From Backyard to Brick and Mortar: BBQ Business Uses SBA Resources Every Step of the Way

Image of Kristen Bailey holding a BBQ sandwhich

The idea for Cincinnati-based barbecue business Sweets and Meats began in Kristen Bailey’s backyard. She and her partner Anton would host cookouts, serving family recipes to their friends. As word spread about their food and many people began to encourage Kristen and Anton to open a restaurant.   

In 2014, the two leaped into entrepreneurship, starting their business with a smoker, $500 in capital and a volunteer work force. For the first 18 months, the business did not have a payroll.

In 2015, Kristen enrolled into MORTAR, an SBA-sponsored business accelerator and began working closely with SBDC counselor Larry Brown, who helped her develop a business plan and connect with lenders.

“MORTAR was the first place that I felt that my dream was supported,” Kristen said. “I was able to find a lot of resources through their program, including SCORE mentor Mike advice to entrepreneurs is to start with what you have. Start small and think big. Don’t get into debt or buy more than you can afford. Find a way to make the resources that you have work.” 

In 2016, Kirsten expanded her business to include a food truck, catering services and a brick and mortar building and, in 2018, she secured an SBA-guaranteed loan to buy restaurant equipment and a new generator for her food truck.

With the help of SBDC and SCORE counselors, Kristen has gone from a volunteer workforce to five full-time and five part-time staff members, with an emphasis on hard-to-hire local employees. She has helped one of her employees re-enroll to get his GED as an adult.

Kristen’s relationship-driven business strategy also has helped her double her sales every year since starting and she is projecting $450,000 in sales for 2018.

“I think the business has brought the local community closer together,” Kristen said. “We’ve been public with our journey from the beginning. Our product is not only transactional, it’s relational.” The neighborhood where she grew up and has her business is seeing a number of revitalization projects and new small businesses enter it. “I like to think that I helped encourage that growth. Giving back to my local community has always been a big part of why I became an entrepreneur.”

Kristen continues to tap the SBA and is currently enrolled in its Emerging Leaders class, an executive-level program that helps small businesses accelerate their growth. Her goal is to use the strategic three-year plan she creates in the program to open a full-service sit-down restaurant.

This article does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the SBA of any opinions, products, or services of any private individual or entity.