From BBQ To Branding

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Being Mrs. Mista

I know first hand the struggle of running a restaurant and building a brand. I had to bust my ass to grow our business from a farmer's market stand into two successful restaurant brands and a catering company generating high six figure revenue. I also had the challenge of staying married to the man I worked with, Bigmista. I was known as Mrs. Mista back then.

The more I educated myself on how to run our business better the more I knew I didn't want to own a restaurant. I never wanted to be in the restaurant business. However, I found that I love the business of food and everything it represents; entertaining, socializing, laughter, etc.

The Bigmista brand got its start as a hobby turn side hustle. We sold barbecue at a farmers market in Watts just before Thanksgiving. It was me, my husband, our then 2yo daughter, my mom, my aunt and my cousin every Saturday. We thought we were ballers if we had a $200 day.

One Saturday space met opportunity. The former food editor of the L.A. Times, Russ Parsons, came through. We didn't know who he was at the time. So you can imagine our surprise when he wrote about his experience with us in the food section. That write up changed how I thought about our business but not our brand.

By the following February we were operating in six farmers markets and my husband quit his job as an Investment Banker for Wells Fargo. That same summer he became the spokesperson for the now closed Fresh & Easy store chain.

Starting that bbq stand helped us win multiple People's Choice awards at KCBS bbq competitions. We were on a lot of best of list (including Jonathan Gold's), catered for celebrities and studios. We appeared on Good Day LA multiple times, Man Fire Food and the Great Food Truck Race.

When I started speaking at high schools about entrepreneurship I would tell the kids, "I'm ghetto country. That means I was raised hood adjacent by a country momma." I would explain to them that it also meant that while I cared enough to show up I'm not tolerating their nonsense.

This is the brand persona I grew into as Mrs. Mista. I loved my staff and customers but I wasn't down for no foolishness from either one. When I left the restaurant industry to coach full time, I tried to lay that persona to the side for the sake of being "professional." In doing so I felt stifled and uncomfortable when pitching my business.

I felt like a fraud and a liar since I was not living up to the authenticity preach I would give the kids. My who wasn't matching my do. ​I had to give myself permission to own my ghetto country in my new profession. I was no less educated or accomplished because I say y'all and enjoy a loud laugh. It does not take away my degree in business with an emphasis in personal finance.

Speaking in all those class rooms, telling my story over and over, and having kids tell me, "thanks for being real with us," is what continues to give me courage and inspires me to be authentic in my business.

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Embracing Ghetto Country

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For The Love Of Food

In my younger days I NEVER considered going into the food and beverage industry. However, I've been an entrepreneur off and on for over half my life. I didn't fully embrace it until my boss told me I should quit after a bad performance appraisal. I was spending too much time on growing Bigmista's Barbecue which, by the way, she would buy some time. What she meant as a threat for me to fall in line I took as a challenge to get the hell out.

I ran off to join the circus of bbq competition, catering and pop ups with my husband and my child. We had no real plan for growth, branding, marketing, nothing. The only skills I brought to the table were accounting and tax preparer. I handled the business and he handled the food. Unless you have an unbreakable bond I don't advocate working with your spouse (love you baby).

When the accolades and raves came we weren't ready for growth. That Los Angeles Times piece was not even a hint of what was expected of us after that. We operated on southern bbq shop standards of when it's gone it's gone. California folks don't get down like that. It was the turning point for me realizing we need to get our shit together.

I surrendered fully to becoming an entrepreneur and surrounded myself with other entrepreneurs. I still never embraced the cooking. I followed breadcrumbs of information to educate myself. When I got my own business coach, the heavens opened up and I haven't looked back.

I was accepted to UCLA back in the day and majored in math/computer science. Despite having a 3.4 GPA, I dropped out after three years. I didn't return to college life until my late 30's to major in business. I attended ELAC to get my AA before transferring to CSULA for my BS. When I got serious about our business I pieced together a business education that came from experience and seeking the knowledge I needed.

 

I learned from those that were (are) in the business like my bbq boyfriend Mike Mills, who is no longer with us. This was years ago, but his Business Of Barbecue seminar gave me a great head start in growing our business. I then became an NBBQA member and attended my first bbq conference. There I met and learned from some of the biggest names in the bbq world like Diva Q, Chris Lily and Dr. BBQ. I also became became a member of the CBBQA and a certified KCBS BBQ Judge.

In November 2014 I was accepted into the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business program. In August 2017, I started the Leadership Long Beach Institute program. Although these programs were years ago, the people I connected with drove me to expect greater things of myself. I mentored for a year before earning my certification as a Life Coach in 2018. I also became a Certified Business Coach with certifications in branding, market research, social media and SEO.

And I did/do it all while being GHETTO COUNTRY!

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Just So You Know