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On The Rise: Big Deck BBQ

Big Deck BBQ is a local product to watch out for!

This maker is someone we are very familiar with here at Spotlight Media. Zach Willis is a account executive with us that, like many now fulltime entrepreneurs, once juggled a full-time job with an entrepreneurial side-hustle. Now, he’s taken the plunge and is fulltime pursuing his entrepreneurial efforts with his father and Big Deck Barbecue Co.

How did you and your father get started with the company?

My dad has actually been working out all of the recipes we use for probably about 12 years now. In May of 2020, when my time playing football at NDSU had kind of ceased, and I couldn’t really work because we were in the middle of the pandemic, we kind of decided to start selling to family and friends. Eventually, it really just took on a life of its own. We started a Facebook page and a website and then it just blew up like the next day. We’ve kind of just been riding that wave ever since.

Really? So you didn’t have any designs to start a business when you set out?

Really, up until the last six or seven months, it had just been a hobby. And then we just got too big.

How have you been scaling things then? I have to imagine you’ve had to change things up operationally in a pretty significant manner over a short period of time.

Yeah, all of this started in my dad’s kitchen. And fortunately, we live in a state where we’re protected by something called The Cottage Act. Basically, if you start a small business, you have up until a year to get into a commercial property to produce it. So, we took advantage of that for the first few months. From there, we’ve moved on to Square One Kitchen. And basically, that’s where we’ve been ever since, kind of just figuring out how to make it the fastest possible processes we can. And we’ve kind of maxed that out. Now, the next step is finding our own spot and finding funding for stuff like that. Getting the equipment, all that fun stuff. So that’s kind of the process we’re in right now.

Where are some of the places you ‘re looking for funding?

We’ve basically been using the SBA, small banks, credit unions, stuff like that. We haven’t reached out to private investors or anything yet. But, I think eventually we will get to that point.

What type of space are you looking for and how soon are you going to be in a different space?

I think we’re actually going to rent out a warehouse and use some funds to fit it into a food manufacturing facility. Hopefully, within the year, we’re doing that, because anything we’re producing at this level is getting sold. So, we need to expand our production and get the product in more people’s hands.

What was the process like for becoming a Pride of Dakota product?

Yeah, it’s just an application process online, and then the $100 annual fee. A lot of good stuff comes with being Pride of Dakota certified so we think it was well worth the cost. It has been great to do the vendor shows that are exclusively for Pride of Dakota members. Through that, we’ve reached parts of the state that we never would have before.

I imagine one of the most difficult things about your business is getting into those retail locations. Do you have any tips that you have learned along the way that could help others out there?

It’s honestly about getting in touch with the right people. That’s something that I learned selling at Spotlight. You can waste your time reaching out to people if you don’t know the right person, the person making the decisions.

Where can people find your products currently?

They can find our products online at bigdeckbbq.com. We’re also in SCHEELS Home & Hardware, the SCHEELS all sports on 45th street, Butcher Block Meats, Baker’s Garden & Gifts and we should be in some large grocery locations soon.

How soon?

We’ll be in there soon. The larger grocery store locations need different barcodes and nutrition labels. Once we have those, we should be good.

If people aren’t aware, you can actually get nutritional information through NDSU Extension Service.

Written by Brady Drake

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