Today we are introducing you to Dennis and Stephen who are the small business owners of Bob and Brian, a fresh, homemade chilli sauce small business in Batesman Bay NSW.
Dennis and Stephen have been in business together as painters for years, but bushfires in their area and COVID-19 turned their sights to their homegrown chilli bushes. Using all fresh ingredients, Bob and Brian sauces are healthier and hotter than most sauces you find on supermarket shelves. Dennis and Stephen have been exploring different products that they can offer along with their sauces, including jam, smoked sauces and baked granola. They are now exploring how to develop their own chilli chocolate.
“If Matt, our Many Rivers business coach, ever sees anything that he thinks will help us better promote our products, he lets us know. For example, he was at the markets on the weekend, he saw an idea, and he sent me a photo to inspire us.”
Read more about Dennis and Stephen.
Meet Dennis and Stephen
We grow chillies on our property to make chilli sauces and other chilli products. We have planted around 600 chilli plants and have all sorts of varieties. We started bottling our first sauces about 12 months ago, and since then, we have expanded into jams, chutneys, roasted peanuts, and smoked sausages. We have all sorts of interesting products such as chilli salad dressing, breakfast cereals, baked granola, smoked salt – we’re quite diverse! The chilli sauce products are the main products. We did a market recently, and everyone wanted to try our hottest sauce!
Bob and Brian are my uncles who came up with the original recipes for the sauces, so that is why the business is named after them. I used to visit them with my grandmother, and they would find different ingredients around town and mix them up together into a sauce for a family meal.
We were in business as house painters for 20 years. When the bushfires hit in this area, many of our bookings dried up. Afterwards, when the insurance companies booked painters, they often bought in people from out of town. It took a while for us to recover. Then COVID-19 hit. We had already started growing chillies, and we decided to give the business idea a shot.
We started online during the COVID-19 restrictions, and recently, we started to attend local markets. The local pub, Steam Packet Hotel, has a market every second Sunday. The Hotel even stocks the sauces behind the bar and have tasting samples there. We sell it to them at a wholesale price. They also stock our 50g packet of peanuts. They have been a great support to us and our business.
We have known Matt for quite a while; he used to work at NABB bank when we used to bank there. A few years later, we did a painting job right next to his place and saw his Many Rivers car. We started the NEIS program to kick star Bob and Brians, and they thought that we would benefit from Many Rives support and passed us on to Matt.
You can work your own hours and the only people you need to answer to are yourself and your customers. Having been in our own painting business for 20 years, I don’t think I could go back and work for anyone else. I turn 62 next month, and I couldn’t see myself painting for the next 10 years either.
Working with Many Rivers
Good business advice and ideas on how to better promote the products. If Matt ever sees anything that he thinks will help us better promote our products, he lets us know. For example, he was at the markets on the weekend, and he saw an idea, and he sent me a photo to inspire us. He had ideas such as getting signs and flags up to really draw customers in. He gives all the usual everyday business support that is down to earth.
The presentation of the stall and how we manage it. For example inviting people over to our stall for free samples.
We got a Many Rivers microloan and we spent it on buying some packing equipment, general equipment and joining an organisation called GS1, which is the only place in Australia where you can get barcodes that are accepted by major retailers. We can make the production look a lot more professional.
Getting the brand off the ground and the recognition. There are a lot of brands out there. Competing with the products that you can buy on the shelve and the boutique brands is challenging.
We use all fresh ingredients and grow the chillies ourselves. Other manufacturers use lots of salt and water. The main ingredients in our products include; tomatoes, capsicum, onion, spices, and orange juice (for the acidity without using too much vinegar and a little bit of sweetness). We use a tiny amount of apple cider so that we have a shelf-stable product.
The biggest success would be that we have started to get recognised, and we have a lot of repeat customers which is very satisfying because you know you must be doing something right if they are coming back. Also, the fact that people will recommend our product to others and give us praise.
It is a huge lifestyle change from the painting business, no 5 am alarms and building supervisors putting pressure on us to work faster! We are able to try a lot of different things, and our time management can be a lot more relaxed. I am enjoying researching and experimenting with new products. For example, I tried to make chilli chocolate – it turns out it was great in the fridge but melted when taken out of the fridge. So back to the drawing board for that one.
Short-term, we would like to start getting our products on the shelves starting with the local IGAs. As soon as we can get our hands on some bottles, which is hard to do at the moment because they are all from overseas, we will try to achieve this. The medium-term goal is to get onto major supermarket shelves.
The long-term goal is to be able to pick up 0.01% of the US barbeque sauce market. Just that percentage is worth US$1.8million. We will need to look into ways to cut costs and make them viable. We would need to look into manufacturing in the states. That is a ten-year goal; it might happen, it might not, but it’s a goal.
Thanks Dennis and Stephen
Thanks Dennis and Stephen for sharing the story of Bob and Brian with us. We can’t wait to support you on this journey to achieving your business goals. Follow them on Facebook.
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