It’s 5:00 am on Wednesday morning and I just ended my bi-weekly Zoom call with Brett Stokes in Australia. Brett has owned and operated Lane’s BBQ Australia for the past 6 ½ years. I’m feeling super thankful right now that we still practice daylight savings time here in the States, as it allowed me an extra hour of sleep this morning. It’s been a crazy couple weeks, and I can feel it catching up with me. Normally, I get a chance to recharge a bit on the weekends, but it has been wide open here lately. However, Brett and I just had another awesome call and now I’m wide awake now and ready to take on the day, so I thought now would be a perfect time to tell the story about how our products ended up in Australia.
The fact that we are even able to have this conversation still melts my brain. When I rolled out the first four seasoning blends, I had no clue where the business would come from, but I was thinking it would mainly come from Georgia and a few other areas in the southeast. Remember, I was just looking for a way to supplement my income and free up a little time… oh, the irony of it all. Since I rolled out the seasonings, I had been getting pretty active on Instagram. I was trying to post three pictures a day, plus still look for people to send product to who were into BBQ and were willing to try out some new products. I still look back at some of my pictures from the beginning and laugh a little. However, I’m so glad that I just started somewhere and didn’t wait until I was a professional photographer as we still wouldn’t have a page. That’s why it is always best to just start doing. Sometimes if you wait, you will never feel like you are ready. Come to think of it, I bet I could write a book on how we built Lane’s with the help of Instagram.
That’s why it is always best to just start doing. Sometimes if you wait, you will never feel like you are ready.
Anyway, seeing everyone’s posts on IG was really opening my eyes to the different cultures and how each geographical area had its own specialties. That’s one of the main reasons we have such a wide range of flavors. I’ve always loved to travel and take in a meal or two with friends in different parts of the country and bring those flavors back into our family’s kitchen. Some of my favorite memories over the past decade are standing around a grill with friends and trying out new flavors and we have been able to do that in some beautiful places around the world.
Back to Brett and how we met. One morning Brian and I were in the shop. I was working on a catering order, and he was mixing and bottling the wholesale and online orders from the previous day to pack up and ship when I got a message notification on IG. It stopped me in my tracks as it was from clear across the world in Australia. I still remember reading it and thinking that this must be a scam. Why would someone from Australia even be remotely interested in some seasonings made in Bethlehem, Georgia?
However, I am a huge fan of big opportunities, so I sent back a message saying we were interested in talking through some ways to get the products over there. I was still a little skeptical, but Brett and I hit it off right away. He was active in the BBQ community throughout AU and had a huge passion for food and people. He also had a full-time career, and I knew this would be a little side job for him. I could totally relate to what he was thinking and knew that we could build something together. Over the next few weeks, we also received another opportunity in Australia from a traditional distributor. I knew we had to make a decision that would be best for our business model.
We haven’t talked a lot about distribution, but the way it works is we would sell our products to another company, who would then add on some cost and sell it to stores in their area. However, I wasn’t too big on the idea to work with a traditional distributor, even in the US, as most of them distributed several lines of seasonings. I knew I wanted to work with a company that was passionate about our products and their sole focus was to sell Lane’s. I know that choosing not to use a typical distributor has slowed our growth over the past few years, but God has always provided plenty of work to keep us busy and operating a healthy business. That’s one of the main reasons we never went the route of Publix or Kroger. Plus, you really need to have massive amounts of marketing dollars to throw at it, but that’s a story for a future post.
After lots of prayer and talking with Stacey, we decided that selling the seasonings to Brett would be the best direction for Lane’s and we have never looked back. He was super motivated and couldn’t wait to spread the word and flavors across Australia. I still remember the day we agreed, and he thought it would be best to start with 12 cases of product (3 cases of each flavor). With 12 bottles in each case, we were about to send 144 bottles clear across the world. It would all fit in one box and weighed just under 60 lbs. Now it was time for a new challenge and the introduction into a whole new world. The one involving international shipping and customs. Shipping internationally is very expensive, and Brett and I learned very quickly that we would need to increase the size of the orders to make it a little more cost-efficient. I’m so thankful for Margaret, who was our FedEx international rep who had to hold my hand an awful lot in those early days. She was so patient and always took the time to explain the paperwork and what was needed for a smooth transition through customs. Each order seemed to bring a new challenge and making sure that all the paperwork was in order was essential. The crazy part was that it would be in Brett’s hands 7-10 days after it left the shop.
From the moment that first box landed in Brisbane, Brett has been hustling. I’m still amazed and pumped at the business he has built over the past 6 ½ years and we escalated from sending a case to pallets of product extremely fast. In fact, we have been sending him 40-foot containers by way of cargo ship every couple of months for the past few years…brain still melting. He now has north of 10 employees, a huge warehouse, an incredible e-commerce business, a fleet of vehicles, and sales reps in Brisbane and Sydney. Not to mention he has now placed our products on shelves in over 600 stores throughout Australia. Plus, we have some even bigger things in the works that I can’t wait to share with you all over the next 6-12 months.
As I mentioned earlier, I love to travel and take in new experiences! Next post I will share about some of those experiences during my visits to Australia.