Roberto CoelhoBy Roberto Coelho|May 12, 2022|9 Minutes|In Billionaire Tomorrow

Billionaire Tomorrow

Tabasco beware? How a hedge fund manager is betting on hot sauce.

When things do not work out it is because of poor execution, success of any business is 10% strategy and 90% execution.

A hot story of ambition. How a retired hedge fund manager, Ken Kinsey dusted off a 25-year-old idea to stake his future on a fierce hot sauce made-in-Africa that’s taking on Tabasco.


Memories fade,  taste does not; just ask Ken Kinsey, the founder of Banhoek Chilli Oil.

Twenty-five-years ago, while living in a city of romance, Kinsey was struck by cupid’s arrow in the shape of a late-night snack and a bottle of oil.

Kinsey was a young star in the hedge fund industry; after a night of burning the midnight oil he ordered pizza in the French capital. His Italian dish was flowing with a French delight, a sauce piquant; a chili oil made in Paris.

“I truly loved the oil, I searched everywhere for it and it wasn’t available, when I moved to the UK the pizza came with plain chili mixed with oil. I was disappointed.”

It seemed his oil was destined to be a mere memory of Paris; until, one day, he found several packets of it lying around in a Paris pizzeria. Without thinking, he put some in his pocket and brought them home.

One afternoon, in the mountains of the beautiful Banhoek Valley back in Western Cape, South Africa, Kinsey shared the precious oil with his family. His brother-in-law, a foodie, claimed he could re- create this oil.

What followed were long nights testing 60 bitter failed attempts as Kinsey searched for a masterpiece. The retired hedge fund manager and start-up funder never doubted his red-hot chili venture.

“We sold to family and friends, that is how the business started.”

Demand started to grow. It was no longer merely family; it was friends Facebook followers and total strangers.

“It was here when I realized we were on to something; then, we started to expand.”

Banhoek Chilli Oil was not his first taste of an entrepreneur’s journey.

“I have a few scars on my back,” he chuckles.

Most entrepreneurs learn valuable lessons during times of hardship and failure. The difference between success and failure is applying those lessons.

Kinsey was born in South Africa to an English migrant living in what was then known as Rhodesia, today’s Zimbabwe. As the liberation war steadily engulfed Zimbabwe his frightened family migrated to South Africa.

It is easy to sympathize with a young Kinsey trying to fit in.


“It was a difficult transition moving to an Afrikaans school, when I couldn’t speak a word.”

With the challenges he faced in his adolescent years, Kinsey developed the skills required to succeed in the hot seat.

The ability to problem-solving and socialize in any situation Kinsey could soon utilize these skills on a global stage, but not before his first scar.

After studying Commerce at the University of Cape Town Kinsey ventured out with a university colleague to start a small business renovating lower-end properties.

“It was easy to start up. We began generating a profit immediately, but easy come, easy go, as they say.”

Easy go, was unfortunately true for a 22-year-old Kinsey who attempted to partner with a certain contractor whom he trusted.

Within a few days of signing the contract, this contactor was never to be seen again along with Kinsey’s hard-earned money.

Anger, disappointment, and frustration followed and Kinsey has faced a difficult choice. It was either to live in despair at the injustice, that plagued him, or to move forward, persevere, towards greater opportunities.

Kinsey choose the former and he jumped on a plane to Paris arriving the next morning at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Utilizing his degree in the financial realm, Kinsey was able to build experience, contacts, and personal wealth.

It was in the United Kingdom, where Kinsey spent most years abroad. Here were many smiles and more scars.

Kinsey was always looking to make the most of opportunities. When looking for investment opportunities, to diversify revenue streams at Thames River Capital, a hedge fund, Kinsey discovered an innovative education start up.

The problem the business solved was the headache caused by Continual Professional Development for legal professionals in the UK. The solution was simply providing online education to large numbers of lawyers. Unfortunately, this start-up never lived up to its potential.

“When things do not work out it is because of poor execution; the success of any business is 10% idea and 90% execution.”

Kinsey would not make the same mistake twice. Moving forward, he backed start-ups, with the right people, willing to take the knocks, get back up, execute and achieve.

Following a lifetime of backing others, he now backs himself to create a hot household name.

“In 10 years, I want us to be sitting at the same table as Tabasco”

The family owed legend; Tabasco, operated with only one product for 100 years. Banhoek Chilli Oil will abide by the same strategy.

“I want to build an international world-class business, but currently we are focused on building a strong brand.”

By denying immediate fast-paced growth in pursuit of a brand identity, Banhoek Chilli Oil will be poised for exponential growth in the future. Its new factory produces 10 000 bottles-a-month generating more than R10 000 000 ($750,000) in revenue a year.

To spur on sales, Kinsey took an approach as cheeky as the chili oil itself.

“I hired a salesman, bought him a branded car, and sent him across all national roads searching for outlets. I said when he is asked for a passport he can turn back and do the same on the next road.”

Since this adventure, Banhoek Chilli Oil is available from all major online retailers, at South African delis and butchers. It has recently inked a contract to supply Checkers, one of South Africa’s largest supermarkets.

Internationally, Banhoek Chilli Oil is heating up with availability in the United Kingdom in over 100 stores. Within the next year, Banhoek Chilli Oil will be available in every English-speaking country and the UAE, says Kinsey.

“Our goal is to leverage to South African communities abroad.”

A hot sauce, born in Africa, warming the mouths of thousands in a business capturing the attention of millions. Tabasco beware?