The month of November has always been a time of reflection. As we prepare for Thanksgiving we can be reminded of good memories and people that we are thankful for in our lives. Friends, family, love, opportunities, a steady job, good health, the comfort of home, children, and... BBQ? Down-home, smokey, flavorful meaty, finger-lickin good BBQ, yep we said it! With all of their new developments and because we can't seem to get BBQ off of our mind, Big Daddy Hill's is our November Small Business of the Month! We recently sat down with owner and secret recipe master, Lee Hill, to get the story of what inspired him to start Big Daddy Hill's, his childhood spent cooking with his family in North Carolina, and more! Read our interview below.
About Big Daddy Hill's:
Now in its fourth year of business, veteran-owned Big Daddy Hill's is our go-to for BBQ sauce and rubs. Born and raised in North Carolina, Lee Hill knows good BBQ. His current lineup includes over 10 tasty different sauces (think honey chipotle, Jamaican BBQ, sweet and tangy, bourbon blues, and more) plus his famous rubs. From his humble beginnings at the Farmer's Market Lee has grow his business into a commercial success and in addition has recently opened a catering company, Smokeworks.
UMLF: What made you start Big Daddy Hills?
Lee: My wife, Monique, and I started our company to provide some assistance in paying for our little girls physical therapy. I am thankful for the encouragement my wife and her sister, Rowena Montoya, gave me in those early days of production and sales. I'm also thankful for our growing number of customers, and business supporters. If it hadn't been for those two, things would have surely happened differently. I would have given up, I wasn't a “tough skinned” individual then, and our daughter may have never learned to walk. Every sale made from our first event in 2014 to now have a greater meaning for us. My little girl, my family as a whole, and a growing number of US military veteran employees are better off because of our customers and our supporters.
UMLF: You are a veteran-owned business, does that make you proud to represent veterans?
Lee: I am very proud of being a veteran-owned business. I hear all the time from customers “thank you for your service” and my immediate response is always, “you are welcome”. Often times I think people in general do not realize that veterans see this statement the other way around. It was an honor for me to be able to serve my country honorably, so getting a thank you from customers puts a smile on my face. What I find most memorable about my military time is not summed up by basic training, going to war, or traveling. The greatest thing I will have forever are the friendships made during my time. These are the friendships that will last a lifetime.
UMLF: What are your favorite ways to use your products?
Lee: I enjoy using our products in a number of ways. Our sauces can be used as a marinade, dipping sauce, finishing glaze, or seasoning. My favorite sauce is our sweet and tangy bbq sauce. It is most easily used as a dipping sauce, but I like it as a cooking sauce when making pulled pork, or pulled beef sandwiches.
UMLF: You recently started Smokeworks, a catering company using all of the Big Daddy Hills products. What gave you the idea?
Lee: Smokeworks somewhat came out of a “Plan B” option for Big Daddy Hill's. We wanted to of course have a way to generate income to provide for our family and as a way to continue to promote Big Daddy Hill's products. We found Smokeworks to accomplish both of those goals. Not only has Smokeworks increased Big Daddy Hill's sales, we have also seen a growing number of new customers interested in our smoked meats for office parties, bulk prepared meals, and holiday foods like smoked turkey and ham for family dinners. What I have found most enjoyable about Smokeworks is being an entirely new company we do not always sell out of product purchased each week. What we have been able to do is donate food to families in need and from time to time we are able to do something to help others with fundraising activities.
UMLF: You’re from North Carolina, how is North Carolina BBQ different than the others? What flavors inspire you?
Lee: I would say North Carolina BBQ is different than the others as it more closely resembles how barbeque originated. The word comes from the Spanish preparation of "barbecoa", which is the way I grew up seeing barbeque prepared, just as it was in the Caribbean with a fire made from piled up sticks. I grew up having “cookouts” which were whole hogs smoked over a bed of coals from chunks of wood that had burned down. Since I grew up on the coast of North Carolina we also prepared fish the same way. I still remember starting fires on the beach just off the Pamlico Sound with my grandfather and smoking fish we had caught earlier in the day. What makes North Carolina different in my opinion has nothing to do with it being better than other regions of BBQ. North Carolina is known for whole hog BBQ, pulled and chopped pork. Texas BBQ is primarily beef brisket and Memphis and Kansas City are known for pork ribs. I would have to say the flavors that most inspire me would be comfort food associated with bbq and I think the side dishes are equally important. I love having pork shoulders smoked over hot coals and then piled on a plate with the eastern Carolina vinegar and peppery bbq sauce. BBQ beans are best kept simple with a bit of chopped onion, spices to season, and molasses to sweeten. My all time favorite food which puts me back home is Brunswick Stew. I have yet to find this on any BBQ menu here in Utah. Trust me when I say this....Brunswick Stew can be a dish added to a menu here in Utah that will set the restaurant apart from the rest.
UMLF: Lastly, can you tell readers how the Utah Microloan Fund helped you with your business?
Lee: Utah Microloan Fund helped our business by providing the necessary money to build our own facility, it gave us some extra capital needed to start buying ingredients in excess of what we had ever purchased, and probably most important outside of funding, the utah microloan employees are a great resource. Utah Microloan Fund does not simply hand over a check after filling out paperwork and meeting with them a few times. I have found referral sources that I did not know existed for small businesses. I have been put to task on completing profit and loss statements in the real world, because that is where we exist, and not asked to do it because of a business class requirement. The "knowing your numbers"part of business is your lifeline to succeed and grow. I continue to hear of new resources available from new members of the team at Utah Microloan Fund, and I would suggest the sooner a small business taps into the people working there the better they will be.
We want to thank Lee for sitting down with us and for his DELICIOUS sauces and rubs. This author personally has three of four bottles of his sauce plus another two bottles of his rubs including my favorite, the Spicy Apple rub.
To order smoked turkey, pork shoulders, briskets, or ham for the holidays:
The dream of starting your own small business can bring on a wave of complex emotions. Excitement, fear, a sense of adventure, doubt and the list goes on! It can be a thrilling yet scary ride for someone to embark on alone, especially when searching for the right funding options, business consulting that fits their needs and continual training to ensure they are the best owner they can be.
Where does the Utah Microloan Fund come in? We can assist you in each of these areas and help ease the anxiety of starting your own small business. You might ask how? Here is a brief list on the ways the UMLF can set you up for success.
When you’re on the hunt for a low-cost small business loan there are several routes you can try. Your first instinct might be to approach a traditional bank. A typical bank will usually require at least two years of business financials for a business to be considered for a loan, which makes it hard for startups to be considered for funding. If you can qualify for a bank loan we encourage you to start with our local partners who can give you a lower interest rate. Many people don’t qualify for a traditional bank loan, so we fill that gap! If you have previously been declined from a bank but have a great idea you may be a good fit for us. While we consider factors like credit score and collateral a lot of what we do is based on a solid business plan and your personal character. We try to look at the big picture when it comes to businesses instead of just one factor. A co-signer is also a great option in getting you approved. If we can’t make it happen for you, we try to work with you on a one on one basis to get you ready to try again or refer you to one of our awesome community partners.
Whether you are looking for help on how to best apply for a loan or assistance after the fact, we have many resources to help you succeed. Through our Program Manager of Lending we provide one on one consulting to prepare you for our loan committee and get you in the best position to be approved for a loan. This can include helping improving your projected cash flow statements and business plan as well as asking the tough questions needed to get you 100% ready to ask for your loan and present to the credit committee. If you need additional help we have amazing partners who are ready and willing to provide assistance to match your unique needs.
Lastly, one of the big reasons borrowers choose the UMLF is our ongoing training. Just because you received your loan doesn't mean we're done with you!
So if any of the above sounds good and you are ready to start your entrepreneurial adventure let's get in touch! Write us an email, give us a call or stop by one of our loan orientations to learn more about how the UMLF can help you get your venture off the ground as we've been helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1991!
It’s that time again, time to announce the UMLF Small Business of the Month! October’s winner is none other than Snap Shop Photo. Owner Sasha Taylor has grown Snap Shop Photo to two locations, is a freshly-minted Benefit LLC and was recently awarded with the Women’s Business Center of Utah Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award. We sat down with Sasha to catch up, learn more about her passion and to hear where it all began. Check out our interview below.
About Snap Shop Photo: Snap Shop Photo creates beautiful images through amazing experiences because fun is their superpower. Sasha’s vision has always been to create a studio where every person is welcome, every interaction is positive, and every photograph is a true reflection of the individual. Because of Sasha’s vision, they are more than just a photo studio, they are a people company loved by the Utah community.
UMLF: Sasha tell us about yourself. What’s your background? What made you want to start Snap Shop Photo?
Sasha: First and foremost, I am a mother to five beautiful children and a wife to a wonderful woman. I shamelessly love reality tv, hate beets, and own more shoes than anyone ever should. I have had enough major hardships in my lifetime to write an entire series of books, or at least one best seller. I keep saying I will write it - someday.
My passion for photography began as spending the summers of my teen years in Las Vegas, where my grandpa, a retired Chicago Fire Department photographer, would teach me how to use an SLR film camera, photographing everything from cactus, to burros, and even the lights of Vegas. But, right from the beginning, I preferred photographing people. In 2001, I graduated with a degree in Visual Art and Design and Photography. I was immediately hired as an adjunct professor at Salt Lake Community College in the photography department. Sharing my passion for photography in this way was extremely rewarding and I really found a home in teaching. After 4 years at the college, I took a position as the Education Director for Pictureline, a high-end photography retailer, and developed a complete photographic education program for them.
Snap Shop Photo really is a dream realized. I have owned my own studios before, but I havenʼt been successful in the past for many reasons. Mostly, because I had a terminally ill child who was in and out of hospitals, surgeries, and treatments for 19 years. That eventually required me to move my family to St. Louis so he could receive a heart transplant. My son passed away in 2016 and my youngest child graduated high school in 2017. So, it was the right time to take all the things I had learned from my failures of the past and create the studio I have always wanted. My vision has always been to create a studio where every person is welcome, every interaction is positive and memorable, every photograph is a true reflection of the individual, and every client leaves happier than when they arrived.
UMLF: Every business has its high and lows and being an entrepreneur is no easy feat. Tell us about a challenge you faced as a small business owner and how you overcame it?
Sasha: The biggest challenge I have faced is maintaining relevance. In a world where everyone has a camera in their hand at all times, It is difficult to maintain clientele. We are constantly coming up with new and creative sessions and processes, so the product we offer canʼt be duplicated with a cellphone. Every business has to constantly be looking to the future and find innovative ways to grow.
UMLF: You recently became a Benefit LLC, congrats! What inspired you to make the switch?
Sasha: I have always felt a need to help people. I have been through a lot in my life beginning at a very young age and have been on the receiving end of generosity and compassionate service. I knew that when I opened Snap Shop I wanted to not just make money, but I wanted to make a difference. I first learned about BLLCʼs during my Banking on Women course through the UMLF. I quickly realized that it was the perfect way for me to create a company I would be proud to own.
(* To learn more about a Benefit LLC and why Sasha became one, watch her video here.)
UMLF: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who are just starting their journey?
Sasha: The thing I go back to the most when I reflect on my journey as an entrepreneur is the importance of continually learning how to be a better business owner. It is amazing to me how much I learn that I didnʼt even know I didnʼt know. Every time I attend a workshop, networking meeting, business educational programs, or meet with one of my mentors, I learn ways to make my business journey better. Better for my clients, my employees, my vendors and most of all better for me. When you stop learning you stop growing. And when you stop growing, your business stops growing.
UMLF: How do you believe the Utah Microloan Fund has helped you and your business?
Sasha: The UMLF has been an integral part of my business growth. From the amazing Banking on Women program, to providing capital I needed to grow my business. The staff is so supportive and willing to help and share their knowledge and resources. I am so grateful for their commitment to the small business community.
To learn more about Snap Shop Photo, to schedule a photoshoot or to just go meet this superstar and her staff in person, visit her website and locations listed below.