Brian Podgorski used to spend every Sunday morning walking the streets of a local farmers market. He and his then-girlfriend, Nikki, spent their first days as a couple sipping coffee, chatting with vendors and offhandedly talking about how fun it would be to someday become vendors themselves. 

June 5 marked the couple's — now married — farmers market debut. Brian and Nikki own The Salsa Collaborative and have been selling handmade hot sauce and salsa since the start of 2020, experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen and bottling them up to share with the community.

The business is run entirely by the Podgorskis, from sauce-making to label design, all while the couple maintains another business upstart: an Asian meal kit service called Roll’d Up. The Victoria couple will be present at the Chanhassen Farmers’ Market in addition to the Chaska and Victoria markets this year, as well as a new market at Ombibulous in Northeast Minneapolis.

The business sprang from the Podgorskis’ desire to make a good salsa verde. Unable to find anyone to instruct them, Nikki turned to the internet. Soon, the pair was selling jars to friends and family and The Salsa Collaborative was born.

Food is love

The Podgorskis spend most of their time in the kitchen, creating recipes from culinary experiments and carrying a curious spirit into their products.

“We show our love through our food,” Brian said. Anyone who stops by their home is immediately offered something to eat. As implied by the “collaborative” title, the business works with many Twin Cities chefs and others in the industry to learn and grow as cooks. Brian said he loves being able to offer colleagues “something unique and bespoke to them, their brand, and their cuisine.”

Business was rolling up until the pandemic brought a shortage of glass jars along with it. The pause gave the Podgorskis an opportunity to add hot sauce to their line.

“The pandemic really helped us to focus on the details of our business and what we really wanted to make for ourselves,” Brian said. “Looking back, if we did not have that time, we may not be where we are today.”

Now, The Salsa Collaborative is in stores and shipping to anywhere in the world through an online platform. Finally being able to meet customers face-to-face has allowed the reality of their success to sink in, something Brian can only describe as “surreal.”

“Something that was a dream not too long ago became an idea, the idea into action, and now we are living in that dream,” Brian said. “We have yet to have a bad day at the ‘office’ and we could really get used to that.”

'Born from frustration'

Bored with commonplace peppers from the grocery store and finding new things exciting, the company grows its own peppers and vegetables. Gathering new seeds and plants, the Podgorskis play around with the recipe.

“It's a beautiful process born from frustration that makes it all that more rewarding,” he said.

At the heart of Podgorski’s love for the business is his wife, Nikki, tracing all the way back to those Sunday morning market strolls.

“Every moment that I share with her, doing something for ourselves, has made me the most fulfilled in my lifetime,” he said. “Our process is very hands on, animated and comical at times, but it allows us to always bring out the best in what we produce.”