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A Hot Business Idea...That Gives Back

Antoinette  Munoz credits Marshall's MSEE program with helping her bring Peruvian flavors to the U.S., while helping subsistence pepper farmers in Peru

March 11, 2020
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Antoinette Munoz grew up in Peru, where not only is daily life flavored with peppers, most people know how to make their favorite sauces out of them.

But when she found herself in Southern California, she also found she missed the flavors of her childhood. Of course, there’s no dearth of hot sauce brands in Los Angeles, but it was a distinct Peruvian flavor she longed for.

So she began making hot sauce herself, using Peruvian peppers she sourced from home.  

But she also wanted to somehow give back. She began researching graduate programs that might help her learn how. She came upon USC Marshall’s Master of Social Entrepreneurship program.

USC Marshall was the first business school to host a program teaching social enterprise—the idea of using the tenets of business to create a sustainable business that gives back. She liked the idea, but it was meeting Adlai Wertman, David C. Bohnett Professor of Social Entrepreneurship and Founding Director of the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab, that convinced her to join the MSSE program.

‘He was so passionate about the idea of social entrepreneurship,” she said. “He made the choice obvious. USC Marshall was the place I needed to be.”

She credits the program with teaching her valuable skills in how to create a sustainable company.

“If you’re Peruvian, you are eating aji. But it doesn’t matter where you come from to enjoy Tradicion Peruana.”—Antoinette Munoz

She used an opportunity to travel to Israel with BSEL executive director Abby Fifer Mandel to speak with farmers there and learn irrigation techniques she could bring back to pepper farmers in Peru.

Her plan is to use profits to help Peruvian farmers in impoverished regions to implement drip irrigation systems that will increase their yield—and hence their profits.

It’s a win-win. For Munoz and the farmers she sources from.

Munoz has two distinct hot sauces made from two varieties of Peruvian chili peppers. The red hot sauce, "Rocoto" pepper, packs a punch, considering it is vegan. The yellow "Aji" pepper is creamier, like a spicy mayonnaise, a taste that is much-loved in Peru.

“If you’re Peruvian, you are eating aji,” she said. “But it doesn’t matter where you come from to enjoy Tradicion Peruana.”

She named her product line Tradicion Peruana because she wanted a name people could pronounce and that would leave no doubt as to the provenance of the product. She has plans to grow the line to include a green sauce and an extra hot variety.

Munoz is offering a 20% discount to all USC students, Trojan family and friends. Please see her website and use the code “USC.”