atlanta's independent entrepreneur network
Spencer Humphries, second from left, owns Black Tie Barbecue, a catering company, along with (from L-R) Allison Humphries, Neil Rollins, and LaToyin Rollins.
LRBN: We’re in this (metaphorical) elevator together for 30 floors – Hi there, what do you do?
SH: We are Black Tie Barbecue, a full-service catering company that does way more than barbecue. In fact our Bok Choy and our goat cheese sandwiches are just as famous as our ribs.
LRBN: How long did it take you to go from ideation to implementation?
SH: The time it takes to say "We are caterers". We literally started telling people we cater and within days we had our 1st gig. We didn't want for the perfect time or opportunity. We starting working and we've dedicated ourselves to perfecting as we go.
LRBN: You've done a good job of getting PR - what's your secret?
SH: We have been blessed to have friends and supporters who have created opportunities for media coverage. We try our best to stay news-worthy and relevant. We are always trying to push the envelope to top ourselves.
LRBN: You recently hooked up with Patron for an event - how'd you get that connection?
SH: How did Patron find us? We are still scratching our heads on that one. We think they caught word of our Secret Suppers.
LRBN: Ha. Okay, let’s talk cash. How did you fund this thing of yours? Professional kitchen gear can't be cheap.
SH: We are boot strappers. We have no debt or equity (that's credit cards/loans or investors for you non-Wall St. types.) Our business has funded and fueled itself. Which is best. Whenever we need a new grill, it means that we have the profits to support such a purchase. I recommend that aspiring entrepreneurs take the same steps. It's easier to operate a business with no debt.
LRBN: That's a great model to use. Any surprises to owning your own business (positive or otherwise)?
SH: The biggest surprise has been all of our newfound friends. We went into business planning to make the profits, but our newfound friends have been a blessing.
LRBN: Awww. We all heart you guys too. =) What's the biggest mistake you’ve made along the way?
SH: Letting our toddlers man the grill. :-) We are learning by doing so every let down has been a chance to gain wisdom we didn't have prior to the mistake. Most of our policies and procedures are based on mistakes we have made along the way.
LRBN: How did you build up your customer base? I would guess a lot of your business comes from word of mouth and previous customers, so how do you encourage that?
SH: Twitter and Facebook have been awesome. The Secret Suppers, to our surprise, also help a lot. Doing our best to create a quality product and experience has helped. We try our best to connect and reach out to the people who have supported us.
LRBN: Any advice for enterprising indiepreneurs?
SH: Be fearless! Just do! Don't make any excuses. Don't procrastinate. It's okay if you don't have it all figured out. There's always something to learn along the way. We are still learning from our mistakes.
LRBN: What’s next for Black Tie?
SH: Our next frontier is getting on the "preferred" vendor list at some of this town's events facilities.
LRBN: So people should let you know if they've got any ins, huh?
SH: Yes, anyone with a cousin, auntie, pastor, neighbor should help us get in. Aren't you tired of dry chicken at weddings around town?
LRBN: I sure am! Any parting words? (Please feel free to shamelessly promote yourself here if you so desire…)
SH: Hire us! We are allergic to working in cubicles. Also, our final Secret Supper for 2010 will be 11/13. www.black-tie-barbecue.com for more details.