The Secret To Success Is…
Given the 2012 economy, who would be crazy enough to start a new business venture in a totally unfamiliar category from one’s 40 year career experience?
Uh, that would be me.
Has it worked? Absolutely! Why? We’ll get to that in a moment.
In January, 2012, I celebrated my 40th year in the television production/advertising & marketing field. My most recent work had been as a contract writer/producer for Raytheon since 2006. It was a full time free lance position that I had hoped would take me to retirement in 2016.
As ESPN’s Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend!” Defense industry cutbacks hit communications at Raytheon NCS and my contract ended abruptly in April. In searching for new opportunities shortly thereafter, I want to thank Monster and Career Builder for confirming the minimal market demand for award-winning 61 year old writer/producers. Maintaining my positive attitude through many rejected applications was relatively easy because the way I saw it, I still had a lot of quality work to do, just not for them.
Now what? Our back burner dream to commercially bottle our own barbecue sauces became a reality because, well, the timing was perfect. So, after considerable prayer, my wife Jan and I launched E’s Best Barbecue, LLC in May of 2012. We had a business plan. We had a launch strategy. We had a target customer base, and we had what we thought was a great product. What we did not have were retailers lined up to sell our sauce. First, we had to bottle it in order to have samples, so we spent our money to launch realizing full well that we could have 100 cases of sauce sitting in our garage as our lasting legacy.
But that’s not what happened.
We started small and focused on independently owned retailers, where decisions to carry our products could be made and paid for on site. Our first bottling was on May 15. By June 27, we had 9 retailers in 3 states and ordered a second 100 case bottling.
By August 20, we had 19 retailers in 4 states and ordered a third bottling. All of this didn’t just happen. We relied upon friends in each state to assist us in introducing our products to retailers, who in turn, agreed to carry our sauces. We traveled throughout the southeast several times doing tastings and moving product.
By mid September we had 23 retailers and as we looked at what had taken place over just 4 months, we were very humbled. Then we got word that Bealls/Burkes Outlet wanted to begin carrying our sauces in the southeast, to see how they would fare. This opportunity increased our individual retail locations to 73 in 8 southern states!
So, how many barbecue sauces are there in the marketplace? Well, most people will tell you that the market is saturated already. In fact, at our first bottling, our bottling company told us that first timers like us may come back in a year, if at all. We’ve been there 3 times in 4 months and we are just beginning to scratch the surface of where we would like to be- national distribution in 4 years.
Some would say we are already successful and you can count me among those who believe that. But now that we have seen the popularity of our sauces across the south, we are confident that we will continue to grow this business to even greater heights with God’s help.
So back to the beginning of this blog, The Secret To Success Is…
Well, it’s not about how many bottles of sauce are sold or how many stores we have on our retailer list. Success comes as a result of God’s faithfulness, belief in our product, perserverance, and an amazing group of retailers and customers! But the Secret To Success is even more than that. It’s about going through each day thanking God for a fresh start, a new adventure, a new opportunity to engage people, to provide a product that gives enjoyment, and to share amazing stories like this one that could not have happened without the guidance and grace of God and His perfect timing.
The past 12 months are a true testimony that we are blessed! -Elmer Hilker
“Taste and see that the Lord is good. -Psalm 34:8
Merry Christmas from E’s Best Barbecue, LLC!