Iman McDonnaugh-Brown ’12 Com works as a fashion model, but she always wanted her own business. She didn’t know what that might be until 2017, when her grandma cooked up a delicious Trinidadian pepper sauce that McDonnaugh- Brown had never tasted before. Her husband, Ryan Brown ’13 A&A, who was on active duty in the Navy at the time, agreed to be her business partner, and after a time spent learning the process from her grandma and testing out various batches on friends, the Browns launched Grandma’s Trini Pepper Sauce in 2018 under their brand name, We Are Wonderfully Made. By making the sauce in their kitchen and manufacturing it through a co-packing company, the Browns can now produce in bulk and sell their sauces via subscription-based services such as Bespoke Post and Fuego Box, as well as at several retail outlets in Southern California, where they live.
The hot sauce market is not easy to break into, but Brown says it’s rare to find Trinidadian hot sauces, which are quite different from the more common Jamaican varieties. “Ours are made with fresh peppers, lime, green papaya, chayote, and other natural ingredients,” he says. “We are all about a great flavor to complement your meals.”
While building their company, Brown—a Navy lieutenant who is working toward a Penn State master’s degree in corporate innovation and entrepreneurship—serves as a surface warfare officer based in San Diego, while McDonnaugh-Brown continues to model. “I love that I found this passion from my family, and it’s fulfilling to share it with people who don’t know much about the Caribbean,” she says. “And you know, I had to get my grandmother’s approval. Our first bulk production run was in January 2020—we started with 900 bottles, we sold out, and she said, ‘You did good.’” —Parizaad Khan-Sethi