How do you get a bunch of firefighters to pay attention to information they need protect their health when their job is to run out the door at a moment’s notice to protect someone else’s? You meet them where they are—at the fire station and at their beanery (kitchen) tables. 

The Rhizome Collaborative recently created a campaign for the Seattle Fire Fighters HealthCare Trust. The Trust works hard on behalf of Seattle Local 27 members and was looking for a way to get their messages in front of fire fighters. These members don’t always have the time to look through long emails or newsletters, but they always have their phones handy. The goal: direct them with short info snippets back to their website where information regarding their health and mental wellness, annual exams, healthcare benefits and other information could be found.

The solution required an approach that was both analog (a physical wooden caddy filled with hot sauces) and digital. During the pandemic, QR codes made a huge comeback in restaurants, menus and in so many other ways. We knew using them would feel more familiar to a group that has a mix of technical savvy experience.

A Unique Approach

To ensure these caddies could not be found on Amazon or anywhere else online, we worked with three local artisans to make something entirely unique, fun, and full of flavor. In our experience working with unions, keeping things made in the U.S. is a big deal. We were able to do it within a 75 mile radius. 

Giving credit where credit is due, the idea of a condiment tray was something Kenny Stuart, the President of Local 27, first mentioned when we met him two years ago. We thought it was a great place to start. But first, we had to figure out what types of condiments we would provide. Then it hit us…hot sauces. It had to be hot sauces. 


Caddy at Station 13
4 hot sauce bottle mockups

Mockup created of bottles with topical labels

hot sauce label

Example of label with messaging

Looking up local companies through Seattle Made, which supports nearly 700 urban producers and manufacturers, I came across Ballyhoo Hot Sauces.

At first I ordered four of their sauces and my husband and I tried them. They were really good! Then I got in touch with Syd Suntha, the owner of Ballyhoo. When I learned they could do private labeling, I knew this was the route to go. We could make each bottle label highlight a topic we wanted to promote with a QR code that went to a specific page on the website we designed. They turned out beautifully. Now all we needed was a caddy to hold them.

Janet Lewis-Woodworker

Janel Lewis in her studio

I’m lucky enough to know of a really great woodworking artist (and luthier) named Janet Lewis up on Whidbey Island where I live. Janet and I have worked on other projects together and we always have a lot of fun riffing off each other’s ideas. 

When she built her first prototype, it blew everyone away. It was beefy looking in black, with red valves, and silver diamond plate sides, lots of panhead screws, and two fire engine red valves on each side. The middle of the handle had a silver key ring placed in the top we could use to showcase a 5×7 card that would be changed out monthly. Metal rods separated bottles from each other and gave it an industrial look. We adjusted a couple of things on the first prototype to ensure the bottle labels could be seen, got the second one approved and she handcrafted 42 of them. Now we needed to personalize it.

Feather & Fox Print Co.

Joe-Menth Feather & Fox Print Co.

Joe Menth, owner of Feather & Fox Print Co., holds up laser cut medallions

 From there we hired Feather and Fox Print Co. in Langley on Whidbey Island. We wanted one side of the caddy to have a really nice medallion that would look like a wood burned etching of Local 27’s logo. Owner, Joe Menth was able to fabricate these beautifully. In addition to the medallions we had stickers made of each station’s logo to personalize each carrier even more. 

Caddy with Medallion

The caddies have been very well received with people loving the whole package. Hiring local artists gave us the chance to use their talents to craft a campaign that delivers a great experience to our customers and one that can be be measured. both anecdotally and via Google Analytics.

Many thanks to our creative friends for helping bring this project together! It was a stellar collaboration. Let’s do it again soon.

Davey Silver Award Winner