Let's Talk About 2022
Warning, this is a very long read, but it's our story, and I want to thank you for diving in should you choose to read this one to the end.
I want to start this post by expressing the utmost appreciation for every single one of you that has purchased something from us - whether it be from the store or from here on bigdeckbbq.com. You are DIRECTLY supporting me and my family in our pursuit of our dreams and I consider you family for doing so. I can't thank you enough.
I'm so appreciative for every like, re-post, retweet, comment and share. We've added almost 2,000 new followers across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in the last year and that has very, very little to do with us. It has in large part to do with all of you spreading the good word and taking and running with us on this journey through what has been a pretty insane 365.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has told someone else about us. The number of people who have told us that they've heard of us, already have our product or only buy our stuff has been nothing short of surreal. Here's to you, if you've told a friend, bought it as a gift for a family member, or chose us as your contribution to the potluck. What may seem a very simple gesture to you and yours, means the world to us and ours.
Now, let's talk about 2022. I'm going to go month by month because that is the only way this brain of mine can even try to wrap itself around what has occurred over the last year.
I'm actually going to start with December 2021, hah. We were available for retail in around five locations, if I remember correctly. It was certainly very modest in perspective to what our reach has expanded to now, but we were pumped. It showed that there was an ember, that if we nurtured it the way we thought we needed to, could burst into a fire.
We haven't come out and publicly talked about it, because I don't think it was necessary to do so, but I think it's necessary now to tell the story of 2022 correctly. Around the time January rolled around, I took over the company from my dad - it still remains the greatest gift anyone has, or ever could give me and I'm eternally grateful to him for that.
With that situation being as it was, I quit my job selling advertising here in Fargo to run this thing full-time. I had no expectation of how or if I would even be able to afford to survive, but the continued support from my incredible fiance, Julia, allowed me to dive in head first. It was real now. It was all on me to see what I could do with this.
In January, we were lucky enough to add Home of Economy as a vendor - this basically doubled our number of stores. This was the first affirmation that I might be able to do it. We actually mobile-deposited that check and hung it on our wall because it was the first time we'd ever seen a check come in like that from work we were doing with Big Deck. Nevertheless, I knew that something else needed to happen for this operation to be financially viable (aka, staying alive).
February rolled on and we added a few new locations! Specifically, Scheels - Eden Prairie, pretty cool, we were expanding out of just Scheels - Fargo and Scheels Home & Hardware! Besides going to Disney World, which was pretty awesome personally, February came and went fairly uneventfully. I ended up paying $100 in overweight fees to fly the Hard Mountain Dew back home in my luggage, which wasn't very fun😬
In March, I hit my first stroke of good luck. We were put in contact with Tom & Mark at Bischof Distributing, and this sparked an incredibly fast acceleration of the company. The first order I received from them, I legitimately didn't know how we were going to produce. I didn't think we could, but we somehow found a way. It has been a complete blur since this moment. I owe a lot to Mark, Tom, Rick and their team for taking a chance, being flexible and believing in a 22-year old who had nothing but a good product. They could have laughed me out of that meeting, but I have so much gratitude for them for not doing so.
I knew immediately after seeing that first PO that things had to happen, and they needed to start happening soon. I began looking for commercial space for us to produce at, to no avail for a while, but we ended up finding one that I thought had some potential. I chose that one, it's been getting fit-up since then and we're hoping for a February grand opening this year for all of you to come visit. This space will be used for manufacturing, storage, business operations and retail! Exciting stuff!
In April, we officially hit store shelves. A very, very surreal moment for me to walk into Hornbacher's and see our product on the shelf. It was the first real validation of the work that we had been doing in the dark for SO long. We were in the spotlight now and that feeling was incredible. Bischof continued to order, we continued to make, and more and more stores ended up with it on their shelves. It felt like we were finally at the point we felt like we had earned. It was also the beginning of supply issues with our bottles, which parlayed into me looking for new packaging. The first of many issues we ran into with a 're-brand', hah.
There were issues with the packaging that were present that became highlighted because of the large scale distribution we were now experiencing. The nozzle clogged and broke, the bottles leaked and our labels weren't waterproof. It didn't exactly set us up for great presentation or usability. Something had to change, and it did (many thanks to my friend Darren for helping us find the answer). We switched to a flip cap with a wider spout while changing the shape of our squeeze bottles. I felt horrible putting something out in inferior packaging and had to fix it.
In May, I had samples of what our new packaging would look like in my hands for the first time. I was ecstatic. We stress tested them, threw them around, hot- filled them like we would be if they were the right fit, and everything showed that these were the ones, and that is now the bottle you receive in the mail if you order from us or you get from the store if you pick it up from there.
This also started the ball rolling in my head that we needed to 'spice' up our labels, pun intended. Our old label holds a very special place in my heart, but I don't think it fit the personality of the brand, so I made the change. I am a sucker for retro labels and my dog Frank - and our new label is the perfect collision of both of those things. I love how it looks on the shelf, and it would be something I would grab if I was shopping myself.
In June, we wrapped up our biggest month and orders yet, thanks to the help of some great friends who pushed us over the finish line. We were starting to see the fruits of our labor and fully believing that this was a viable option for me to pursue. We were one of the gifts the players got at the Carson Wentz AO1 game in June as well, which is always a cool event to take part in.
July marked the start of us beginning to renovate the shop, doing things we were actually capable of doing here and there. It was also the Hunt Expo at Scheels in Fargo, which, as it always is, was a great time to participate in.
In August, we picked up our new pup, Lenny. He's been a pain, but also the sweetest boy we could have ever asked for. We also got the new packaging in-hand for the first time. This ended the three month nightmare of not having bottles for product due to supply issues. As you have probably have inferred, it is difficult to make money selling barbecue sauce when you don't have bottles to put barbecue sauce in. I celebrated bottles showing up with a few Miller Lites - it was a joyous occasion.
We could finally work again. The shop was nowhere close to being done, we had just gotten bottles and in the midst of the chaos surrounding our operation, I figured this was as good a time as any to re-brand and switch over our labels to the aforementioned design - effectively delaying our ability to move product for another three weeks. There have been very few moments that I've felt like packing up shop this year, this was truly the strongest I've thought about it.
It wasn't until the end of September that we had finished packaging, new labels and product ready to go. For those keeping track at home, we went almost 4 months without moving any sauce. This called for tumultuous times. I didn't know if we'd make it. Constant panic attacks and worrying about us surviving this stretch consumed me, but with all of the continued support from all of you and my inner-circle, we forged ahead with our process that basically takes us to now. We had the incredible Pride of Dakota season come and go, holidays and now 2023.
I can't wait to unveil the cool things we have planned for 2023. A new shop for you guys to come see us as well as for us to make more sauce, a new marketing blitz that will pull back the curtain and allow us to show our personalities even more, charity and community support and so much more. We are pushing hard to move Big Deck to more stores, chains and states in the near future, and you all will be the first to know when that ball gets rolling. I couldn't be more excited.
I want to summarize what has been an incredibly stressful, gratifying and eye-opening year as simply as I can here: I want to reiterate, how thankful I am for each and every one of you, how excited I am for 2023 and beyond, and how grateful I am to be able to call this my job.
From our family to you, thank you.