Now that the design was complete, and I had mixed up and bottled the first batch of seasonings, it was time to roll. The timing was perfect. Memorial Day weekend was days away and we made plans to vend and compete at a huge BBQ event near Augusta, Georgia. My buddy Shawn Johnson was itching to break in a new BBQ trailer he had built, so we got the old team together and headed to Augusta…
It was so much fun to get the old team together, along with Shawn and his buddy Chris Cooper. However, to say that this event was successful wouldn’t be correct. We had a blast and met some incredible people… but we didn’t do well in the competition, only sold a couple bottles of seasoning, and we bought way too much meat and sides to sell. We ended up giving away so many sandwiches at the end of Saturday night and the team had a ton of bbq to eat that whole next week. It’s crazy how we can take experiences and allow it to shape the way we think about business. I have been apprehensive since that event, and I think we have only done one vending style event since that weekend. However, I always try to find the bright spot in every situation and realize that sometimes it takes a while for them to shine through, but I’ll come back to that at the end of this story.
I always try to find the bright spot in every situation and realize that sometimes it takes a while for them to shine through.
While I didn’t sell many seasonings at the event, I was ready to get back and start pounding the pavement. We are in an incredible area for BBQ stores and Butcher shops and I knew right away that these types of stores were going to be great for our style of product. Stores like Striplings, Georgia Spa Company and Atlanta Grill Company were the first to bring us in. I absolutely loved meeting the business owners, managers and all the associates that worked the floor or butcher counter. It was so much fun to walk in, tell them about Lane’s and get to talk BBQ.
Super cool sidenote: Atlanta Grill Company (previously named Roswell Hardware & Otasco’s) was where my dad worked when he was in high school. I love to see our products on the shelves at a place my dad worked when he was younger.
Before I knew it, we were in 5 stores, then 10 and I knew it was time to bring on our first real employee. I had cashed in so many favors from friends and family so far, but I felt like it was time to take that next step. I had gone from running like crazy trying to make the catering thing happen, to adding a whole other part of the business. Now I was mixing, bottling, and labeling rubs at night once I got the briskets on for the next day’s catering events. There just wasn’t enough time to get it all done. (Finally it’s time to intro Brian!!) As luck would have it, the company that my good buddy, Brian Turner was working for had just gone through a huge layoff. He was trying to figure out his next step and I couldn’t think of a better person to bring on board. We met in college and had been great friends ever since. He was even in our wedding, which would end up paying huge dividends because that meant that Stacey loved him too...which was now a qualification since he was going to be at our house almost every day for the next 7 months. We wouldn’t move everything to the commercial space until the following February.
My wife truly IS an angel! I still can’t believe she let us turn our house into BBQ central. Every morning our kitchen table turned into the mixing station where Brian would hand mix and bottle the seasoning blends. I occupied the other part of our kitchen to make all the sides, desserts and sauces for the catering events and Fast Lane orders. The dining room became the labeling station and where we wrote thank you cards and packed up orders. The office was where we stored all the ingredients and finished products. We even stacked a pallet for an order going to Canada (can’t wait to tell y’all about all the cool places we were sending products in the next blog post) in our foyer…then realized we were never going to be able to get it out the front door.
So, we broke it down, moved it all to the garage and then restacked it. Once again, I am so glad that I started writing this blog. For one, we were running at such a crazy pace that I didn’t have much time to process all the incredible things that were happening. Secondly, I have learned so many things about God’s timing over the past 9+ years. Remember that BBQ event in Evans that I said appeared to be a failure. Well…even though we didn’t sell much, or bring home any trophies, we made some incredible friends and business contacts that we still work with today. Reid Sanders, a fraternity brother of mine from West Georgia, introduced us to the Recteq crew that was set up next to us. We got to meet Ray, Jody, and several others who were hanging out at Banjobque and living that Recteq lifestyle. They were definitely the life of the party that entire weekend! Recteq is one of the best-known wood pellet grill companies around and they sell some incredible products (www.recteq.com). It has been nuts to watch their growth over the past 8 years. We have loved working with them over the years and can’t wait to tell you more about how the relationship grew when we get to the post about Co-Packing.
However, next time I want to talk more about how Brian and I learned to work together, to balance business and friendship and how he had some incredible secret talents that would help take Lane’s to the next level.