Wild Wednesday: Red Duck Ketchup


I have found that one of the most unexpected pleasures of running a business is getting to share my advice with other people who are in the “start-up” process.  Never did I think that I would be in a position where people would be seeking my opinion about how to take their idea/product to the next level.  But alas, I am, and it so rewarding!  I was approached by a group of MBA students from the University of Oregon, my “alma-mater,” and they are starting a flavored ketchup company called Red Duck Ketchup…how cool is that?!  Much to my delight, they wanted to know all about our journey from idea conception to where we are now!  It was so fun to be able to rehash all of our experiences, some good some not so good, and how we have grown Wild Squirrel into the company it is today!

In return, I asked them if they would be my Wild Wednesday features for the week!  This marks the first time I have ever featured a group…pretty WILD eh?? ;-)  So here they are, the magnificent quarter of MBA students, enjoy!

1) Names and year in school

All 2nd year MBA students at University of Oregon.

Kurt Barajas (JD/MBA), Karen Bonner (MBA), Shannon Oliver (MBA), Jess Zutz (JD/MBA)

2) Why did you choose to pursue an MBA?

Law school is boring (+1 like)

Wanted to make a career transition (+3 likes)

Wanted to be my own boss (+3 likes)

Wanted to make a difference in the world - we all interact with the business world multiple times a day, seemed like a good place to make change (+3 likes)

3) Can you explain more about your involvement in your program, extra curricular activities, New Venture Planning?

The Oregon MBA offers specializations in four major areas: Sports Marketing, Finance, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainabilty, with a very large emphasis on experiential learning.  We’ve had the chance to consult for Ninkasi, participate in case competitions, play intramural sports, travel to conferences as OMBA representatives, and visit some truly amazing places in the business world (Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Baltimore, New York, China, Hong Kong, Singapore…the list goes on). It’s really a full package.

As second years we also get the opportunity to work on a year-long project through the New Venture Planning pathway in the Entrepreneurship Program. Outside of school we try to stay balanced with sports and outdoor activities ranging from soccer to yoga to dodgeball to running. Looking forward to some snow sports too!

4) What are some exciting accomplishments that have happened through New Venture Planning?

Opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs in Oregon. We’ve been able to talk to people from Oakshire, Ninkasi, Picky Bar, Blue Dog Mead, and of course, Wild Squirrel!

We feel that Eugene is a really exciting epicenter of natural foods and innovative brands, and we’ve been really happy to learn from everyone who has already gone down the path of starting a food or beverage business.

5) I love the name Red Duck Ketchup, so cute! So you guys started this for a class,correct? Please explain the project and how you decided ketchup was going to be your product!

Our name and product discussions were pretty…well…they were pretty organic. There was a particular “eureka!” moment when we realized that there’s a hole on supermarket shelves. Hot sauces, mustards, glazes, BBQ sauces, flavored mayos…there are COUNTLESS bottles on shelves. But ketchup- perhaps the most American condiment that there is- there’s really no choice out there.

We’ve heard we’re living in the golden age of condiments and we wanted to take part. As for the name,we wanted something that reflected our product and our locale. Our ketchup is red, and we’re all Ducks! It made sense and we all thought that we’d have a blast building a brand around it.

6) Previous to this class, did you have interest in food products and potentially beginning a food business?

Absolutely! We’re all foodies and as such, we’re naturally drawn to new and unique flavor experiences. A few of us have worked in the food industry, but for other people, and all four of us have always been interested in building and growing something of our own.

7) Making PB is a very time consuming process, but I can only imagine what making ketchup is like! In the beginning, we used to source all of our ingredients from Winco, where do you get your ingredients?

We’re just one step above WinCo at this point: Costco is where we’re sourcing the majority of our ingredients. Spices and seasoning are the one area we’re being a bit more spendy on. We feel that in order to have an awesome product, having quality spices and seasonings are key.

We haven’t had too many issues hitting the consistency we’re looking for; but hitting that right blend of spices and seasoning to achieve our signature flavor profiles require some quacking good spices.

8) What is the hardest obstacle you have come across so far?

- Label - deciding on our design

- Not eating all the ketchup ourselves

- Balancing Red Duck and being in school full-time

9) What are your goals with Red Duck? 

We want to offer not only delicious flavors, but also a fun and quirky experience through our brand. Think the local craft beer version of ketchup - local community values, pioneering and innovative flavors, the outdoors, and fun.

10) After grad school, where do you see yourself? In 5 years?

Running one to several small businesses, Red Duck Ketchup being one of them. Constantly learning and exploring new adventures in both business and life in general.


Thanks to all four of you for taking the time out of your busy lives as college students and now entrepreneurs (woohoo!), to answer my questions!  I can SO relate to where you are at right now… the constant battle of trying to find time to make it all work!

It’s so fun for me to see you guys taking a leap of faith and following you ketchup dreams!  Your dream is ketchup, ours…peanut butter!  Although we have different products, at the end of the day, there are so many similarities.  We are both on a mission to create delicious, innovative food products with awesome branding to back it up!  I can’t wait to watch Red Duck Ketchup grow, best of luck.

That’s all for now,


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