‘A Facebook post earned me $20,000 in hours’
LAST week, a British backpacker spotted an amusingly named product on an IGA shelf in country Victoria - so he snapped a photo and uploaded it to Facebook.
Robert Mackereth thought his friends back home would get a kick out of Shit the Bed Hot Sauce. "Australia you never fail to amaze me!" he wrote. "Best sauce name ever!"
A week later, the post inexplicably blew up - as of Friday afternoon, it had been shared more than 60,000 times and attracted nearly 8000 comments.
"It just blew up," said Perth mum Renae Bunster, creator of the cult hit hot sauce that has raked in millions of dollars since springboarding off a crowd-funding campaign in 2015. "We'd made $8000 by the time I woke up (on Thursday morning). We made $13,000 before lunch."
The former TV journalist said she had no idea why one blurry photo on a random person's Facebook page went viral.
"Facebook changed its algorithm this year so brands don't get put in your feed," she said. "This is showing up in everyone's feeds. We unintentionally hacked the Facebook algorithm. In your face, Zuckerberg."
It's since been picked up by a number of other Facebook pages, with the massive spike in sales from all over the world rocketing Shit the Bed back to the top of Amazon's bestsellers in the hot sauce category.
Ms Bunster said sales were going "ballistic". "The last time we got to number one we ran out of stock and dropped out of the top 10," she said.
"We did $US6000 on Amazon (on Thursday morning) before we sold out so we quickly switched over to our personal website. People can buy it from Amazon but it's fulfilled by our warehouse."
For the 40-year-old entrepreneur, viral advertising and word-of-mouth is the only way to sell her hot sauce, which Coles and Woolworths both refuse to stock. Amazon, too, "won't let you advertise anything with a swear word in the name", she said.
Bunster's Hot Sauce is on track to reach $1.5 million in sales by the end of the calendar year and is forecasting $2.35 million by the end of the FY19.
That's thanks in no small part to being featured on the popular YouTube celebrity chat show Hot Ones, where stars are interviewed by host Sean Evans while being fed increasingly spicy hot wings.
The latest season featured stars including Natalie Portman, Johnny Knoxville, Wiz Khalifa and Michael Cera enduring Bunster's hottest "Black Label" sauce.
"We got such fantastic screentime," Ms Bunster said.
"Every week they'd say, 'This is Bunster's from Australia.' Every episode we got a mention. We also have this ridiculous heat rating of 16 out of 10, week after week people were saying, 'This doesn't make sense.' Michael Cera called me an idiot."
Ms Bunster said it was an "18-month campaign to get on the show". "They have a hot sauce curator, he has a shop in New York and was already stocking my sauce," she said. "I've certainly been in his ear."