Hyundai is on a mission to get drivers to transition to electric vehicles (EVs).

In 2023, the multinational automotive manufacturer launched the first-ever, all-electric 2023 IONIQ 6.

The award-winning car features Bluelink, digital key two touch, an in-car WiFi hotspot, and more. Additionally, the IONIQ 6 has an ultra-fast charging time of going from 10% to 80% in less than 18 minutes.

Hyundai aims for the target buyer of the IONIQ 6 to be Millennial professionals in urban areas looking to go against the status quo by being behind the wheel of an EV without altering their lifestyle. 

Further tapping into supporting its multicultural audience, Hyundai created the Progress Project, which awards local Black-owned businesses near the Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America in Savannah, GA.

One of the grant recipients was Michael Roberson.

Photo Credit: Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

As the owner of the Savannah Sauce Company, Roberson had a more unconventional path of stepping into the food industry.

After being burned out from working in civil site development, the founder ventured into academics at a university. However, he didn’t feel “good enough” and faced other issues with his employer.

For nearly nine months, Roberson searched for a new position without any luck. The tiring hunt steered him in a different direction — becoming his own boss. 

Savannah Sauce Company is inspired by Roberson’s grandmother, Henrietta Smith, who survived the Great Depression. The economic recession led her to can her own goods including the fruit from the trees she grew in her backyard.

Roberson began to make cold calls, seeking support. Although he received quite a number of hard rejections, he was persistent, which led him to his first “yes.” 

“One guy he asked me, ‘Are you crazy?,'” Roberson recalled to AfroTech. “Then, I go, ‘Well, we all are just a little bit.’ And that got a laugh out of him. Then, that opened up the conversation.”

He continued, “He said, ‘I’ll get you one sauce in one store.'”

Writing an essay on how food brings people together and shows who they are is what led Roberson to secure a retail partner.

Initially, he sold someone else’s product at  Whole Foods Market, where he served samples to customers. Although he had earned himself a win, sales weren’t coming in at the time.

 Miraculously, on the day that Roberson planned to officially call it quits, a woman tried a sample of his hot sauce. It reminded her of her father’s and she bought six bottles. The sale not only excited him but set the trajectory for more interested customers.

While on cloud nine, he abruptly hit a low after having to recall his supplier’s products due to mold. He was given 14 days to get new products up and running. The setback led to him selling his own sauces, which he funded with his savings.

Right on the deadline, he had his sauces on the store’s shelves.

Now, fast forwarding to today, Roberson’s sauces went from being in one store to being available for purchase in over 100 Whole Foods Markets.

“I would’ve never imagined being in this space at all,” Roberson expressed.

Savannah Sauce Company’s products include jams, hot sauces, ketchup, BBQ sauces, marinades, and more. One of the jams comes from Roberson’s childhood. His grandmother made him sandwiches with what she called frog (figs, raspberries, oranges, and ginger) jam.

Along with the Progress Project donating $15,000 to the Savannah Sauce Company, it helped Roberson achieve his longtime dream of creating his own ice cream with his grandmother’s frog jam recipe. In addition, there are a total of four different flavors.

“In honor of Hyundai, a South Korean-based company, we are also making a mochi-flavored ice cream,” he detailed.

While Roberson’s dreams have come true, there’s a bigger overall mission for his company. Savannah Sauce Company founded TigerCo Marketing, which allows Savannah State University students to be a part of running the company. The intent was that by the time they graduate, they already have work experience under their belt as well. Plus, revenue from the sauce is converted back to the school to create micro-grants to help them start their own businesses.

What’s more, according to the company’s website, profits from sales go to homeless veterans and creating “tiny homes” for them in sustainable communities.

In the near future, Roberson hopes for Savannah Sauce Company to expand to Whole Foods Market Canada, Whole Foods Market Europe, and even the Pacific Rim.