Closing in on a year after winning an entrepreneurial competition held by Tacoma’s Women’s Resource, Allegra Klett Wilson is using her winnings to further her company’s growth.
C-Dub’s BBQ Rub, now three years old, took home $3,000 and 60 hours of free mentoring after winning the Women’s Resource contest last November. And Wilson literally took home the prize, since at the time, C-Dubs was still headquartered at the house she shared with her husband, Charles, and their children.
Fast forward to today, and while Wilson admits that it has been rocky at times, her company has grown. The business is still based in her home, but her family has moved to a larger house with specifically dedicated space for the C-Dub’s operation.
“I’m really trying to be organized this year,” laughed Wilson. “(The new space) has enough room for all of the storage and everything. We bought Quickbooks. You know, things like that just to make sure the office is more efficient. Because before, we were just plugging things in on our own, but now that we’re getting bigger, we’re obviously going to have to do things different than how we’ve been doing them.”
Not that the old way hasn’t been working. C-Dub’s Rubs have been product tested throughout the United States and Canada, having returned several glowing reviews and received much organic marketing through earned media and positive blog mentions. The rubs are all-natural and are free of MSG, gluten, anti-caking agents and large quantities of filler salt, ingredients Wilson playfully refers to as “extra junk.” And the Wilsons made an appearance on TLC’s “BBQ Pitmasters” in June 2012, and while the outcome wasn’t ideal (they finished in third place), the publicity from the show has been a great asset, Wilson said.
The rubs’ market reach, she added, is currently right about where the family wants it. C-Dub’s is carried by meat shops and retailers such as Double D Meats in Mountlake Terrace, Butcher Boys in Puyallup, Pip & Lola’s in Tacoma’s Freighthouse Square and Ubiquitous Journey on 6th Avenue â€” places that Wilson believes are in line with her company’s own image and philosophy.
“We’re getting it to local retail stores, and I guess we have to be careful where or how we grow because we don’t want to be, you know, in every grocery store,” she said. “For example, we don’t use the anti-caking agents, so if you sell to a big company, if it’s going to sit on their shelves forever, it’s just going to get all stuck together, unless someone’s there shaking it. Honestly, we don’t want it just sitting on shelves. We don’t want it sitting somewhere by a huge company that, you know, might take forever.
“Not that there’s any poisonous stuff or anything that happens (if it cakes),” she chuckled. “I used to throw all my stuff away whenever I saw it caking because I thought it was bad, and it’s not. But we want to make sure everyone knows it’s all natural and we don’t put anything in there that doesn’t need to be there. We take a lot of pride in our process. We microbatch everything, so everything’s always fresh. I honestly think if we were in a big chain or something, it might defeat what our goal is, personally because I want to be kept small, local. I’d prefer to be in lots of small local stores.”
Still, Wilson does have expansion dreams: more of those small, local stores in other markets. And she understands that, while she and her family have the cooking part nailed down, it’s important for them to branch out into developing a more sophisticated business model.
To that end, Wilson has already spent around half of her mentoring hours on a class devoted to business finance, and she is carefully planning where to use her remaining time. Branding, she said, has been near the top of her mind, because C-Dub’s is on the verge of expanding its line in a secret new direction (“It’s something totally different, but I don’t want to talk about just yet,” Wilson said with a smile).
“My background is marketing and web development, so I can cover a good portion of the business, but there’s so many things I don’t know,” Wilson said. “Like, if we could talk to somebody who manages a restaurant or a caterer, that would give us some more information about what we would need if we were to cater.
“I don’t know if that makes sense, but I just feel like we’re kind of stagnating. And when I say ‘stagnating,’ I don’t mean we’re not moving along, because we definitely are. But I just feel like there’s this window for us to really capitalize. Like when our show repeats, we get up to 20 phone calls a day. I feel like, oh my gosh, we need to really take advantage of now.”