In late July, the “For You” pages of many TikTok users were flooded with TikToks referencing some sort of “Pink Sauce Lady.” TikTok, a popular social media platform that many small businesses utilize for promotion, was filled with commentary, jokes, and reactions to Pink Sauce. On June 11, TikToker creator @Chef.Pii first posted a video of herself consuming the infamous Pink Sauce. Viewers were enamored by the vibrant color of the sauce and the video quickly went viral. Pii quickly capitalized on the success, began making more content with the sauce, and eventually started to sell the product. Unfortunately, the manner in which she conducted business rubbed many the wrong way.
Since the pandemic, there has been a significant rise in individuals starting small businesses. There are varying levels of small businesses, from dorm-room cookies to small storefronts with limited stock. The public opinion has also shifted in their favor. Many consumers no longer wish to shop at large conglomerates and prefer the intimacy of buying from small businesses. However, the issue with them in their early stages is the lack of regulation and unknown standards for safety and cleanliness.
Chef Pii, who has yet to respond to our request for a comment, has been a private chef in Miami for four years. Consumers trusted her culinary knowledge and bought the product. Upon its arrival, many noted significant issues and shared them on TikTok. Videos of Pink Sauces with inconsistent color, misprinted labels, and bloated or exploded bottles suddenly drowned Pii’s marketing. Improper production practices and violations of laws are to blame for most issues regarding Pink Sauce. Currently, the product is made at a facility, however, it is believed that the first batches were made in Pii’s home.
This violates Florida’s Cottage Laws which does not include sauce as a food that can be made at home. The lack of an established facility likely caused inconsistencies in appearance and misprinted labeling.
While in non-food-related business, this is usually not an issue, it is unacceptable in regards to food as it poses a health risk. Additionally, the improper packaging caused a select group of consumers’ merchandise to grow bacteria and spoil due to its milk content. The slew of Tik Toks documenting the product’s shortcomings and safety issues has caused irrevocable damage to the business and Pii’s reputation as an owner.
Some of these TikToks reached the “For You” pages of Howard University students who’ve weighed in on the situation. Noelle Bryant, a senior Business Management major, shared her concerns over the speed at which she presented her product to the public. “I think that she should’ve started off by doing a small test trial with a small group of people before making her sauce an actual product for people to purchase.”
Bryant commends Pii on her marketing capabilities, but notes how “…her packaging and color of her product was very confusing and not consistent.” Zaria Verdell, a junior Marketing major, comments on how this situation indicates a shift in the opinions of consumers and the free market. She shares her concerns that “How viral something goes online is beginning to replace actual proven legitimacy in products through testing and appropriate administrative approval.”
There was no shortage of criticism for Pii during her initial launch of Pink Sauce. People considered her to be irresponsible in how she conducted her business and production. In response to growing criticisms, Pii posted an apology to those negatively affected by Pink Sauce. With the apology, she gained sympathy and supporters as she addressed some of her mistakes as an entrepreneur. Although she remained the subject of public vitriol, Pii consistently posted on her social media and kept promoting her business, and maintaining a following.
Present day, the buzz around the topic has reduced drastically. While there are various opinions on the matter, the most productive one is to take this story as a cautionary tale for entrepreneurs.
Recently, Chef Pii has been able to partner with an established company, David’s Gourmet to release her sauce despite the controversy. The world is anticipating the public reaction to Pink Sauce’s availability in stores and how her business fares. Only time will tell if Pii has learned from her setbacks and how she will proceed in the future.
While the need to strike while the iron is hot is understandable to most, the fallout of lack of research and rushed production is far more costly than the potential profits. Chef Pii appealed to the conscience of the public by stating “I just need y’all to understand that this is a small business.” Pii comments in her livestream. “…this is every small business’s dream. Yes I thank God for everything that I have.” Although many seem sympathetic to her plight, only time can tell if it will be enough to sustain her business.