by Anne Bruno
Photograph by Claire Schaper
Jay B. Sauceda
Founder and CEO, Sauceda Industries
Jay B. Sauceda knows that the name of his company, Sauceda Industries, isn’t exactly sexy. It could encompass just about anything. But for its founder — who’s also the author of two books, a professional photographer, a graphic designer, a social media phenom and a licensed pilot — that’s OK. Flexibility and constant growth are an entrepreneur’s best friends.
Sauceda says he first got “bucketized” as a creative type in high school. “Even though I loved school, I was never a great student.” he says, adding that he has always learned best by doing. “If you look at the different things I’ve done, it might seem all over the place — but one thing always led to another.”
Sauceda Industries proves his point. The company, which handles the logistics side of e-commerce for his own products as well as other brands’, is the result of his creating a new business to meet the needs of one he already had.
It all began with a Twitter account, @TexasHumor, that Sauceda started in late 2010. “It was just for fun and to blow off steam while I was drinking beer after work,” he says. The proud La Porte native used the account to generally profess his Texas-size love for his home state in a very public way. Over the course of eight years, he’s gained 877,000 followers, posting wry observations and the occasional piece of advice: “If your hotel doesn’t offer Texas-shaped waffles, they don’t deserve five stars.”
In March 2013 one post turned the Twitter account into a burgeoning retail business practically overnight. “I posted this drawing I did in the shape of the United States with the words ‘Ain’t Texas’ referring to the rest of the county … all of a sudden, people wanted to buy T-shirts with the design.”
For a while, Sauceda explains, he and his wife, Priscilla, were shipping T-shirts (the first of many @TexasHumor products) out of their garage. He decided to start his own fulfillment business after he kept hearing “Call us back when you’re bigger” from existing providers.
That was five years ago. Since then, like-minded entrepreneurs and brands have found their way to his South Austin warehouse at The Yard and are now clients: Howler Brothers, Tecovas, Kammok and Austin City Limits, to name a few. “Basically,” he says, “we got their business because we give a damn about how we do what we do.” In a commodity industry, he explains, “it’s all about solving problems and being ready to do that on the spot. In anything, I believe, what gets you a callback or the next job or some new opportunity is being able to deal with the exceptions that come up, not just the way things are supposed to go.”
For Sauceda, how things are supposed to go usually means turning a passion into something big that he can share. Such was the case when, in the midst of managing his businesses and starting a family with Priscilla, he decided to fly a single-engine Cessna 3,822 miles around the perimeter of Texas to document the state in aerial photographs.
“I was obsessed with aviation and the movie ‘Memphis Belle’ when I was a kid,” he says. “And once you actually get your [pilot’s] license, you’re always looking for some reason to fly. I thought it would be cool to shoot the entire border of Texas. No one had ever done it, and it combined Texas, planes and photography — all things l love.”
The project started as an essay for Texas Monthly, and this year, the project morphed into a book published in October by UT Press, “A Mile Above Texas,” with Sauceda sharing stories about his one-of-a-kind adventure. An exhibit on the project at the Bullock Texas State History Museum is also in the works, slated to open in late January.
“When I was a kid,” Sauceda say, “I really didn’t know what I’d end up doing. In general, my ignorance is usually what’s led to my growth and to just trying out new things.”