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Traci Johannson: “Be a man of your word”

The hardest time came when the boy’s Father and I divorced. I had no income, and Diablo Verde was only carried in a handful of small Mom and Pop stores in Houston. My soon to be X husband told me I would fail without him, and most everyone I knew thought I was crazy, besides […]

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The hardest time came when the boy’s Father and I divorced. I had no income, and Diablo Verde was only carried in a handful of small Mom and Pop stores in Houston. My soon to be X husband told me I would fail without him, and most everyone I knew thought I was crazy, besides a few friends that believed in me. I still remember my cousin saying to me “What are you going to do, sell sauce?” Like it was the stupidest idea she had ever heard. Luckily, I believed in myself and most importantly, I made a promise to my sons that we would succeed in our mission.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Traci Johannson of 3Sons Foods.

3 Teenage brother entrepreneurs: Ayden, Lucien, & George Johannson (ages 12–17)and their single mom-preneur, Traci, who all started 3Sons Foods to showcase their award-winning sauces in order to raise funds to save Rhinos & Wolves.

3SonsFoods, LLC was founded in 2017 and was developed out of a passion to stop the illegal poaching of Rhinos. They started selling their devilishly addictive creamy cilantro sauce called Diablo Verde as a fundraiser, donating a portion of proceeds to the International Rhino Foundation which quickly turned into a family business. 3 yrs later they’ve won numerous awards and been featured on a number of news outlets. Their new Vegan sauce launches September 15, with proceeds going towards wolf conservation.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?

Thank you sooo much for having us and for your interest in our story.

My Father was a commercial real estate Broker, so I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and following a path of business ownership has always felt natural for me. After a successful career in the real estate industry and in the theater, I took some time off to have my 3 boys, Ayden, Luke and George. When my youngest, George was only 8 years old, the boys and I jumped head first into the food industry. I have always had a love of food, a desire to use food as medicine and developing my own recipes was something I enjoyed. Luke my middle son, had spent years fundraising and bringing awareness to rhino conservation, so we merged my love of food, with his love of animal conservation, started selling our creamy cilantro sauce, Diablo Verde and 3SonsFoods was born! A portion of the sales of Diablo Verde are donated to Endangered Rhino Conservation and International Rhino Foundation.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

YES!!! We are coming out with Diablo Vegan, a vegan version of our Diablo Verde. It has taken us over a year to develop this amazingly flavorful sauce that will be for the benefit of wolf conservation, which is Ayden’s favorite animal. We will be donating a portion of the proceeds of the sale of Diablo Vegan to the Saint Francis Wolf Sanctuary. The wolf is a natural predator of the deer, deer carry ticks, and ticks pass on Lyme disease. Helping to bring the wolf population back will create many benefits for our society and hopefully reducing this horrible autoimmune disease will be one of them.

In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?

Yes, we have a great mission of making the world a better place through entrepreneurship and yes it is a kid-owned and kid-run business with a bit of help from Mom, but the real secret of our success is our #1 value of being a person of our word. We believe in our core, that promises made are promises kept. We stand by our word, no matter what and when you do that as a business, the natural consequence is is your business offers excellent customer service. Rather you buy 1 jar or 10 pallets, we want to make sure you feel important and appreciated and well taken care of at 3SonsFoods.

Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?

How much time do you have? We had many people tell us that we would never make a profitable business with selling only 3 SKUs (Diablo Verde comes in Mild, Med and Hot)

When we started at our local Farmer’s market the manager of the market did not want to let us in to sell, because she didn’t think we would be able to make it there…….she was kind of correct, after about 9 months, we were in so many stores we stopped coming to the farmer’s market. We are now in over 500 stores through the US and just expanded into Honduras!

The hardest time came when the boy’s Father and I divorced. I had no income, and Diablo Verde was only carried in a handful of small Mom and Pop stores in Houston. My soon to be X husband told me I would fail without him, and most everyone I knew thought I was crazy, besides a few friends that believed in me. I still remember my cousin saying to me “What are you going to do, sell sauce?” Like it was the stupidest idea she had ever heard. Luckily, I believed in myself and most importantly, I made a promise to my sons that we would succeed in our mission.

In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? 🙂

Yes they are being proven wrong! But no hard feelings, I know that not everyone could see our vision of Diablo Verde being on shelves across the nation and beyond. I actually feel sorry for the naysayers because their comments came from a limited view-point, where fear rules and as every entrepreneur knows dreams can not grow in a place of fear. Besides, success is the sweetest revenge.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

When my Mother passed away, my best friend’s Mom stepped up and became my Mom and my boy’s Grandmother. Granny Susan has been by my side, encouraging us this whole time. Also, he daughter Sally and my other best friend Mike. They have bought my sauce, promoted my sauce and just been there to encourage me along the way. Building a business is like running a marathon, and when you hit your wall…….you need someone there to say “You can do it! Keep going!” and the boys and I are blessed with an incredible support system!

It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?

Good Question — My parents were divorced and I grew up living with a very free spirited Mother. When I was 15 years old, I moved in with my Father who was an X-marine and X-police officer. From my Father, I learned organizational tools that I still use today. He had drive, and there was a consistency in his home that I responded well to. I am happy to have my Mother’s open mindedness, but I do know that the drive my Father instilled in me to succeed has been a driving force through building this business brick by brick.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)

The naysayers only win if you let the message sink in. #1 You must know that whatever the naysayer has said, that is their opinion, not truth.

I am blessed with excellent physical health, but I do suffer from anxiety, like many business owners, entrepreneurship is not without stress. Knowing that anxiety is born out of fear, when I feel anxious, because maybe I have heard some negative comment from a naysayer my #2 strategy is I search for the root of the problem, “What am I fearing” Once I can pinpoint the source of the fear, then I do a worst case scenario and 99.9% of the time the anxiety is gone and I actually feel more powerful with a renewed sense of determination to achieve my goals.

The #3 technique I remember I am the captain of my destiny. Recently, we found out that a very large company is interested in carrying our product line and I was excited to share the news with my business coach! After he congratulated me, he started to insert his fear that this large company would ruin my business by reducing my margins. I quickly reminded him, that I am in charge of the decisions my business makes in all negotiations. Knowing you are in charge, you are steering your own destiny and the destiny of your business, is a strategy I fall back on many times. Don’t give away your power.

Tenacity dies when hope dies. My #4 strategy is to keep my eye on the goal. This is my life, my business, my path and the naysayers will only deter me from my goal, so by believing in my goal day after day I stay tenacious.

And my favorite strategy is #5 “Success is the sweetest revenge” There will always be naysayers, just keep on your path and prove them wrong! Just like Nemo, keep swimming.

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

“Be a man of your word” or in my case a women…….It’s Sat morning, I want to sleep in, but I promised to work on a proposal or get an order out…….sticking by my word, doing what I say I will do is my driving force to make it all happen.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

“Love they neighbor” is something I learned in Sunday School class as a child and I’m sure all religions teach a form of……..In today’s world full of so much conflict and turmoil I hope we can come together with love and forgiveness in our hearts, heal the past and move forward together approaching the next decade with respect and love for all. “Love the neighbor” is a simple rule that could change our world course.

Can our readers follow you on social media?

Yes! Please follow us @3SonsFoods on IG, FB, Twitter and Pinterest

Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!

And Thank you sooo much for having me and allowing me to share with your readers!

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