Marisa Wiruhayarn’s entrepreneurial journey began when she left Thailand in the early 1980s for a fresh start in the United States. But it would be many years later before her spicy Thai hot sauce would truly launch her into a business of her own.
Shortly after coming to the U.S., Wiruhayarn would mourn her young husband’s death and have to make many new choices to support their two children. She learned to speak English, sacked groceries for $3.50 an hour, finished a GED program and eventually graduated with an accounting degree from Rockhurst University.
Wiruhayarn was an internal auditing manager at the City of Kansas City, MO when she and her new husband started their first Thai restaurant. She worked days at the city and nights and weekends doing the bookkeeping for the restaurant, which grew to several locations. When she started slipping extra containers of her Thai hot sauce into carry-out orders, the demand went up, and she realized she might have a business idea of her own.
“I first developed Primal Cry to complement entrees of my Thai restaurants,” she said. “Primal Cry may have had humble beginnings, but it quickly caught the attention of those loving all things spicy. That gave me an idea for my business, M-Power Enterprises, LLC.”
M-Power Enterprises started with one bottled Primal Cry Thai Sauce and now has several products, including Primal Cry Beef Jerky and Primal Cry Peanut Sauce. They are sold at Hy-Vee, Price Chopper, Hen House, Green Acres and other grocery stores.
As Wiruhayarn’s business grew, so did her need for additional business expertise. She came to the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) for advice and enrolled in the ScaleUp class taught by SBTDC instructors.
“SBTDC helped me realize how important it is to keep the bookkeeping separate from personal use and business expense,” Wiruhayarn said. “As a small business, it is very easy to get them mixed up as day-to-day operating and spending.”
The SBTDC also introduced her to financing opportunities and government programs that could help her build her business.
“SBTDC is the great network connection,” she said.
What’s her advice to other entrepreneurs? “Let people know who you are, what you need and what you offer,” she said.
M-Power Enterprise has been featured in numerous media stories. To see Wiruhayarn make her Super Bowl recipe for peanut butter and jelly chicken wings, go to 41 Action News.
Marisa Wirhuayarn, owner
M-Power Enterprises, LLC