Startup of the Month

Startup of the Month – The Smokey City’s 412 BBQ

The Smokey City’s 412 BBQ

Q: Tell us more about Smokey City’s 412 BBQ and where the inspiration came from.

A: The Smokey City’s 412 BBQ was a name I put together as a result of a naming contest I had on Facebook. I mashed together the top 2 names because we couldn’t reach a consensus. The inspiration for the business came from just many years of tinkering and sharing what I came up with in the kitchen. Those shared creations garnered feedback, which in turn warranted changes and then it became a mastery.

Q: What made it possible for your company to start?

A: Working my job as a Table Games dealer helped me get over the final financial hump, I had just enough money coming in to invest in the R&D.

Q: Why Pittsburgh?

A: Quite simply its where I live! I decided in 2010 to move to Pittsburgh from State College, Pa (My home since I moved from Ct in 1999). I had a been a few times before moving, it was a great city with almost a small town feel & It had 3 of the 4 major sports and great people.

Q: How does Smokey City’s 412 BBQ differ from other seasonings, rubs, and sauces?

A: We are different in a few ways: 1. We try to go for All-Natural  (No artificial Colors, No preservatives) with our creations 2. We try to be versatile and adaptable to customer experiences 3. We like to meet new dietary challenges and patterns head on and include them in our narrative.

Q: When and why did you begin creating these products?

A: I created my Area 51 sauce back in September of 2005, and it was basically due to a request by some co-workers (up until then I was most known for making cocktails into cakes) one night we were having wings.

Q: In addition to your website, can your products be purchased in stores locally? Do you have intentions of expanding beyond Pittsburgh?

A: The Short answer is yes, we are going through a rebranding and splitting the Sauces and Dry Rubs into “Uncle Jammy’s Sauces” line, so we have to reapply and come to terms with past accounts and retailers. The Uncle Jammy’s line will be aimed at getting national appeal. 412 BBQ will continue to exist.

Q: What’s next for 412 BBQ?

A: 412 BBQ will become the arm of the company that deals exclusively with food. We will do catering and food service through this avenue. The Smokey City’s 412 BBQ as a whole will look to expand into our own facility once we get revenues.

Q: What suggestions or advice might you have for other startups and entrepreneurs beginning in Pittsburgh?

A: I have several suggestions for startups:

1. Exhaust every free resource possible (Library, Mentors, Programs, Seminars, etc.)

2. Watch business makeover shows (The Profit, Bar Rescue, Restaurant Impossible, etc.) entertaining, but informative

3. Get a Library card with the Carnegie Library and book a librarian at a business center to do research.

4. Know your numbers – know everything about your product or service. Know your expenses (both fixed and variable).

5. Don’t Price yourself too low, use a resource like in conjunction with knowing the right margins for your type of product.

6. Use Email Marketing.

7. Wait to spend on things until you absolutely need it.

8. NEVER use credit cards for your business (resist unless you can pay it immediately)

9. Buy Used when you can – especially when you are in the food service industry. Its not just limited to food though, office supplies, equipment etc. should be halted until real revenue is coming in to buy it. Remember purchases should be seen as a way to increase revenue or maintain stability.

10. Don’t quit your day job – it’s a phrase that you’ll hear over and over again, but it won’t matter until you experience it. Don’t jump too soon, your business has to replace not only your job and benefits, but also compensate you for the extra unaccounted for hours & expenses put in.

11. Rehearse your elevator pitch – you have to know it by heart, have it internalized (not memorized) may seem corny but if you aren’t buying it, they sure aren’t buying it.

12. Keep your business organized – there are so many moments that someone needs random pieces of information that just happen to be on one misfiled document and that document holds every thing you need in the balance.

13. Digitize important documents.

14. Get a real email as fast as you can – companies don’t like .gmail, .hotmail, .live emails they want them on a professional server.

15. Don’t get too fancy too fast with the look of the business – Yes be professional and neat, but don’t spend $3,000 on labels and $4,000 on a website but only have yearly revenue of $18,000 – you will go broke.

16. Do not Neglect Customer Service – In a digital world there is nothing more unforgiving than a bad yelp review (made worse by confrontation) – but some people are insatiable and that’s okay, if you keep engaging other people will see what you are willing to do make them happy and it will balance out.

17. The Business Plan is the map of the old days (GPS today) you cannot leave with out this, it is the ultimate answer to whether I should do this paired with how will I do this.

18. Do you startup for the right reasons – not just for money. This is a hard racket, but if you love what you do, that bad days aren’t as bad as bad days at a place you hate.

19. Know your target audience, study them, ask them questions and adapt to their needs. You are in business for them, not you.

20. Regulations – make sure you know regulations, rules and permitting for your industry. Not having the proper credentials could cost you.

21. Utilize Technology – the digital space has closed the gap for many people, now you only need time to establish your business. Social Media, Design apps, Apps in general, data analytics, email marketing, Customer Service apps and even some HR and Payroll apps exist

22. Decide what your brand is, and build that reputation.

23. Have boundaries with your business. Sure have a lot of time put in, but also time for (as my friends put it) “Being Human”. Give the business your all, but make the time for the things that are absolutely necessary.