Where Red Kettle 'Que Started
It all started at a party we were hosting for my son's lacrosse team, and I decided to serve pulled-pork using my homemade marinade, rub, and BBQ sauce. It was the hit of the party, attendees were asking for seconds, and a parent and dear friend (thanks Luanne!) suggested we bottle the sauce and sell it at our local school craft fair. My wife and I really thought and pondered over the endeavor-we knew it was going to be a lot of work, and both of us work full-time jobs. We said, What the heck!, and for the next few months, we spent our weekends cooking, bottling and packaging the barbecue sauce, the marinade, and the rub.
The Product Name
With all the preparation, we knew we had to create a name and design. I wanted to tie in my roots and my family's cooking. Since I am from a small town just north of Memphis, I knew I had to incorporate this into the logo, name, and/or design. Hence, our first name, Southern Roots BBQ. My wife then designed our labels and logo with a wooden fence background and a red kettle. It was perfect for the backyard barbecue aesthetic, and the lids of our jars tied in to good 'ole Tennessee orange.
Our First Craft Fair
Our First Craft Fair Picture
We sold our products at our first local school craft fair in my son's elementary school. I only made 50 jars of my barbecue sauce and marinade, and 30 bags of the dry rub, intending it to be slow since it was our first event. I even offered samples of our sauce to potential customers. Nevertheless, we sold out of our products about three-quarters of the way through the craft fair, and I knew in my heart at that moment, I had something special.
Fate Works in Mysterious Ways
This is where our story takes an incredible turn. If you are like us, we are true believers in fate, destiny, and "things happen for a reason". From many of our personal experiences, we can only deduct that certain outcomes were due to fate, destiny, and left in God's hands. This is one of them.
In between our full time jobs, my wife's second business, and my son's lacrosse seasons, we are avid boaters. We live right by the water, and we just love the sea breeze, the harbor, fishing, and the beach.
One September morning, we found out our close friend and father figure, Bill, passed away. In addition to this, at 8:30 am the same morning, I received a call from our mooring company that our boat had capsized in the harbor. Literally, upside down-apparently rogue winds had come through the harbor in the middle of the night, and our boat was the only one affected by the storm. Strangely, when our tender company drove through the mooring fields the night before, our boat was perfectly fine.
Now you are probably wondering how our boat and our dear friend Bill are connected to our barbecue success story, right?
Bill was a teacher in my wife's school and the musical director. When he retired, his students dedicated and sung the song, "For Good" at his last concert, and on the morning he passed, around the same time our boat was discovered, someone posted the lyrics from the song in his memory on Facebook:
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better? But
Because I knew you
Because I knew you
I have been changed for good
If this doesn't bring chills to your arms, the next part will. This is where fate truly collided.
As our boat was being hauled back to the dock upside down for recovery, I stood at the edge of dock watching, choking back tears. As they used a crane to lift my boat out of the water, Jim, one of the tender drivers, stood by my side in the rain, patted me on the back, and offered me moral support. From there, a quick friendship bloomed with him and his wife, Rosanne, and now they are my business partners, dear friends, and confidants.
As for the strange events with our boat? So many of our friends have said, "Bill flipped your boat that morning". Thanks, Bill. We can still hear his voice in our heads, Eh...now you can just get bigger boat. Moments with him were always "glass half full moments", the bigger the better, onward and upward, and never look back. We truly believe he set us forward. He gave us the gift of friendship and love for many years, but this was his final gift to us.
It's Time to Get a Bigger Boat
Shortly after our boat mishap, we bought a new boat, and we met Dan, our other business partner and dear friend.
We were staying at a transient slip in the harbor, and Dan pulled up right beside us in his brand new boat. Like boaters do, I helped him tie off his boat, and my wife instantly asked to take a tour of his boat. What we didn't know was Dan and Jim knew each other for years. Irony? No. Fate? Yes. The rest is history!
That summer, Dan asked Jim and I to take a boat ride with him. I offered to bring fresh pulled pork. Just like the craft fair, it was a hit with them, and shortly after that, Dan and Jim came to me with a business venture - taking my barbecue sauce, marinade, and dry rub to market. What was once a pipe dream was now becoming a reality.
The Beginning of Business - Hurdles & Setbacks
Just like any business, there are many moving pieces, and starting a business takes time-creating a corporation, design, logos, the business name, trademarks, meetings, phone calls, leads, jars, marketing, manufacturing, product, and SO much more.
My business partners and I spent a tremendous time hammering down all the fine details. After years of tireless rebranding and marketing, we were finally ready to launch the business!
We hit the production line, and had our first cook with the manufacturer. Besides serving in the United States Air Force, watching my homemade sauce and rub being bottled professionally was one of the most incredible experiences in my life.
Gratitude & Appreciation
I am beyond grateful for my wife, Kim, my son, Joseph, and my business partners-Rosanne, Jim, Dan, and Jack-for having faith in me and my product. It is a dream come true.
I also cannot thank our family and friends for their love, encouragement, and dedication over the years. There are no words to describe how much I truly appreciate it. You have all been a huge part of my success.
Cheers to Red Kettle 'Que.