What choices do contest cooks have to combat rising expenses? For most contest cooks, starting a bbq business aimed at capitalizing on bbq contest participation seems viable. The basic choices are as follows:
--Start selling bbq rub
--Start selling bbq sauce
--Start a bbq vending / concession business
--Start a bbq catering service
--Start a barbecue website
--Pursue corporate sponsorship
On the surface, each of those ideas sounded promising to us. They certainly sound simple enough. How hard could it be?
We found a co-packer and started selling our bbq spice rubs at contests and to family and friends. If you're thinking of taking a similar approach, plan to spend at least $850 in start-up expenses, add another $300 or $400 if you want professionally printed labels for your bottles. To earn back the start-up costs, plan on selling at least 1,000 bottles of rub in 10 oz. bottles (600 if you decide to start with a larger 13 oz. bottle).
It would be much easier to sell bbq sauce in these volumes, but the start-up expenses are about 400% greater, so increase the sales to 4,000 small bottles (or 2,400 big bottles). After a little research with the health department and state regulators, we crossed bbq vending, concessions, and catering off the list quickly. The start-up expenses to comply with the legal requirements are nearly $20,000, plus rent on a commissary facility to store supplies and prepare foods.
I started two barbecue websites that do generate a small amount of revenue, but not nearly enough to support the cost of contests. If you have technical expertise, this might a viable alternative for you, but based on my "seat of the pants" knowledge level, it's not been the answer to our expense issues. Hint:
YouTube.com, Twitter.com, and Facebook.com will help you increase your web site traffic if you use them strategically.
Which leaves one more option -- corporate sponsorship. I haven't put any efforts into obtaining a corporate sponsor for our bbq team and as difficult as it sounds, it is probably the best option on this list. And that brings us back to the lack of spectator involvement in the events. Without large numbers of spectators at bbq contests (I'm talking thousands), the corporate sponsorship is going to be hard to come by.