle of hot sauce for $10.” And then my phone started blowing up.” Sandlin said.
Sandlin sold 80 orders that day, giving his hobby potential to become a venture.
“I was like shoot, this is a business now,” he said.
He continued to market his blooming business under the radar on Facebook, polling his followers for branding ideas.
“I didn’t have a name for my base sauce, so I went on Facebook and said “whoever comes up with the best name for my business gets a free bottle,” and my friend from high school referenced the old George Jones song lyric “she was hotter than a two dollar pistol.”’
The lyric references how a cheap pistol gets hot in your hand.
“I was like, that’s it, that’s the name,” Dr. Sandlin said.
In addition to his social media following, Dr. Sandlin got his students involved with the sauce. He hired one of his students, Cade Williams, to design the logo.
Eventually the Cottage Act law changed, adding hot sauce to the list of non-licensed foods. Soon after, Sandlin obtained access to a commercial kitchen and began to wholesale his sauces at the Good Measure Market.
On November 11, 2022, Sandlin partnered with the Waldron Center to broaden his reach to the younger population. He cooked a large batch of 2 Dollar Pistol flavored chili to be served to students, and sold his sauce for a student discount.
Students left impressed with the unique flavor of the sauce, which excellently complimented the chili.
“Mac delivered with his chili and 2 Dollar Pistol hot sauce combo. It was some of the best chili I have ever eaten in my life,” senior Steve Butterfield said.
Some students liked the product enough to buy multiple bottles. Freshman Priscilla Grace, whose family uses 2 Dollar Pistol at home, came home with ten bottles of Sandlin’s sauce.
“I like the medium one the best, but they all taste better than the other hot sauces I’ve had before,” said Huff.
Sandlin’s product is another perfect example of how entrepreneurs from the Bible department have connected with the community in the business department. Senior Courtney Eby, owner and creator of the bakery start-up The Brek Boss, has seen the fruits of interdepartmental collaboration.
“It has been so enriching to see a community blossom between The Brek Boss and the business department. It seems as though every person in the department is rooting for us as we embark on these endeavors,” Eby said.
The Waldron Center learned a lot from this saucy collaboration. As it turns out, Bible scholars make great entrepreneurs, and Sandlin’s sauce really is hotter than a two dollar pistol.