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Made in the Ozarks: The Grove Salsa Co. LLC

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It all started with some super spicy salsa. Co-owner Sean Killingsworth said it was his love for heat that led to creating a bold salsa with fresh flavor, something he struggled to find in stores. His habanero salsa was born.

After years of making his product for friends and family, Killingsworth said they gave him a push to take his product to market. He made his first sale in August 2015 at Farmers Market of the Ozarks, and now the company’s nine salsa and four hot sauce varieties can be found in 130 stores statewide.

SBJ: Did you teach yourself?
Killingsworth: I grew up in a family that did a lot of canning. My grandma always made, every year, some salsa. We helped her with that process. It did take a little bit of reading and figuring out the logistics for making and canning it.

SBJ: What’s your first memory of cooking with your grandma?
Killingsworth: We had chopped up a ton of produce out of her garden for salsa. I was doing the jalapenos. I chopped those as a kid for three hours, and I was playing baseball and I remember my hands were on fire for 10 hours.

SBJ: Where do you source your ingredients?
Killingsworth: In the summer months, it’s easier to get Missouri products. We try to stay local as much as possible. This time of year is definitely limited on what we can get.

We have stuck to hand-peeling our tomatoes, hand-chopping our ingredients. You’re talking about fresh ingredients that go into every jar of our salsa.

SBJ: What did you do for work before Grove Salsa?
Killingsworth: I’ve worked in different churches for the past 13 years as a worship leader. Currently, I am the full-time creative director at North Point Church. Thursdays and Fridays are my days off, so I use those for Grove Salsa.

SBJ: Who creates the product?
Killingsworth: We did it by ourselves, me and my wife, for a season. In the past probably three years, we hired a few employees that are helping make and produce the salsa. We’re downtown Springfield currently in a commercial kitchen.

SBJ: Biggest successes and biggest mistakes so far?
Killingsworth: The greatest success was in the early parts of the company. I was spending a lot of time trying to get into stores. We were able to expand to about 130 grocery stores across Missouri. That was one of the best experiences. Some of the mistakes would be when you scale up from a small, homestyle pot. Now, we’re making our salsa in kettles. When you scale up, sometimes you find your mistakes. There was a new variety of salsa I was working on. I made it at home for myself and made test jars for friends. Everybody loved it. We went from making eight jars to 400 jars. Somehow, my recipe didn’t translate. We wasted all those ingredients. It’s still a salsa I’ve not jumped back into.

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