WARREN, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A couple of lifelong friends started messing around with hot peppers when they were kids.

Eli Cady’s father grew them and Sean Maloney shared a passion for spice.

Long before the two North Kingstown entrepreneurs started cooking up heat in the kitchen of Hope and Main in Warren, there was a painful habanero challenge when they were about 14 years old.

“[Sean] said, try one of these,” Cady said. “It hurt. I held it in though, just to try to be tough, but it hurt. It was a spicy pepper.”

Both went to college and later enlisted with the Air National Guard.

When Maloney came home from deployment about two years ago, they decided to do something with a surplus of Cady’s father’s peppers.

“With a little bit of salt,” Cady recalled. “Some lime juice.”

Maloney pointed out that jalapenos and garlic were, of course, part of the mix.

“Messing around with it,” Maloney said. “Getting it to taste great.”

It was perfect, according to Cady.

“We were talking together and we were like, ‘We need to sell this,'” Cady said.

But there was one problem.

“I didn’t write any of it down,” Maloney said. “Just eyeballed it all. Next time we tried making it, it came out bad.”

It took weeks of measuring, mixing and testing to recapture the first taste they created ─ now known as Mean Green.

It also took a little longer to convince everyone hot sauce was a recipe for a business.

“My mother said to me, ‘why are you making hot sauce when I can just go to the grocery and buy it?'” Cady said. “Two weeks later, she told me she knew I could make it.”

They created their company, 13 Stars, to help another passion they share.

A quarter from every bottle sold is contributed to organizations that help veterans and first responders with the various issues they face.

So when they recently sold their 1,000th bottle, it tasted pretty good.

“Knowing that you made someone’s overcooked chicken taste a little bit better,” Cady said. “And they like it. They keep buying it.”

Passing that 1,000 threshold “put a big old smile” on Maloney’s face.

“Helping veterans, first responders, is important,” he said.

Their third sauce, “The Big Red One,” comes out in a few weeks, joining “Mean Green” and “Tango Mango.”

“There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than making hot sauce,” Maloney said. “Which I never thought I’d be saying in a million years.”

Email Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com with your story ideas and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.