Passion for the product

WSU graduate turns his family’s special sauce into a full-time job



Brighton Maughan and his dad, Drew.


Unkle Drew’z Sauces started as a sauce that was loved by family and friends and used on meat, seafood and even salad. This family always dreamed of one day selling the sauce, and eventually, that dream became a reality.

Brighton Maughan, co-founder of Unkle Drew’z Sauces, graduated from WSU in 2022 with a degree in entrepreneurship.

Maughan said that in one of his classes, students were required to create an idea and pitch it to the annual WSU Business Plan Competition. Maughan has always been driven to eventually be his own boss, he said, so this was the perfect start to his career.

Marie Mayes, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, said she runs the multistage competition, for which students submit various business pitches that are judged by external stakeholders.

Five winners are eligible to win $2,000–15,000 in prize money provided by several sponsors each year, Mayes said. Each winner can decide what they use the money for after they receive their earnings.

Maughan said his original value proposition started with the question, “Why do people want to try our sauce?”

Positive feedback from friends and family raving about the tangy and savory flavor of the sauce pushed Maughan to continue pursuing the product, he said. The name “Unkle Drew’z Sauces,” Maughan said, came from his tight-knit neighborhood growing up. All of Maughan’s family friends called his dad “Unkle Drew,” and Drew, being the developer of the recipe, is why the name stuck to the bottle.

In different stages of the competition, Maughan said his ginger sauce competed against highly developed technological ideas. Eventually, his team was awarded the grand prize of $15,000 during the final presentation.

After about three weeks of pitching, presenting and testing, Maughan was finally able to bottle up the sauce and begin his business.

Maughan said he put the $15,000 back into Unkle Drew’z Sauces and used the money to get bottles approved by WSU’s School of Food Science and get his business license.

When going through the competition, Mayes said it was really exciting to see a light and passion turn on for Maughan.

“The really exciting thing about [the] project for [Maughan] as a student was that it really helped bring together all of his education,” Mayes said.

Since the competition, Maughan said his business has developed and expanded in a variety of ways. Unkle Drew’z Sauces now sells a lower sodium ginger sauce and a spicy ginger sauce, as well as its original Unkle Drew’z ginger sauce.

These unique, savory Asian-style sauces, he said, are currently being sold in stores in the greater Seattle area and on Amazon.

“In the future, I see our product in a majority of the gourmet grocery stores,” Maughan said. “One of our goals is [also] to try to be one of the top-selling sauces on Amazon.”

The WSU Business Plan Competition gave Maughan the perfect opportunity to map out what developing a sauce business would look like, he said. With such strong passion for his product, Maughan said he was able to execute a simple idea into a full-time job.