Golden Ratio Hot Sauce owners Mike and Tammy Feasel create special, hand-painted gift boxes featuring a variety of their condiment flavors. He builds the boxes and she paints them with patriotic designs, like the one featured above. This box features Hot Ginger, Hula Habanero and Holly Habanero sauces. (Photo submitted)
Couple grows from checkered pasts to create hot sauce business
Mike and Tammy Feasel share nearly everything.
Their love of spicy foods, their aptitude working with their hands and completed prison time for felonies.
The pair said their shared history affords them a deep understanding of one another that has allowed their business, Golden Ratio Hot Sauce, to thrive.
“We literally spend 365 days a year together, 24 hours a day,” he said.
Between time spent incarcerated, overcoming addiction and mental health struggles and the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple’s journey to becoming small business owners wasn’t always linear.
Mike, who grew up in Richwood, was sentenced in 1999 on multiple counts of burglary, forgery, theft and receiving stolen property. He served six years of a ten-year sentence before he was released from prison.
Soon after, he met his wife, Tammy.
She previously served 10 years in federal prison following her involvement in a South Carolina bank robbery.
Mike and Tammy weren’t housed in the same prison and didn’t meet until after being released, but said they had similar revelations while incarcerated.
“I realized, I can make use of this time,” she said.
When she was arrested, Tammy said she was struggling with untreated bipolar disorder and a history of abuse.
In prison, she became involved with a program that allowed her to connect with women with similar experiences. She also received medication for her mental health disorders and started attending counseling sessions.
“I learned I didn’t have to be reliant on any man,” Tammy said. “I didn’t have to think badly about myself.”
Similarly, Mike said the crimes he committed stemmed from his drug use.
He became sober while incarcerated and said he learned coping mechanisms to keep from relapsing.
Like his future wife, programs offered by the prison taught him “you can move on from the old.”
After being released from prison, the pair said they leaned on what they learned – and each other – while learning how to reintegrate into society.
Tammy said transitioning to life outside of prison was incredibly difficult.
She mentioned challenges obtaining healthcare that she relied on while incarcerated, rebuilding family relationships and even learning new technology.
“While that’s a wonderful thing, it’s terrifying,” she said of reuniting with her two daughters after completing her sentence.
With the help of her husband, she said she now has a close relationship with her children and her parents, who stepped in to raise them while she served time in prison.
“It’s really the best thing you could hope for,” Tammy said.
Tammy said she now understands that “I needed to do the work on myself first,” before she could begin investing in others.
With new, healthy relationships, Tammy said she and Mike have spent more than the past decade focused on their marriage and working toward goals together.
Mike said he initially bounced between temporary work at a number of companies and for family members.
Eventually, he said he decided he wanted to work for himself.
“I’m the type of person that’s a better boss than employee,” Mike said.
He began working in the commercial flooring business as a contractor for a national company, Progressive Flooring and Services.
Mike said his crew worked locally for 11 years before traveling nationwide, primarily laying flooring for restaurants.
He said he enjoyed the work, but it was difficult to be away from his wife. After visiting him on the job and helping with the work, she joined the crew.
“We realized how much we enjoy spending time together,” Tammy said.
Mike said it allowed the couple to support themselves, invest in their relationship and travel the country together.
“We were able to do things two felons shouldn’t be able to do,” he said.
There was another obstacle they hadn’t yet faced, though: the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It really yanked the rug out from under us,” Tammy said.
Mike noted that restaurants have been deeply affected by the pandemic, which resulted in a massive loss of business for the commercial flooring company.
Ultimately, he said the crew lost their business and he and his wife were back to living paycheck-to-paycheck.
After years of work, it seemed like much of what they earned was gone. But, Tammy said they still had the things they had relied on for so long: the resiliency they gained while incarcerated and their love for each other.
Tammy said Mike soon suggested that they leverage their hobby of cooking to help support themselves.
As a spicy food fanatic, Tammy said her husband has spent years mastering hot sauces and other recipes for her.
“I’ve never been able to find anything so hot I couldn’t eat it,” she said.
When Mike asked if she was willing to start a hot sauce business with him, Tammy said she didn’t think twice about it.
“We’ve never let each other down before,” she said.
From that idea sprouted Golden Ratio Hot Sauce.
While Mike has been developing flavors like Holly Habanero and Hot Ginger, Tammy has been working toward commercial certification and licenses for the brand.
She said the pair currently rents out a commercial grade, co-op kitchen to produce their condiments.
While the business is just beginning, Tammy said they have big dreams for the company.
Golden Ratio will start by selling sauces online only, but Tammy said they plan to join other members of the co-op kitchen in selling products at a new market at Easton Towne Center when it opens.
She said they eventually want to expand beyond sauces and create spicy candies and baked goods with a kick.
She hopes Golden Ratio will be able to partner with local farmers and businesses to purchase ingredients for their foods.
For now, though, Tammy said she and her husband are having fun creating something together and looking forward to overcoming another obstacle with each other’s help.
“We built one business, we’ll build another,” she said.
Those interested in purchasing Golden Ratio hot sauces or selling local ingredients to the company should contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Hot sauces are expected to be available for purchase in two weeks.
Mike and Tammy Feasel, pictured above, started their own hot sauce business, Golden Ratio, after the COVID-19 pandemic dried up business for their commercial flooring crew. The couple, who each served prison time for felony crimes, said what they learned while incarcerated has motivated them rely on each other and work to overcome challenges together. (Photo submitted)
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