Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Michael De Los Santos, Owner of Mike D's BBQ, located in Durham, NC, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

My business is Mike D's BBQ. It started as a line of BBQ Sauces and Dry Rubs and, over the years, has grown to include custom grills and smokers and catering. Our customers are simply people who enjoy good food. Our award-winning sauces and rubs are good on any meat or vegetable and simply enhance the flavor of the food.

Our goal is to bring people together for good food and fellowship. Whether we are making the bbq for them, they are using a grill or smoker they brought from us to make it, or using our products to make amazing BBQ on their own. We want to be part of that connection that food creates with people.

Tell us about yourself

Before I got into BBQ, I had a long career in the policy world, working on affordable housing, predatory lending, and economic justice issues. I wanted to also find ways to bring people together across political and socio-economic backgrounds. Food, specifically BBQ, is a great way to do that. I was always hesitant to go fully into the BBQ space as I was not a business person.

However, in 2012, after my son died, I wanted to make no more excuses and pursue my dreams and launch the business in 2013. Honoring my sons' memory and leaving a legacy for my daughters is what motivates me every day to keep pushing through the good and bad times.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

There have been some big accomplishments for me as a business owner. All of our products have won awards, and among them, we have won best in the state four times and four world champions. However, probably the biggest was our business and myself being chosen as the winner of the TV show I Quit that aired on the Discovery Channel in 2020.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

One of the hardest things about being a business owner is the uncertainty that comes with it. Worrying about revenue, staffing, supply chain, and cash flow is very stressful. The uncertainty that comes with all that can be very hard.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

The top 3 tips I would give to anyone wanting to start, run, and grow a business would be:

  1. Get your ideas out of your head and on paper or typed up. They won't go anywhere sitting in your head.
  2. Set goals and benchmarks for the progress you want to make. It will help keep you on track.
  3. Get a support system. Finding people to serve as your accountability partners is very important.

These people (who don't have to be in the same industry) will be vital in helping you stay on track, reach your goals, and take care of yourself in the process. My support system has been incredibly important over my first nine years in business.

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.

Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.