Mustard Inspiration

A dinner out while studying abroad in Ireland sparks the idea for a specialty sauces shop, now open in the MU Student Center.

Story by Erik Potter

Smiling, Jack Schroder leans over the checkout counter of his new store. The "Lost in the Sauce" store logo is painted on the wall behind him.
A study-abroad trip to Ireland doesn’t always lead to a mustard-stained business idea. But it did for Mizzou senior Jack Schroder. Photo by Cassie Florido

The summer after his sophomore year, in 2017, Jack Schroder took a short-term engineering study abroad trip to Ireland. He and his friend, Rob Enyard, were eating in a restaurant in Portmagee, on the island’s southwest coast. On the table was a bottle of mustard he’d never seen before. He tasted it and was blown away. “It’s weird you can’t get this in the United States,” he said.

Throughout the dinner and the course of the evening, the pair kept pushing that idea. Americans should be able to buy great sauces from around the world, they decided. There should be a store that specialized in selling them. That store ought to be called “Lost in the Sauce” — a humorous nod to the popular saying meaning to be confused.

The Missouri Student Unions Entrepreneurial Program offers Mizzou students the chance to operate their own business in the MU Student Center. Selected businesses get free rent for one academic year and a $2,000 startup package funded by U.S. Bank.

However, as might be expected of late-night daydreams in a faraway country, the idea disappeared when the St. Louis native returned to campus, classes and regular life. But a few months later, during the fall semester, Schroder opened a mass email from Chancellor Alex Cartwright. One of the items in the email was the opportunity to open a business in the MU Student Center.

Suddenly, Schroder thought of mustard.

“Could we do that?” he wondered. “Could we link these two things together?”

He had to try.

With the help of a team of friends, he spent two weeks putting together a 15-page business plan and presented it during the spring 2018 semester to the entrepreneurial program’s evaluation committee. He was one of two student selected for the program.

After a lot more help setting up the store, the website and the marketing, Lost in the Sauce opened Sept. 10.

For a mechanical engineering major, opening a retail shop trading in hot sauce, barbecue sauce and mustard was a surprising turn of events.

“This whole thing is a kind of never-expected-to-be-doing-it [experience],” Schroder says. “If this program didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be here. We had to order so much inventory up front that I don’t think any of us would have been able to afford it.”

Bottles of hot sauce line the shelves at Lost in the Sauce.
Lost In The Sauce carries mustards, hot sauces and barbecue sauces from around the world and around town. Photo by Cassie Florido

Schroder expects it will be challenging to manage his inventory of sauces coming from as far as Africa and Europe, as well as across the United States and from the Columbia area, but he has high hopes for the business.

His goal is for Lost in the Sauce to connect itself to the Columbia community. He plans to hold events on campus, such as Wednesday’s hot-pepper-eating contest (see video below). He wants to be a presence at tailgates, to host sauce competitions and even to offer bottling contracts for enthusiasts who have their own sauce recipes.

“I’d like to make a lasting business,” Schroder says. “I’d love to be able to move this store somewhere near campus or downtown and have a store that … becomes a staple of Columbia versus just a flash in the pan for the Student Center.”

Lost in the Sauce was one of two businesses opening for  the 2018–19 school year. Coming soon is a story about Sweet Tea Cosmetics.

Gus Gold has known Schroder since grade school. “I’d do anything for him,” he says, before pausing a brief second. “But I’ll never do that again for a friend.”  The “that” is eating five peppers in Lost in the Sauce’s first pepper-eating contest, the last one being the Carolina reaper, which Guinness World Records certified in 2017 as the hottest pepper in the world.”