<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1721686861413852&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Small Business Success Story: Sue Gee's Sauces

Posted by PCC Small Business Development Center on May 21, 2024
Sue Gee's Sauces: A Multigenerational Culinary Legacy
In this video, Sue Gee Lehn and Kim Lehn, owners of Sue Gee's Sauces, discuss their entrepreneurial journeys and the support provided by the PCC SBDC along the way. Read more below:

The Inspiration Behind Sue Gee’s

Sue Gee’s Sauces is a testament to the power of passion, family, and resilience. The business journey began as a personal project to bottle and market the beloved homemade hot sauce, Oh Baby! Hot Sauce, created by Sue Gee Lehn. This addictive combination of spicy and sweet flavors has been a staple at their family restaurant, the Cameo Cafe, for years. Kim Lehn, Sue Gee’s daughter, recognized the potential and embarked on this journey in 2022 to share her mother’s culinary magic with a broader audience. As Kim reflects, "I soon realized I was involved in a bigger endeavor to share my mom’s story and the joy she finds in sharing the food she makes - not to mention the joy it brings to others."

Embracing the Joy of Food and Family

Sue Gees LogoSue Gee’s brand is more than just a line of sauces and spices; it’s a story of a Korean immigrant who built a successful restaurant chain and product line against all odds. Sue Gee’s love for cooking, entertaining, and being with people and family is at the heart of everything she does. Despite over 30 years in the restaurant business, Sue Gee continues to thrive, greeting customers and sharing her delicious creations. The excitement today lies in expanding their product range and bringing Sue Gee's sauces and spices to retail stores for everyone to enjoy. Kim shares, "What’s exciting is that over 30 years in the restaurant, Sue Gee is still in her happy place greeting customers and sharing her food as well as sauces and spices, and now they are also in retail for others to enjoy."

Overcoming Initial Challenges

Before seeking assistance from the PCC Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Kim faced significant challenges in bringing Sue Gee's recipes to market. Despite their restaurant success, the process of getting a food product retail-ready was entirely new. The complexities of regulatory requirements, product stability, labeling, and market pitching were daunting. With Sue Gee managing the Cameo Café in Portland and Kim living on the East Coast with a full-time job, finding the time and resources to start this new venture was a considerable hurdle. Kim recounts, "We had talked about wanting to do this for a decade and did not know the first thing about the different regulatory steps needed to get a food product for retail sale in grocery stores particularly as it is quite different than the food service industry."

Support from PCC SBDC

The transformative support came through the Getting Your Recipe Market (GYRM) training program offered by the PCC SBDC. Kim participated remotely, which allowed her to balance her full-time job while gaining essential knowledge and skills. Getting Your Recipe Market provided invaluable insights into cost management, regulatory compliance, ingredient sourcing, and business best practices. The program also connected Kim with a supportive community of food entrepreneurs and advisors, culminating in a soft pitch to retail stores for feedback. Kim emphasizes, "GYRM, along with business advising from SBDC advisors that helped us refine our brand and communication strategy, allowed us to get some additional feedback, modify and refine our next steps, and position us for a real pitch later on."

Achieving Milestones with SBDC’s Help


With guidance from the PCC SBDC, Sue Gee’s transformed from a concept to a thriving brand by refining their branding strategy to stand out in a saturated market, adapting their recipes, and identifying potential co-packers to manage production. These crucial steps were necessary for their retail launch. The methodical approach and mentorship provided by the PCC SBDC helped them set and achieve realistic goals, leading to their products being available in all 11 Market of Choice stores, Wellspent Market, and MadeHere within just a year. Kim proudly states, "In a little over a year, we went from having sauce and spice flavors we knew would be loved to actually having it available in retail for others to try and enjoy."

Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Kim and Sue Gee’s journey highlights the importance of leveraging available resources and seeking expert advice. They encourage other small business owners to take advantage of the opportunities offered by organizations like the PCC SBDC. Kim advises, "Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. SBDC offers a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and resources. They have a fantastic network of advisors who want to help you succeed, and you can succeed if you believe in yourself, listen to their advice, dig in, and put in the time and effort to make it happen."

Sue Gee and Kim’s story is a vibrant example of how family, tradition, and community support can come together to create something truly special. Their journey from a beloved family recipe to a retail success story is an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs everywhere.

Ready to Ignite Your Entrepreneurial Journey with the PCC SBDC?

Are you ready to embark on your entrepreneurial journey, or are you seeking support to take your small business to new heights? The PCC SBDC is here to help. Reach out to us, and let your journey begin. Jimin's story is just one example of the countless success stories our clients have created. Embrace the joy of entrepreneurship and create your unique path to success!


Want to learn more about how the PCC Small Business Development Center can help you start or grow your business?



SBA logoBusiness-Oregon-logoPrograms and services are provided to the public on a non-discriminatory basis. Language assistance services are available for limited English proficient individuals. Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Please contact us at 971-722-5080 or sbdc@pcc.edu, to request accommodations. Oregon Small Business Development Centers are funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the Oregon Business Development Department.


Topics: Small Business, Business Profiles, Business, Starting a Business, Growing a Business, Restaurants, Advanced Small Business Management =

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all