Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Andrew Buehler, founder, and CEO of Urban Smokehouse, located in New York City, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Urban Smokehouse is a direct-to-consumer pre-cooked barbecue foods business. Barbecue is loved by many but made by few. Ribs, brisket, pulled pork/chicken, and more are often described as being prepared "low and slow," meaning at a low temperature and over a very long time. Most people don't have hours to make lunch or dinner, so we cook ribs "low and slow" and immediately vacuum seal them to ship on ice nationwide. The result is super tender, juicy ribs that you can make at home in 15-20 minutes instead of 3-5+ hours. Our product also doesn't require a smoker and can be made in the oven, grill, air fryer, or even microwave!
Tell us about yourself
I spent the first ten years of my career as a private equity investor studying, investing in, and supporting small businesses. Outside of work, food was always my passion. In high school, I was the president of the grilling society. In college, I started the 2nd collegiate competitive eating club in the country and hosted an annual pig roast for the entire school. I love living and working in NYC because there is so much great food from all around the world, and there is always a new restaurant to try!
COVID was a period of isolation and, thus, natural self-reflection. I had always had the entrepreneurial itch, and I saw a continued and growing opportunity in e-commerce. As I spent more time at home, I designed my escape plan from corporate America and took note of what made the businesses out of the thousands I had studied and seen in Private Equity successful! It was time to turn my passion (food) into a career, and the increasing amount of boxes in my building lobby month over month was one of the many indicators that e-commerce was the frontier to build something in!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
It sounds corny, but the biggest accomplishment is to quit your job and get started on your own! There are so many milestones I am proud of: from hitting our 30-day Kickstarter goal of $25,000 in under 24 hours, building a website from scratch, doubling the business on several month-over-month periods, knowing nothing about digital marketing a year ago, and seeing where I am at now, winning our first B2B clients, and so many more to name a few. The hardest thing was getting started and taking the leap of faith!
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The hardest thing about being a business owner, particularly of a startup with zero outside investors, is the uncertainty in personal income and the often need to reinvest all profits right back into the business. You've got to hustle to pay your bills yet still, plow as much as you can back into the business so that it can grow as quickly as possible.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- The hardest part is starting. Too many people say I will do it when I save this much, I learn this skill, or XYZ happens. The best way to learn is by trial by fire. Just do it! The best way to make money is to have the motivation to actually need it. I've seen too many people forever kick the can to ultimately never chase their dream because too much time passes. If entrepreneurship really interests you, I encourage you to start as soon as possible. You will find a way, and you can make it happen!
- Don't overcomplicate your business at first. It's great to have a grand vision, but test your business and earn some money in the simplest/most watered-down version of a business. For example, I think a broad menu that serves people of different tastes and dietary restrictions would be good for my business. That said, I started with one product in one size and one flavor. Another way to put it is to learn how to do one thing really, really well before you add a second and third. Doing too much too fast will spread yourself too thin.
- Ask for help! Lean on your network. It really takes a village, and you need as much help as you can when you are getting started. Ask your family, friends, and colleagues to help spread the word, and to get their network to spread the word, and their network's network to spread the word!!! You need as many advocates and promoters of your business as possible. These people need to be activated in the masses!
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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