7th grader starts wing sauce business

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 20, 2021

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LULING – Twelve-year-old A’Jzala Johnson dreams of sitting next to Ellen DeGeneres and standing before wealthy investors on Shark Tank. She’s among the youngest business owners in the River Parishes after starting “BabyJay’s Hand Crafted Wing Sauce” last summer, and she has already sold well over 500 bottles of her culinary creations.

It all started from the boredom of being stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. A’Jzala channeled her energy into experimenting in the kitchen and ended up with two exceptional wing sauce recipes.

Looking up to positive role models inspired her to turn the hobby into a business.

“I started seeing other people with their businesses, and I thought I should do something, too,” A’Jzala said. “My mama and my sister write books. They taught me a lot.”

A’Jzala’s mother, Alicia Johnson, helped her file paperwork with the Louisiana Secretary of State to make her business dreams a reality. The next steps were buying bottles and ingredients and having labels made with her business name and logo.

BayJay’s Hand Crafted Wing Sauce has become a fixture at the bi-weekly German Coast Farmer’s Market in St. Charles Parish. The Johnson family attends both the Luling market, held from 1 to 5 p.m. each Wednesday, and the Destrehan market held from 8 a.m. to noon each Saturday.

Last week marked her first appearance at Choice Marketplace at 1005 Cambridge Drive in LaPlace, where her wing sauce proved to be a crowd pleaser.

The Hot N’ Spicy wing sauce is perfect for those who love an extra dose of flavor, while others opt for the delicious BBQ & Tangy sauce. A’Jzala also offers a combination sauce combining the two flavors for the best of both worlds.

Alicia Johnson said her daughter has received great feedback thus far. Customers will even send pictures showing how they use the sauce, not just on wings, but also in gumbo and on top of eggs.

A’Jzala’s uncle James Allen III is among her biggest supporters.

“If you know me, you know I don’t play (with) that extra ‘burn your tongue off’ hot sauce. This was perfect for me,” he said in a review.

Another reviewer commented that her husband had to hide the BBQ & Tangy sauce from her so she wouldn’t drink it all straight out the bottle.

One of the most exciting moments of the journey thus far was when A’Jzala’s story appeared on Good Morning America. Her product also caught the interest of New Orleans rapper Neno Calvin, who stopped by to support her small business.

Over the holidays, A’Jzala partnered with organizations and small businesses to help donate food boxes for a Thanksgiving giveaway in St. Charles Parish. The Johnson family also participated in a local toy giveaway for Christmas to lessen the burden of families impacted by COVID-19.

The future is looking bright, and the handcrafted sauce is expected to appear in local stores soon.

“So many grocery stores have inquired about putting it in their place of business, so we are trying to get her labels done with her barcode and the nutritional facts posted on there,” Johnson said.  

A’Jzala’s advice for other aspiring young business owners is to, “Stay motivated, just keep going and never give up.”

“I enjoy selling it at different places and going to different pop-up shops,” A’Jzala said. “I enjoy it when I’m making it and mixing it. I have to make it every week because it sells out fast.”

When she isn’t running her business, A’Jzala stays busy with middle school. She’s a seventh grade student and a member of the choir at R.K. Smith Middle School in Luling. She recently earned a 1st place award in her district’s social studies fair and will soon represent her school at the regional level.

Her other hobbies include singing, dancing, playing basketball and working out.

To learn more about A’Jzala’s original recipes, visit BabyJay’s Hand Crafted Wing Sauce on Facebook and Instagram, or visit babyjays-hand-crafted-wing-sauce.myshopify.com.