If you’ve ever been to Washington D.C., then chances are you know a thing or two about mambo sauce. The perfect blend of that sweet-tangy sauce that everyone in the “DMV” knows and loves (especially on chicken wings), there’s nothing more quintessential to the DC area than perhaps, gogo music.
Wanting to capitalize off of this cultural staple, Andy began building his Andy Factory brand at age 5 in his Prince George’s County, MD home kitchen as part of a homeschool entrepreneurial project. He continued growing and evolving his recipes and the company well into his teen years as a way to cope with his parent’s divorce and to fund his college education.
Together, with his brother Nyles, Andy developed one of the most popular Mambo sauces in the DC region: Uncle Dell’s Mambo Sauce. The tangy, spicy yet sweet sauce goes great on almost anything–from wings, to ribs, to meatloaf, to dips, and more. The brothers love introducing people to the vibrant world and strong culture their mother conveyed to them as they drove around DC looking for wings and mumbo sauce from her favorite places.
Not to mention, the young brothers are not only creating financial opportunities for them and their families, but also inspiring others through their young entrepreneurship. In this interview with ESSENCE, Andy Burton, founder of Andy Factory shares more on the significance of mambo sauce, why he created Uncle Dell’s Mambo Sauce, how he caught the entrepreneurial bug and what’s next for him after graduation.
What does mumbo sauce mean to Washington D.C. culture?
The DC that exists today is significantly gentrified. I could see it on my parent’s faces as I grew up. Every time we’d drive through the city I’d hear them talk about the places and people that weren’t there anymore. It seemed to hurt them when they’d see a certain nightclub or landmark transformed into something else. I feel like mambo sauce is and always will be one of the pre-gentrified artifacts of the city. We’ve been working on a special project to pay homage to that unique culture that gave birth to this amazing sauce.
What sets Uncle Dell’s apart from other mumbo brands?
When differentiating Uncle Dell’s Mambo Sauce from others, we have to first look at spelling the name. Mumbo with a “u” is actually referring to a sauce out of Chicago. I think that sauce is more of a BBQ sauce in flavor for me. Mambo with an “a” usually reflects the traditional mambo sauce style created in the DC carry-outs. For me, Uncle Dell’s Mambo sauce is just so authentic, yet versatile. I mean it’s the real thing but yet, we’ve been able to use this sauce for some really gourmet dishes and as a sauce drizzle for some unconventional food items. Yes, it’s the wing sauce my parents’ generation came to love, but it’s so much more. I’ve been referring to our Uncle Dell’s Mambo Sauce as a chameleon sauce. It adapts so well to anything!
The sauce line is named after your grandfather, Wardell Guyton. What’s the biggest lesson that you learned from the real life “Uncle Dell”?
We called him Poppy, and the biggest lesson came when I first sold cookies for Andy Factory at the age of five. Part of the project was to work with another sibling, so I ‘hired’ Bee (my brother) who was seven at the time. When I collected the cookie money, I backed out on paying my brother. My mom wanted it to be my choice and asked me for almost two weeks if I was going to pay him. I refused. I wanted all the money for myself.
My Poppy got on the phone with me and said “Andy, you gotta make payroll!” He said people won’t want to help me again if I don’t make good on my word. What I learned from his comment was to — in general — keep my word to people. I also learned that you have to pay good money to good people for good help. Having capable business service providers around me is priceless and I learned early on that I must be willing to pay for that.
You first founded Andy Factory when you were five. What do you think sparked your entrepreneurial bug at such a young age? Who is your biggest motivator?
My mother was the spark for my entrepreneurial bug. Since we were homeschooling and there were so many of us, she used a lot of projects as a way to teach different ages and also to teach different lessons. She said that knowing what you don’t want to do in life can be just as important as knowing what you do want to do. That’s why she made us start different businesses. At least we could say we gave it a shot.
My mom said she saw immediately in my personality that I was an entrepreneur. A couple of years later, there was a big blizzard in our town. I wanted to shovel snow for a few neighbors. Bee and I ended up starting Burton Brothers Services. During the second snow of the next year, we got cocky and took on too many customers. We failed to shovel every driveway. We had to analyze our failure, and write a letter of explanation and apology to each customer. It was humbling, but I liked the challenge of trying to keep the customers who remained. And we were able to do just that. Almost every one of them remained a customer until I was about 15. We even employed other neighborhood kids and some of our friends.
Based on all of that, owning my own business was always a desire of mine, but the ‘hunger’ to really make it happen wasn’t there until August of 2019. Almost a year prior, my father decided to leave our family and live with a coworker and her child. It devastated my mother and us children too. He said he left our mother and not us, but that’s not what it felt like. I was angry and disappointed, but I did my best to be there for my siblings. Eleven months after he left, my mother asked him for help with a major expense. He told her we should “live like we didn’t have any money.” My father is a physician. We hadn’t struggled before, and I didn’t think we should begin at that time just because he wanted to leave. The comment and its effect on my mother and my siblings frustrated me and also motivated me. When I thought about curbing what had been a comfortable lifestyle because of my father’s poor choices, it was easy to go back to those early lessons of self-help and excellent customer service, and scale my sauce business up.
What’s next for you?
Honestly, the nationwide acceptance of Uncle Dell’s Mambo Sauce as the “new ketchup” and the new and better bbq sauce! That’s what I’m focused on at all costs. Our sauce is that good. We just have to figure out how to get it to more people..to get them to try one drop… that’s all it will take. After that, they always come back saying “He my uncle now!”
The sauce comes in three flavors—spicy, cocktail, and original—and retails at $7.50 a bottle, which can be purchased on the company’s website.