Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Ryan Maltbie and I’m the Owner of BBQGrills.com! BBQGrills is an online retailer (e-commerce) of high-quality outdoor kitchen equipment, BBQ grills, patio heaters, and outdoor patio related products! We carry many top-tier brands such as Bull BBQ, Summerset Grills, and Primo Ceramic Grills.
Over the last 12-months, and our first year in business, our company has quickly become one of the largest internet dealers and representatives for many manufacturers and product lines in our industry. I’d like to first thank every one of you for showing interest in not only my story, but taking the time to connect with me and this incredible company that we’ve had the absolute pleasure of building over the last 24 months.
At BBQGrills.com we ensure that every single product that is added to our website represents our core values. While many online retailers sell products solely off the profit or marketability, we focus on quality, performance and ensure that the products that we’re supplying our customers will last the test of time and represent not just the brand’s name well, but also our reputation. For instance, our own line of BBQGrills.com Outdoor Kitchen Storage features 304-grade stainless steel construction, is manufactured in the USA, and includes an industry-first ‘ Zero-Tolerance Lifetime Warranty ’, meaning, if two years down the road a child kicks a soccer ball into a door and puts a dent in it, we’ll replace the unit, free of charge, no questions asked.
This whole business started with just a dream, a vision that I’ve had since I was 16. Last year, with $600 left in my checking account, a mortgage that was due in a matter of 15 days, four kids, and many responsibilities to oversee, I took a chance, and not just any chance, that chance that you don’t even focus on the negatives or a ‘Plan B’ because you’re so solidly focused on one goal...and to me that was BBQGrills.com.
I’m so incredibly blessed to state that just after 11 months in business our company has reached $2 Million in overall sales - with zero advertising, no remarketing ads, incredible customer service, and treating our audience and customers with the care and service that they deserve. This focus on ‘word of mouth’ advertising has allowed so many opportunities within our company, the ability to connect with relatives and friends of various customers and ensuring that we’re selling a product that is bringing people together when we need it most.
I will like to say, this road to BBQGrills.com did not come easy, there were many failures, many sleepless nights, tears, heartaches, and moments that I didn’t think we’d ever make it. I’m pleased to share these moments with you, express my story and I hope that someone out there that’s currently molding their dream will find inspiration and motivation through my story. With that being said, here’s the story of BBQGrills.com and how I turned $600 into a $2M business in its first year.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
BBQGrills.com to me is a lot more than just an internet retailer of BBQ products, it’s a lifelong dream that I’ve had my heart set on since the age of 16. Like many entrepreneurs and business owners, I watched my Father own his own business my entire life. Man, to say that I’ve garnered everything I know about respecting customers, following through and how to successfully run a business through him, would be an incredible understatement, that man single-handedly made me the business owner that I am today.
For my past 30 years of life, my Father has owned and operated one of the largest and most respected pools and landscape companies in the East Bay, Bay Area. When I was roughly 13-14 years old I started working for his company (yes, I had a workers permit from my middle school), I don’t know what it was, but this idea of being able to make $200 a week and purchase a PSP over Summer break just seemed to be so ‘easy’ for me...boy was I wrong! I still remember his workers picking me up at 4 am that morning and me being half dead with a lunch box in hand walking out.
Just like a Father would he ensured he was awake that early to witness and I’ll never forget the words he told me “welcome to the first day of the rest of your life”, man he wasn’t kidding. While that Summer sun was hot and those paychecks were nice for a 14-year-old kid, I came obsessed with watching him run his business with my own eyes. When he’d happened to show up to a job site that I was at, I’d watch the way he’d talk with his clients, how they would listen and it was almost like you could see the respect being distributed, I loved that! It was right then that I knew, “that's what I want”.
Fast forward to my Sophomore year of High School and the only thing on my mind was “what in the heck am I going to do after this place”. I had that vision still, maybe it was a bit washed from my girlfriend at the time (who happens to now be my Wife with four children) and Friday night football games, but the hunger was there.
One weekend while visiting my Dad in the Bay Area he mentioned to me that his pool business wasn’t doing so well, truth be told in this time frame (2007-2008) many businesses were being affected by the looming recession and putting $250,000 backyard remodels into homes wasn’t really at the top of homeowners lists. I asked him “so...what’re you going to do? You’ve owned this business my entire life, what else is there?” He simply told me “I’m going to open an eCommerce business and we’re going to sell BBQ grills online”. Truth be told, I laughed at him, I thought he was absolutely insane! This man could barely even plug in a USB cord and he’s telling me that he’s going to run an e-commerce based business, we both didn’t even know how to spell e-commerce. I simply told him “well, you're crazy and I like crazy, you tell me what you need and want and I’ll make sure it gets done”.
Roughly 6-months before graduating high-school his company went live, WholesalePatioStore.com, and man did it look ugly! I seriously don’t know why anyone purchased anything from this site because it would crash almost daily and putting it blankly was a mess, lol! To make matters even crazier, he told me after it launched “okay, now to go tell these brands we have a site to sell their products...oh my goodness my face. I told him “wait a minute, you haven’t even locked in brands yet? Do they know anything about this? You’re just simply going to hope and pray that it works”.
He’s a man of simple words and told me “sometimes that’s all you need”. Mind you, this was the first e-commerce website to sell BBQ Grills and Outdoor Kitchen products, this had never been done before or even presents. Well it turns out they thought he was crazy too and decided to take a chance and in our first 6-month period we managed to bring in $500,000 in overall sales with no advertising or marketing. While most of my friends went off to college to get degrees I took a chance on this crazy project my Dad created and decided to see where it took me.
Over the course of 10 years, that company did great. We opened three retail locations across the US, did roughly $80M+ in sales revenue, and at one point had over 20 employees. Unfortunately in the Summer of 2018, the decision was made to close the doors of that business, while my heart and soul was in that company, and I had spent the past ten years building it, it was truly hard to simply walk away, but I walked away knowing that something better was on the horizon.
After taking a one year break and spending all of my time with my Wife and kids I quickly learned that your ‘emergency fund’ can go a lot quicker when you’re really not paying attention to it, I knew there was something that needed to be done in the next 6-12 months. In 2016, nearly two years earlier, I purchased with a domain broker, that at the time, my Wife wasn’t too thrilled about, lol.
The purchase was for two (2) domains BBQGrill.com and BBQGrills.com, and I kept them in my back pocket knowing that one day, they would be my next stepping stone, and boy, were they! It took two phone calls, and one steak dinner, and the BBQGrills.com team was assembled. Over the course of 12 months, we would work tirelessly, day in and day out to produce what our customers know and love as BBQGrills.com.
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, I knew there were going to be bumpy roads and financial struggles, but I never imagined they’d be as challenging as they ended up being. The goal was always and is always to be self-funded, no outside money, no inventors, and simply no advertising.
With $600 left in my bank account on launch day I knew that it would only take a few cancellations or a damaged grill to completely take us out, looking back it’s crazy to even think about it. Long story short, we made it through the first few months of profit and built up a nice nest-egg of capital. Sometimes in life, there’s a mountain in front of you and you just gotta climb it.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We launched BBQGrills.com on October 10th, 2019, my 29th birthday. The launch, honestly, wasn’t anything special, we knew that starting and ending with an organic client basis and solely relying on that, wouldn’t yield this boost of customers coming to our doors the day that we opened. I can honestly say that it took roughly 2-3 months before we started to see a steady flow of customers coming to the site and converting, we were honestly just excited that people were finding us. There was a time when we had this function on our site that would pair with my phone, and every time customer would come to the website my phone would alert me “someone is browsing your website”, lol. It’s safe to say I deleted that after about 2 weeks.
Over the course of those 2-3 months, I can say that we changed the website appearance A LOT, we worked for hand in hand with our starting clients and after their purchase would call them and ask them “what did you like about our website? What didn’t you like about our website”. It was because of conversations like this that many features on our website have become available, ideas, and features such as our order status page, where customers can track, edit and modify their order all from a few clicks. Having that one on one conversations with our clients has truly helped breathe more life into the structure and functionality of our business.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I’ll be the first to tell you that growing e-commerce business in this day and age without advertising or any proper marketing, is damn near impossible. We knew this, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and we're ready to face the issues head-on.
Where our company excels, at least from what I see, is our intuitiveness to our clients and our knowledge. Working around the clock to ensure that customers are getting the answers and resolutions to their needs is predominant in the success of our business. Furthermore, our sales staff all have over 10+ years in this industry, to simply put, they know their stuff.
There’re a lot of companies out there that hire anyone and anybody to answer sales calls, they receive bad information or just untruthful information and then call us to verify. It’s quite shocking. We want customers to understand that our company is going to give you the answers you deserve and need, if a sales representative doesn’t know the answer to the question, they go find the answer before stating something that isn’t true.
Competitive pricing, incredible customer service, BBQGrills.com exclusive pricing, and promotions have truly made this company what it is today. Being dominant in these three categories has allowed word of mouth advertising to solely become a driving force for our sales channel. The best part, unlike Google PPC, your competition cannot outbid you or ‘wash you out’ in this channel, it’s the most safeguarded and respected form of marketing on this planet, always has been, always will be.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, the company is doing fantastic, it’s never been better! The most successful thing to come out of this year is that all of our employees and members are safe, their families are healthy and we’re continuing to push BBQGrills.com to the next level. While this year has had its own twists and turns, our revenue and traffic have become something I’ve never seen even in the last thirteen years of being in this industry. With over 500,000 monthly visitors, BBQGrills.com remains our most successful piece of the puzzle.
Moving forward, we plan on launching a ‘blog/vlog type’ platform for our sister company BBQGrill.com, which will, in my opinion, become the industry ‘go-to’ website for all things BBQ related. The website will house reviews, in-depth video analysis of top-selling products, and even take the customer far beyond what they see on BBQGrills.com. It’s something that I’m very excited about!
Furthermore, our distribution market has taken quite the hit this year due to COVID and the issues that it’s brought not only fulfillment but manufacturing as well. In 2021, our company will be looking at moving our entire corporate headquarters to Houston, TX, and purchasing and developing a large-scale warehousing facility to better serve our customers. This environment will also allow us the ability to partner with some of the largest names in the outdoor DIY industry, develop TV shows with award-winning TV platforms, and truly bring BBQGrills.com to the level we feel it should be at.
Long term, our goal with BBQGrills.com is to become the one-stop-shop for all things outdoor-related. Our product lines and offerings are starting with outdoor kitchen/bbq island related islands, moving into landscape lighting with our own private label lighting company in 21’ and finishing up the 22’-23’ years with our own private label line of fire pit kits, umbrellas, and patio furniture. When it comes to our e-commerce business, the sky is truly the limit and we look forward to seeing what we can accomplish over the next few decades.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Never give up. I know it sounds so cliche and everyone say it, but truly believe in what it is that you’re striving for and know, that whatever it is that you’re pushing for, it’s possible.
This paragraph is asking me to ‘inspire you’, so I’ll leave you with one of the most inspirational moments that’s ever happened in my life. On the surface, I may seem like some successful 30-year-old kid that’s got it all figured out, you’re wrong and to make matters even worse, it wasn’t always like this. There were moments of defeat in my young life that I truly think without them, wouldn’t have made me the man I am today. If you’re an entrepreneur or a business owner that’s currently struggling then I hope this story reaches you and provides you with hope.
When I was 11 years old, my Father and I were practically homeless. We’d jump from hotel to hotel and on the weekends that I would be able to see him, we’d go to the park or walk around downtown because we didn’t have anywhere else to go. I personally thought he just liked being outside, it wasn’t until I was older did I get the big picture.
During one of those months we were living in a mother law unit on the side of a house, the homeowner allowed my Dad to stay there because he would clean up around their house and would do little side projects, once again, this was a HARD time for him.
One night, I happened to fall asleep on the floor while watching TV while eating a ‘breakfast quesadilla’. I awoke to my entire bottom being covered in ants, I ran to the shower only to find that the water heater was off because the bill wasn’t paid, so I had to take a painstaking cold shower at 3 am, while covered in ants. When I finally came out and dried myself off, I was shriving, cold and my Dad was standing there, “what’re you doing, are you okay?” He asked, so I let him know…” I’m TIRED! I’m exhausted. I hate this. I hate this house. I hate this place. I want my friends. I want my life back. I want to know the truth of what's going on. I want to go HOME.
I still remember to this day the look in his eyes. The white lie he’d been trying to hide from me was finally broken, he knew I knew. He kneeled and told me something, so simple, so powerful and something to this day motivates me to no end. “You’re right, I owe you an explanation, but I want you to know something. Even though we’re defeated right now, even though we’re not at home and even though we’re going through a really tough period, I want you to know one thing...It Won’t Always Be Like This”.
Whenever I’m having moments of doubt, or maybe something isn’t working out the way it needs to, I always go back to this moment and find relief in knowing that even though today might be hard, tomorrow might be a little harder, it won’t always be like this.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
At BBQGrills.com, we’re always looking for team members that are going to help take this company to the next level. Being a business owner, I understand that I’m not the best at everything, I don’t know every facet of running a business and I’m looking for ones that are smarter than me.
Furthermore, we’re looking for people that truly want to create something that’s going to be bigger than all of us, be a part of a self-funded company that is going to truly revolutionize the outdoor kitchen/bbq grill industry. If you’re one of these people, feel free to email me directly at [email protected] and I’d love to have a conversation with you!
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