Life with Spice: Q&A with Matthew Seguin

Matthew Seguin is a veteran, father, entrepreneur, and GVSU alum. A man wearing that many hats needs a good spicy snack to unwind with – so he made his own: Deep Safety Hot Peppers

By: Chad Howell

With his gardening background and encouragement from his friends – Matthew Seguin created the spicy snack he was craving. But having a good idea doesn’t always translate to having a good business. Through hard work, market research, and MVE-Lab support, Seguin has been able to take his spicy snack and turn it into a real business. I was recently fortunate enough to speak with Seguin, Owner of Deep Safety Hot Peppers. We discussed his unique journey into entrepreneurship, the support he received through the MVE-Lab, and the hot growth of his business.

Seguin spent 8 years in the Navy, relocated to West Michigan to get his degree at GVSU, and started his family. He began gardening as a hobby and decided to add peppers into his garden one spring. Having a knack for spicy foods his whole life, he was excited to give peppers a try after seeing them in a store. At the end of the season, he had quite a few leftover peppers. Upon learning more about dehydration and using his peppers in various different ways, he was encouraged to create a snack to bring to his buddy’s house for a ‘guy’s night’. Little did he know that ‘guy’s night’ would spark the creation of Deep Safety Hot Peppers.

Q: What is Deep Safety Hot Peppers?

A: A spicy snack company focused on changing the availability of quality spicy snacks. We are focused on pretzels right now and taking it one product at a time. We use whole dried peppers either grown by me or bought organically. I spent a while talking to spicy food industry experts and the consensus is that there is nothing out there for spicy snacks that they really enjoy. All the current options are either chemically flavored, gross, or taste nothing like they claim. We develop snacks that use whole and real peppers – we know it works because people are saying they can taste the difference.

Q: How did it all start?

A: 5 years ago, I saw a bunch of peppers in the store and decided to grow them in my garden. The second year, I had a lot leftover so I began to dehydrate them. One night I was getting together with some friends to watch a UFC fight and they asked me to make something spicy for the event. I made some spicy pretzels and they loved them. They continued to encourage me by suggesting I try to sell them. I thought ‘Why not?’ – and it worked.

Q: When did you know you wanted to run your own business?

A: Even after my friend’s encouragement – I wasn’t sure I wanted to run my own business. I’ve got a good product, but it wasn’t until recently (about the past year) that I fell in love with the idea of running a business. I began selling locally, talking to spicy food experts, and noticing the market gaps. They all confirmed my product is good – I started to think ‘yeah, I could probably start doing this as a business’.

Since, we’ve partnered with a local kitchen to have the space to increase production. We’re learning to scale our business and production, going from creating 20-50 containers a week to roughly 200-500 a week. As we grow and get into stores, we hope to dive into other snack and spice products. I’ve already noticed some other market gaps that may work well for us.

Q: Can you speak on your time in the service and if that has had any impact on you as an entrepreneur?

A: It really taught me to make decisions on my own and gave me leadership skills. They take an 18-year-old kid and mold you into this guy that can stand on his own two feet and make decisions. It gave me a foundation. I didn’t excel in high school because it was all book-taught, but in the military its more in-depth, hands-on learning. I’ve been able to apply that to my business because I know what will work for me and what won’t.

Q: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

A: Take your time and fully understand what you want to get into. I am not a business guy and I never have been. So, I learned to rely on people and resources around me. Networking is huge – going into the MVE-Lab was the best thing for me because I got to meet and learn from other business owners. No matter what their business is, you can always learn from those who have launched their own business.

Learning has been the biggest thing – and not trying to do everything myself. My wife always points out that I want to do everything myself, but I know I can’t or don’t have the time. If you want to succeed, you have to be humble enough to see that and look for help so you can focus on what you’re good at.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

A: There are so many things to think about – it’s not as easy as ‘Hey I make these pretzels and I want to sell them’. There’s a lot of red tape behind that, and MVE-Lab brought in many different mentors and experts to warn us of certain pitfalls. Searching out local resources such as the MVE-Lab was the catalyst that made me realize I could really do this. You have to seek something out and find that support around you, because there will be times when it seems too hard, or too much, and you will beat yourself up. Having that support around is key – whether it’s a course, program, or your own support system.

If you are interested in learning more about Deep Safety Hot Peppers you can check out their Facebook and Instagram. The aforementioned MVE-Lab is the Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur Lab at GVSU. You can learn more bout the MVE-Lab here.

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