Chow Town

So, you want to be a barbecue entrepreneur?

Updated: 2013-06-19T15:48:02Z


If you’re like me, like a lot of folks around here, you could very well have a barbecue obsession.

I’m not talking about being obsessed with eating barbecue, though I admit I’m pretty close to the edge on that one.

No, I’m talking about an obsession with rubbing, smoking and saucing — using the perfect wood, the precise temperature, the exact amount of time and the right piece of equipment to turn out that perfect (fill-in-the-blank).

Of course, unsatisfied with the hundreds of rubs, sauces, flavorings, marinades and injections available to us here in Kansas City, you’ve spent hours, days, weeks and likely months creating and perfecting your own. And, boy are you/they good — way better than (fill-in-the-blank).

You’ve heard it from friends and family for years. “You’re sauce is the bomb!” “That dry rub is just perfect on that slab of ribs!” “You should bottle and market your own stuff!”

And, maybe you should, but before you make the jump from obsession to profession, how about a few cautionary tales from folks who’ve walked the barbecue trail before you?

“Be patient. Be persistent. And, be prepared for plenty of rejection.”

That’s what Shannon Kimball of Firebug BBQ had to say when I asked him what kind of advice he’d offer budding barbeque entrepreneurs.

“Oh, and keep your day job, and be ready to give up your weekends for in-store demonstrations,” added Kimball.

Kimball is a success story in the independent barbecue product business — on the cusp of quadrupling his production. He currently sells two sauces under the Firebug Label — a mild and a hot Grilling Sauce.

But, after partnering with a former Kansas City resident who moved to Chicago to open barbecue restaurants, he’ll soon have seven new sauces on store shelves.

Even with that growth, and having done the barbecue thing professionally for four years, Kimball still hasn’t quit his construction job. Yeah, it’s that competitive and that tough.

Then there’s Duane Daugherty who creates and markets Mr. Doggity barbecue sauces. I asked him what he would tell someone who said they wanted to sell their homemade barbecue creations professionally, to which he responded, “You mean, when I stop laughing.”

Daugherty has been selling Mr. Doggity for two years professionally — just one of four jobs Daugherty toils at. He also does catering, runs a food truck, and has been an environmental and safety consultant for 20-years.

“Having a good sauce isn’t the most important thing,” Daugherty told me recently. “And, it’s not the most expensive thing, either. A person could easily drop a few thousand dollars, then wind up with a garage full of sauces he’s got to move.”

Daugherty also points out that no one’s going to sell it for you, so you’d better be prepared to knock on doors — not that much different than the days of traveling salesmen.

Having just celebrated Mr. Doggity’s second anniversary as a professional sauce, Daugherty said he’s nowhere near making a primary living off his sauces, but he loves it and plans to keep plugging away.

“If you can make a dollar profit per bottle, that’s really good,” Daugherty said. “You’ve got to move a lot of bottles of barbecue sauce to make any money at that rate. Think about that.”

I will, Duane, the very next time a friend tells me how good my barbecue is and that I ought to be doing it professionally.

Yes, I’ll remember you and your words of wisdom and keep mine a barbecue obsession rather than profession.

Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, or nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents. Eckert is also an avid wine collector and aficionado, having amassed a personal wine cellar of some 2,000 bottles.

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