Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Christie Vanover, Founder of Girls Can Grill, located in Henderson, NV, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am the owner and pitmaster for Girls Can Grill, an online media platform that shares grilling and barbecue recipes, tips, and product reviews to help more people become comfortable cooking on a grill. While I love inspiring women, especially young girls, to learn the craft of BBQ, I'm here to help anyone who wants to learn. In 2022, my website has reached nearly half a million people, 60% of whom are male. As part of my business, I am also a competitive pitmaster. I compete in barbecue and food competitions around the country, vying to be named the champion. I was recently named the 2020 Nevada BBQ Team of the Year. I won the 2021 California State BBQ Championship in Indio and the 2022 Nevada State BBQ Championship in Boulder City. I will be competing at the World Championships this summer.
Tell us about yourself
When I learned to cook, I really wanted to grill and barbecue, but I didn't picture myself in that space. Most of the marketing and advertising were geared toward men. In my own life, I had times when I would walk up to the grill, and the guys didn't really welcome me into the circle. I was grilling for a family event in one instance, and a man I didn't know reached for my tongs and said, "Here, let me help you with that." But nothing indicated I needed any help. I have a bachelor's degree in advertising and a master's degree in mass communications, emphasizing public relations. I knew not to blame those men for making me feel uncomfortable. They had been subliminally taught through marketing and advertising that the grill was their man zone. That's when I decided I may not have hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing money. Still, I know how to market, and I know how to grill, and if I can show the world, one person at a time, that it's cool to welcome women to the grilling space, maybe, just maybe, I could make a difference. Over the past seven years, I have worked with the top companies in grilling, including Oklahoma Joes, Weber, Camp Chef, Ninja Kitchen, Cowboy Charcoal, Kingsford, and national beef, pork, and turkey councils. I have my own line of BBQ rubs with Spiceology. These companies have wanted to work with me because I am a woman. Their marketing teams now realize it's time to diversify the space. And I would say that now, 99% of the time, the men around me are super welcoming and encouraging and are even interested in learning from me. When I see new women creating businesses around grilling, it motivates me to continue what I'm doing.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
In addition to helping to change the face of BBQ, my biggest accomplishment as a business owner happened in April. My business became financially profitable and stable enough to allow me to leave my full-time job to pursue my passion full-time. Since I can now dedicate 40+ hours a week to Girls Can Grill, the opportunities are growing faster than I could have ever imagined.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The hardest thing about being a business owner is understanding business basics, like taxes and licensing. I can grill all day long, and fortunately, I have a great knowledge of web design and social media, but those business fundamentals aren't my strongest trait. I pray every day that I'm doing it right.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Never stop educating yourself. Not only do you need to be on top of your craft, which for me is grilling, but technology is constantly changing. As it does, your customer reach will also change. You have to educate yourself on emerging trends face-to-face with your customers and virtually about search engines and social media.
- Don't quit your day job too soon. If you can find a way to turn your passion into a profession, that's awesome. But make the transition in phases. It took me seven years of working full time and pursuing this career part-time. Now, I'm living the dream, but if I had cut the cord too soon, we would have struggled to make ends meet, and the passion could have become a stressor.
- Find your niche. I've run into many new business owners who can't narrow down what makes their business special. When you paint too broad of a stroke, you will drown. Pinpoint the top one to two things you're passionate about and start small. Once you develop a devoted customer base at that level, you can expand.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. There will be people who tell you that your business idea won't work. And even after you're successful, there will be online keyboard warriors who tell you that you don't know what you're doing. You have to have thick skin if you want to succeed. And don't be afraid to pause, assess and adjust. Hopefully, your business is centered around your passion, so you have to keep it fun otherwise, it's just another job.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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