ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A recently released study paints a difficult picture for New York’s small business economy. The National Federation of Independent Business says small business optimism has reached its lowest point since 2012. And NFIB ranks New York dead last among the 50 states for economic outlook. While that may sound grim, small business owners continue to plug away, including one — who believes success is built on hard work.

To make it in business, it takes hustle. It also takes something people want. Recco Jewell has both.

“Yeah I'm trying my hardest,” said Jewell, as he set up a tasting stand at Skip's on the Ridge in Rochester on a recent Saturday morning. “I literally work from the moment I wake up to the time I go to sleep."

After years of perfecting his meat hot sauce recipe, Jewell started marketing Suave Sauce in 2022. He is the smallest of small businessmen, a one-man operation which started in his kitchen.

“I don't even consider myself a cook,” he said. “I consider myself a creator. I love to create different ideas, concepts, and then turn it into something.“

Creating a business from scratch is hard. Setting yourself apart from a market full of sauces is too. There’s so much to learn. Jewell credits several friends with helping him navigate through New York’s rules and regulations, including Pauly Guglielmo, who founded his own sauce business and is co-owner of Craft Cannery in Bergen, where Jewell currently bottles three of his own sauces. 

“I didn't know how any of this was going to happen,” said Jewell. “He was watching me via social media and saw my hustle, and saw everything I was going through — all the trials and tribulations I had — the hurdles I had to deal with, and said you’ve got something.”

Another recent study, by QRFY, claims New York is second in the nation — only to Florida — in the percentage of businesses that qualify as small businesses. Sixty-two percent fall under the classification, meaning they have fewer than five employees.

Jewell constantly promotes his Suave Sauce through tastings and merchandise. He figures he’s probably given away or sold 5,000 t-shirts bearing the brand logo. And he sponsors bowling leagues and tournaments in the Rochester area. A bowler himself from a prominent bowling family, Jewell counts local bowlers among his earliest big supporters.

“The feedback I was getting from bowling with the sauces was so positive, I wanted to give back in a way that I always wanted,” he said.

But none of that matters if no one likes it. As Jewell handed out samples to customers at a recent tasting, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. He also has big plans for the future, including expansion of his lineup of sauces.

“I have tons of sauce recipes. Just a matter of time,” he said. “I’m on a sauce budget, so I can only do what I can do right now.”

Which in a nutshell, means hustle, create and sell.

“That’s the beauty,” said Jewell. “Anything worth it, you’re going to work hard at it.”