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A promise kept: Virginia Tech student honors aunt who passed away from cancer

Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 8:54 AM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Tahjere Lewis is a young entrepreneur and Virginia Tech student taking a family recipe to new heights. Lewis promised his Aunt Carol that together. they would take her famous sauce and start a business.

Nearly halfway through college, his beloved Aunt Carol passed away from cancer.

Determined to keep his promise, Lewis got to work. This is when Aunt Carol’s Sauce came to life.

Lewis created two flavors, spicy and mild, both based on his aunt’s recipe.

“My aunt made the sauce-- I wasn’t a chef, so I had to go in the kitchen for months trying to figure out the right blend of spicy for my customers. And to this day spicy is our number one seller,” said Lewis, the owner of Aunt Carol’s Sauce.

With the help of his family and mentors, he began selling his aunt’s sauce -- doing it all by hand. Lewis says Aunt Carol never thought her recipe would be bigger than their household, but he still wanted to take it to a new level.

Aunt Carol’s is now a familiar face and sold at Thai This Express a restaurant in Radford. Plus, he has a new partnership with Virginia Tech’s West End Market.

“Right now, we’re in the moment, we’re making it happen, and I know my aunt is watching down on me and seeing this happen,” said Lewis.

Lewis says he can’t believe how much his company has grown, thanks to mentorship, and the love and flavor of his aunt.

“They really took a chance with me; they believed in me,” said Lewis.

He says this journey wasn’t easy; it took months to perfect the two flavors and get the product to a restaurant. He balanced it all while in school.

“This is a startup, it’s hard to start a business up, and having people believe in you in the initial phases goes a long way,” said Lewis.

His advisor and the executive director of Virginia Tech’s Apex Center for Entrepreneurs Derick Maggard says having young people willing to take risks and start their own companies is what our communities need.

“I think entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of any economy. And so right now as we’re coming out of a pandemic to have these young people in college at a university starting a company is exactly what we need. We need more of it,” said Lewis.

Lewis believes Aunt Carol’s Sauce shows their bond will live on in every batch he makes.

“My assignments this week have nothing related to what I’m doing actually in my business. And it just goes back to show that God can do anything, and you don’t have to know everything. You just had to put your trust in the right and the right God, and he will take you further than you ever could imagine,” said Lewis.

You can learn more about Aunt Carol’s Sauce by heading to their website.

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