Small Business

Former sales rep scraps desk job for saucy career

Mary Hanan
Businessman scraps desk job for fiery career

For decades, Jim Barbour poured over various business concepts with his friend, Ryan Marrone. The ideas started as high school daydreams. Yet, when Barbour became disillusioned with jobs on Wall Street and in sales and marketing, the thought of creating a company grew even more appealing. Finally, the two realized the answer was on the tip of their tongues—a barbecue sauce Barbour had been perfecting over the years.

FunniBonz BBQ Sauce.
Source: FunniBonz Barbeque Sauce | Facebook

"People said, 'You're crazy!'" Marrone remembers, "… because the condiment market is so competitive."

True—according to the research firm IBIS World, the biggest challenge for anyone looking to break into the $19 billion industry is facing well-established companies with fat wallets and name recognition. However, the company's report focusing specifically on BBQ sauce is a bit more encouraging.

It expects more demand to lead to slow and steady growth in that area. In fact, a 2013 study by found that about 20 percent of American households went through an entire bottle of barbecue sauce in a 30-day period. That means we go through about 23 million jars of that grilling staple each year.

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To get started, Jim tinkered with the tangy sauce while Marrone brainstormed catchy names. The winner: a stick-to-the-ribs barbecue sauce they called, FunniBonz. They spent plenty of time taste-testing with family and finally started selling a few jars to friends. Next, came the business plan. They decided to begin building the brand through the sauce but branched out to a barbecue smokehouse and ultimately franchised that as a restaurant chain.

It cost them just $1,000 to get the first phase off the ground. Then, Barbour got a local grocer to give them a shot and his in-store demos were such a hit that the two soon had to look for a manufacturer and distributor to keep up with demand. Once the sales started picking up, Barbour was finally able to quit his day job and devote full time to the FunniBonz business.

Today, the sauce is carried in about 2,000 stores internationally including large chains such as Whole Foods and Fairway Markets. Phase two—the FunniBonz Barbecue and Smokehouse is also up and running in Robbinsville, N.J.

—By Mary Hanan,