Click through the pages of Kickstarter and you’ll find scores of artists, from filmmakers and fashion designers to illustrators and musicians, all striving for a unified goal of having their dreams and ambitions financed by the ultimate patron and benefactor: the hordes of the Internet. Then, there’s Zach Negin and James Magnatta of SoNo Trading Co.
Not that they’re not formidable artists in their own right, down to the fact that the two friends met and bonded in a college photography class. “I think we fancy ourselves creative people,” says Negin. “It’s sort of our world – the people that we’re around – and that really motivates us.”
But rather than working in clay or canvas or celluloid, Negin and Magnatta work their magic with a different sort of medium – mustard.
To be honest, it’s also fair to say that the pair also trades in words. Ask where the idea to make mustard came from, and Negin gives an engrossing account of Magnatta stumbling headlong into a picturesque field of mustard flowers on a Mission Trails hiking trip, rising from the flowerbed to utter the prescient words: “WE HAVE TO MAKE THE MUSTARD.” For all we know, this may be true (Negin and Magnatta are the only ones who know for sure), as opposed to a tale about the pair’s exclusively longitudinal travels which are sometimes said to have inspired their company’s name – in reality (and as most residents of the area might presume), the name is a send-up of San Diego’s North Park/South Park scene.
You can’t blame the guys – as Magnatta points out, “if you tell the same story over and over again it gets really boring, so you have to start having fun with it,” and fun is considered a critical part of the business.But while the stories might be fantastic, SoNo Trading Co.’s mustard is no joke. Made with care from the best organic and artisanal ingredients the guys could source, Negin and Magnatta make one smooth condiment. Which is why, after only around six months testing flavors on the farmer’s market scene, the pair knew that their mustard was destined for bigger things – namely, wholesale production.
Enter: Kickstarter. Condiments might not exactly the website’s stock in trade. But going against the grain has never bothered the guys before. Says Magnatta, “we don’t like to follow other people’s concepts too much.” So the guys of SoNo Trading Co. harnessed their latent artistic nature, started a blog and shot a cute inventive video, and hoped that their web endeavor would pay off.
It did. Tenfold. By the time SoNo Trading Co.’s Kickstarter campaign closed on June 10, it had amassed 244 individual backers and a grand total of $15,589 – nearly quadrupling their initial $4,000 goal.
In fact, SoNo Trading Co. met its initial goal within four days of commencing with their campaign. When it was obvious that they would be able to collect on their Kickstarter funds, the guys got the ball rolling early with a first production run of their Champagne Garlic mustard, a creamy, vinegary and slightly sweet blend that begs for pairing with a sharp cheese or a spicy rocket salad.
Not that it’s been totally smooth sailing the whole way – over the past few months, SoNo Trading Co. has weathered setbacks like unreliable manufacturers and other frustrations that have caused some serious delays. But it’s been worth it to find what Negin refers to as “the good guys” – steadfast partners like their current production company and Lindy & Grundy, a fledgling LA butcher shop whose owners have vowed to sell no other mustard but SoNo’s.
Now that the funds are in the bag, Negin and Magnatta’s first order of business is producing a run of their second flavor, a heat-heavy coarse grain number the guys call Hong Kong Habanero. From there, the future is up for grabs, as long as it includes a good time along the way. “We take our business very seriously, but we have to be enjoying what we’re doing,” notes Negin. “We have to have fun. Mustard is our vehicle for developing a brand which reflects our lifestyle, which is just sort of enjoying quality things – like having fun.”
Wherever they decide to go from here, one thing’s for sure: it’s sure to make one great story.