Meet our newest hype girl, Molly Fienning! We sat down with Molly to learn about the TWO companies she's founded (Red Clay Hot Sauce and Babiators) and how she takes time to #enjoythestay with husband and two adorable sons in Charleston. Enjoy!
Tell us a bit about yourself! Where are you from and where do you live now? You’ve built two incredible brands. Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I’m a born and raised NYC girl who went to Harvard to study Engineering & Computer Science. Five years later, I re-met a boy from college, who had become a fighter pilot for the Marine Corps. We fell in love, and I quickly found myself a military wife traveling all over the South (did I mention by husband is a South Carolina boy?). We created Babiators, aviator sunglasses for babies & kids, together in 2010, now the leading brand of baby sunglasses with over 3.5M pairs sold. In 2010, we settled in Charleston to raise our two sweet, smart sons--Sawyer (8) and Fox (4). In 2014, I launched Red Clay with my partner (and Chef) Geoff Rhyne, and in 2018, I stepped in as CEO to take this amazing, cold-pressed hot sauce brand to the next level. Earlier this year, Food and Wine Magazine named us “Tabasco for the 21st century”, and last month, Jenna Bush Hager shared Red Clay with Hoda on the Today Show as one of her new favorite things!
The hot sauce fanatics among us can’t stop raving about Red Clay! Tell us more about the story behind the brand.
Red Clay Hot Sauce was born when a passionate, family-man chef from Georgia met a serial entrepreneur from NYC. ☺ Chef Geoff Rhyne honed his culinary skills in three of the best restaurants here in Charleston, where he invented a hot sauce made to elevate a plate of food without stealing the spotlight. I was a customer at the oyster bar where Geoff worked and fell in love with both this Original Hot Sauce AND the exciting potential this business had. We partnered to bottle Red Clay and make it a household favorite. It has been an amazing, fun journey so far!
As they say, the secret’s in the sauce! What makes Red Clay so unique?!
In June, Shape Magazine called Red Clay “a shot of heat AND health”, which I love and feel captures what makes Red Clay different really well. We’re a unique balance of a delicious, flavor-forward sauce made by a chef for foodies that is also incredibly health-promoting and thoughtfully made.
First of all, we source only the highest quality ingredients we can. Then, while all other hot sauces boil their peppers, we cold-press our sauces to preserve the flavor of these beautiful raw ingredients and keep their health-promoting enzymes live and active. Then, we age Red Clay in bourbon barrels for 6-8 weeks, which adds notes of umami and depth of flavor from the fermentation process. It also transforms Red Clay into a delicious immunity-boosting probiotic. No sugar or carbs, all the flavor.
We loved learning that you’re a ‘hot sauce convert’ - for those of us who shy away from heat, where should we start?
My partner, Chef Geoff, believes in being able to taste your food, so none of our hot sauces are too hot (our goal is to elevate a dish, not burn your palate). I call our Original Hot Sauce the “gatekeeper” hot sauce, because it’s delicious, not-too-hot and an amazing balance of salt, sweet, acid and heat—with nice umami from the fermentation too. To be honest, I didn’t like hot sauce at all before I tried our OG, and it has officially made me a hot sauce convert (and hot sauce CEO too!). The OG is yummy on oysters, scrambled eggs, avocado toast, crab cakes, collard greens or a Sunday brunch Bloody Mary. I also love the Verde on tacos, roasted veggies and a fresh salad. The Verde is all my friends’ favorite flavor.
Finally, for those spice newbies, I’d also recommend our medium Hot Honey, which is also not too hot at all. We source only the highest quality, 100% raw Georgian wildflower and infuse it with our habanero pepper mash for the perfect balance of sweet and a bite of heat. It’s outrageous on pizza, sandwiches, spicy margaritas and biscuits
Speaking of heat...warmer temps and upcoming holidays have us all ready for dinners al fresco!
What are 2-3 go-to tips for easy, breezy summertime entertaining?
- Prepare as much as you can ahead of time, so you can relax & enjoy yourself as the hostess. If you’re not having fun, no one’s having fun.
- If you are cooking a la minute, try to involve your guests in the kitchen effort so they’re not just watching.
- Lots of good music, lots of good drinks.
Let’s talk tablescapes! Where are you sourcing:
- Linens: Butter Radish (created by two amazing Savannah best friends!) – love their red & white check for summertime
- Glassware: Amanda Lindroth’s Island Wrapped Glasses
- Plates: Anything from Food52 – I have simple grayish-black plates from them
- Other: Fresh flowers. We get ours from Flower Shop in Charleston (or my friend Haskell Harris’ beautiful garden).
- Condiments: Yup, it’s Red Clay Hot Sauce ;) I do also love Duke’s Mayo.
- Go-to cocktail: A dirty Tito’s martini or a glass of big, bold Cabernet
- Go-to recipe: I’m part of an amazing Charleston CSA called Community Supported Grocery. I like to cook whatever’s fresh from the farms that week if I can.
- Go-to hostess gift: A flask of Red Clay’s Original Hot Sauce or a Lucerna Planta Candle
How do you make sure you are enjoying your stay on the daily?
Since I was little, I’ve always felt an innate connection to bodies of water–I’m definitely a water baby. Before I start my day, I bring my first cup of coffee to the upstairs porch and watch the river reconnecting with the ocean--in my Weezie robe, of course! I take some time to think, pray or meditate on the day ahead, and I set the tone for the day (instead of letting the tone of the day set me). Just those few moments of grounding myself with the water and nature make all the difference in my day. That is ‘enjoying the stay’ for me, for sure.
- Current brand crush: Sohp Shop—an adorable new soap brand for kids with a surprise toy inside…It’s an important time to keep my two sweet boys healthy! Besides my love for Sohp Shop and my Weezie towels, I’m usually wearing a La Ligne dress and Margaux NYC city sandals.
- While your kiddos are wearing @babiators, your go-to sunglasses are: Ray Ban aviators or Thierry Lasry for a more fashion frame
- Favorite interior designer(s) to follow on Instagram: Cortney Bishop Design, Ceara Donnelley, Olivia T. M. Brock
- Favorite artist(s) to follow on Instagram: Kate Long Stevenson, Raven Roxanne, Fletcher Williams, and Sally King Benedict
- Go-to restaurant(s) when not cooking at home: The Ordinary, Chez Nous, Leon’s Oyster Bar and Little Jack’s Tavern
- Last show you binge-watched, last book you read, or last podcast episode you really loved: I recently read A Return To Love by Marianne Williamson—it is transformative and exactly what we need right now as Americans, as humans.
- Favorite coffee table book: Island Hopping by Amanda Lindroth. A girl can dream.
This or That:
- Bubble bath or shower? A shower to wind down each night, a bubble bath for a special occasion.
- Wallpaper or paint? Living in Charleston, I’ve fallen in love with unpainted plaster walls. I also do love wallpaper for smaller spaces, like a jewel-box powder room or cozy guest room.
- Towel bar or Hook? Hook.
- Towel time sips: tea or tini? Both :) I’m an Aries, thus more is always better.
Your Towel Time is:
- Quick no nonsense / long and lingering
- With Music / in peaceful silence – unless I’m getting ready to go out for the night, then lots of fun music
- With cell phone / with book
- Morning / evening
- Face mask / clean face
Who knew it was possible to love hot sauce so much? If you're interested in trying all the flavors Molly mentioned above, we recommend getting "The Whole Shebang," all 5 flavors are worth trying!
Not hungry for hot sauce, but itching for more Hype Girls? Read up on Natalie Steen, a do-it-all type of girl who recently launched her own brand of children's resort wear. Click here to read and enjoy!