“My goal is to help everyone here, then around the country, and then one day around the world.”
13-year-old Lev Burstein is a Shark Tank enthusiast and has long wanted to be an entrepreneur himself. Last year, he finally struck upon an idea that not only satisfied his craving to build something from the ground up, but also helped people in need in his community. And that day, Lev went to his garden, grabbed a handful of peppers, and started a business.
From a young age, Lev has volunteered alongside his family in his Philadelphia community. He’s also seen his mom Sharon, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, travel the world helping countries like Haiti and Indonesia rebuild their education systems after natural disaster and war.
“We watch her repair the world,” says Lev’s dad, Andy.
So it’s no wonder that when Lev finally started a business that it was charitable as well.
“I wanted to give a portion of proceeds to help people in need,” says Lev. “So when I was brainstorming a bunch of ideas for a business, I came up with Hot Sauce 4 Heat.”
Hot Sauce 4 Heat’s mission is simple: To help people afford heat during his hometown’s brutal winter months. And to make that happen, Lev tapped into a different kind of heat-homemade hot sauce.
“I’ve always loved spicy food,” says Lev. “So one day, my dad and I just blended a bunch of peppers together, and it tasted really good. That became the recipe for Hot Sauce 4 Heat.”
Lev then found a beneficiary for his business, the Utility Emergency Support Fund (UESF), which helps vulnerable families impacted by housing crises to pay their heating and utility bills.
From there, all Lev needed to get his business off the ground was a little capital. While watching an episode of one of his favorite shows, Shark Tank, he learned about GoFundMe. So he started a fundraiser of his own.
“We ended up raising about $2,500,” says Lev. “All of the money raised from the GoFundMe went to UESF, after covering the cost of hot sauce bottles we shipped to donors. For most regular bottles we sell at farmers markets and festivals, 10% goes toward helping people with heating bills as well.”
Now, Lev has his sights set on making an even bigger impact. He continues to raise money through his GoFundMe to help people in need-this time, at a winter shelter founded by local college students called the Student Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia. He’s also working to get his hot sauce in online shops and local restaurants.
One day, Lev hopes to get his bottles on the shelves of a national chain. Because the more hot sauce Lev sells, the more heating bills he can cover. “My goal is to help everyone here, then around the country, and then one day around the world,” he says.
And his parents couldn’t be prouder. “He’s always had an entrepreneurial mind, and we’ve always wanted to give back to the community together,” says Andy. “It’s great to see Lev inspiring others, too. A man at one of the festivals we attended bought a bottle of hot sauce with his baby son. He posted a picture on Instagram and said, ‘I hope that when my son is older, he wants to be an entrepreneur and help people, too.'”
To Lev, running Hot Sauce 4 Heat is simply common sense: “I’ve learned a lot about business and doing stuff myself to prepare for the real world. Plus, I just really like that I get to help people who need help.”