EUGENE, Ore. - Behind the scenes at the Bailey Hill Market, Thomas Lo Sciuto makes his Zesty Pretz brand of seasoned pretzels.
"I'm actually the only one that knows the recipe," the 19-year-old entrepreneur said, "and I don't have it written down anywhere. It's all in my head."
And in people's mouths.
"The other day I had a kid walk into a party I didn't know with Zesty Pretz and that was probably the coolest, the coolest moment that I've ever had," he said.
The Churchill High School grad hatched his business idea with his cousin Sean McSweeney before finishing school.
"The idea for the pretzel business has been a two-year process here," he told KVAL News. "I started it in high school, and then people really liked them.
"I started going to LCC and read a couple of magazine articles - in Forbes and Inc. - about starting a business right out of high school as opposed to going to business school first," he said. "So I decided that it's probably the best time of my life to try to step out on a limb and try something."
The first bags went on sale at the market, where he mixes the spices and pretzels together.
Now his product is for sale at in Springfield, Marcola, Eugene, La Pine - even Eastern Oregon.
"Just through people getting the email off the back of the bag, that's what's been happening," he said.
And he continues to take notes from successful enterpreneurs who started small.
"I think Bill Gates said that all successful businesses give back to charity, and it's just kind of a karma type thing. And I think that the best way to grow the business is to help everyone around you," he said.
So at this summer's Blues and Brews event benefiting Habitat for Humanity, Lo Sciuto plans to donate a quarter of his sales.
Lo Sciuto also talks local, local, local when discussing his business practices - and future plans.
"We've been really lucky because it's ridiculously hard to find local products, I've learned, that are cost-effective and you can actually use in a business," he said. "Right now, the only thing I can't get locally is my bags, the packaging bags. Everything else is done local, from local sources, local distributors, trying to put as much money back into the local economy as possible and try to be as earth friendly as possible as well with the organic, free-trade spices."
His vision for economic development reaches beyond Eugene, too.
"If we were to expand further up into Portland and get a base up there, the idea would be to try to grab a designer from Portland or distributors in Portland, not only to be more cost-effective but to try to keep a circle of cash flow in the local economy and hopefully create jobs with that too.
"Big dreams for someone who works in a convenience store," he said, "but that's kind of the idea, the goal of it.
"I really like where it's gone," he added, "and I think I like where it's going."