By Wanda Lenoir
Few people can predict the outcome when it’s their turn at bat—especially when it comes to business. But, in America, everything is possible. When a couple of self-described “old guys” headed out to the field to play their favorite game, baseball, and swap stories about cooking bar-b-que, good things are bound to happen.
What motivated you to start the company?
The guys behind Baseball BBQ play old-guy baseball together and gather yearly in Arizona to play in a tournament at the big-league spring training facilities. (We won again this year, so we are the back-to-back-to-back 40+ Men’s Senior Baseball League World Champions!!!) The trip was tremendous fun on and off the field. We play baseball on beautiful fields, live together in a big house like big leaguers, and enjoy a lot of camaraderie talking about baseball and everything else. On one trip, a teammate described how his father took the handle from a cracked bat and used it to repair a broken grill fork. We all thought that bat-handle BBQ tools would be a big hit.
One of our teammates helped with the legal documents to patent the products and form a company. Another helped source a manufacturer and prototyped the finished product. We were so excited to help our teammate make his dad’s idea a reality – and the idea took off. We began using a laser engraver to personalize our products, which then helped us secure licensing for the Major League Baseball Players Association, Minor League Baseball, Major League Baseball, and many top colleges and universities. What started as small talk at the baseball tournament became a big-time idea and a growing small business.
Why is there a growing demand for grill accessories (tools, sauces, apparel, etc.)
The global Barbeque Grill market is valued at nearly $7 Billion, and it is expected to double over the next decade as more and more homeowners invest in entertaining at the grill. This growing demand for holiday and weekend cookouts is great news for retailers, and the resurgence of interest in baseball means that Baseball BBQ sits at the intersection of two incredible national pastimes. More sales of grills mean more sales of grill tools and accessories.
Is this a profitable category for retailers?
Yes! Everyone who invests in grills and outdoor kitchens is a consumer who needs BBQ tools and accessories, and, as men tend to be grillers, the Barbeque Grill marketplace is a great place to find gifts for this hard-to-buy-for demographic. At Baseball BBQ, Father’s Day season is busier than Christmas!
In what way does Baseball BBQ differ from competitors?
Our products are patented and licensed, so they are unique. It turns out that the baseball bat handle provides an ergonomic advantage at the grill and feels great in the hand. We are committed to being authentic for ballers and grillers. Nobody else makes high-quality baseball-adjacent grill tools that are fun and functional for casual fans and serious grillers.
How does the company leverage new technology to control costs and maintain quality?
We combine new and old-school technology to ensure high quality at Baseball BBQ. Our tools are engraved on the industry’s best modern laser engravers, and all our designs are created with software so we know that they will come out just right as final products. However, we also have built some rudimentary jigs to ensure that our products fit precisely where we want them in our engravers to ensure that all our tools look just right as finished products. And, happily, there are many apps and software solutions that help ensure our back-office processes run smoothly so we can focus on making sure our products are a real home run for customers.
Discuss your philosophy on the importance of customer service/customer feedback.
We know that our customers are the most important asset our business has. They love our products, and when they tell friends and family how much they enjoy our BBQ tools and cutting boards, they are our best “advertising.” We don’t take that for granted, so the top of our daily “to-do” list is always to respond to customer inquiries and solve problems.
What are the biggest challenges businesses face in today’s retail environment?
There are so many advertising outlets and so many choices for consumers. For us, as a new, small business, figuring out how to communicate authentically and effectively is an ongoing challenge. We know our products are fun and functional. But we need help figuring out how to efficiently communicate that to people who want gifts for fans and grillers looking for high-quality tools since many options exist in traditional, social, and emerging media. We have swung and missed in some of our marketing efforts, but even Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times in his career, so we know we have to keep swinging for the fences, be bold, and try new ways to communicate with customers.
How do you come up with ideas for new products?
Happily, we have lots of sources of inspiration. Our old-guy baseball teammates are always ready to make suggestions, and one gave us the idea for our very successful Jersey-style cutting board. Loyal customers have suggested other ideas. When we were looking to add a set of tongs to our line, we had an informal focus group of customers who were serious grillers to let us know what was important for performance. After we heard from real meat guys that our Home Plate cutting board was too small for larger cuts, we added a 17-in version that is the same size as an actual big-league home plate and unveiled a .variant with a juice trough. Once we came out with a rub, customers quickly asked for a sauce as a follow-up, so we made it happen and put a lot of smiles on BBQ fans’ faces. We have lots of new ideas, so keep paying attention to www.baseballbbq.com!
Does the company support any charitable organizations or causes?
Yes! A portion of every Baseball BBQ purchase supports the non-profit organization, “Pitch in for Baseball and Softball,” which collects and distributes new and gently used baseball and softball equipment to youth leagues in underserved communities worldwide. They are a great charitable partner, and we are so proud to support their mission to bring the game of baseball to anyone who wants to play.
What is the most important thing retailers should know about Baseball BBQ?
Baseball BBQ is small and nimble, like a nifty middle infielder. We custom engrave every product, so we have no minimum order quantities and can be flexible for whatever retailers need. Generally, we can ship orders within two or three weeks. We can customize our products with logos for local teams or corporations to make something for retailers that appeals to fans in the biggest cities and the smallest towns. With Baseball BBQ, everyone can step up to the plate like a big leaguer.