Inventing an All-In-One BBQ Spatula Making $40,000 Per Month

Nicolas Vallée
Founder, BBQ Croc
BBQ Croc
from Montreal, Quebec, Canada
started November 2016
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

I’m the Croc Man and designer of the BBQ Croc® 3 in 1 Tool. I designed a multipurpose BBQ tool for the everyday consumer who wants to focus on grilling and not on which tool to use and when.

Our BBQ Croc® is now available all over Canada, in the US and Australia.

We have tripled our revenues in our second year and as of September 1st 2018 have sold over 70,000 units. We hope to double that for our third year.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I was in the food publishing business for over 20 years. My job was to create and test recipes and coordinate picture sessions.

We always had a lot of grilling themes and I could not find a simple barbecue tool that was long, light and could flip and turn at the same time. They were all either too heavy, too flimsy, too short (the hairs on my hands and arms would always burn!) or just plain cheap and ridiculous. I also had to switch tools all the time and that drove me nuts!

The more you interact with others (retailers, consumers, etc.) the more things can happen. Never slow down or stop or give up. If the product is good and you fight, many things can happen when you least expect it.

While on a trip to South Africa (they take they’re grilling - called Braai over there – very seriously!), I discovered a primitive scissor system tool that was long and light (aluminum alloy).

I liked it very much. It was mostly used for fire pits and moving charcoal on the grill.

So, I had a starting point.

I wanted to design a tool that had 2 equal width spatulas just wide enough to flip a burger or anything needing flipping while being primarily a pair of tongs (people use tongs 80% of the time). I also wanted to incorporate 2 grooves at the end of the upper grill to clean 2 grill bars at a time!

From the start, I knew what the name would be: BBQ Croc. Because the head of the tool (the 2 spatulas) looked like the jaw of a crocodile. Also, the tool does not let go when you grab food, just like a crocodile!

I researched on the web for a few weeks and saw that nothing resembled what I had in mind. I was good to go!

Describe the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the product.

Right away, I started working on an in-house prototype and tried different variations in order to get a feel for where I was going. I glued different widths of cardboard to the end of the primitive South African tool to guide me in finding the optimal size. I also strapped tape to the handles to simulate a tighter and better feel.

After a few weeks, I had a very good idea of how the product would look. I hired an industrial designer and we started working on the technical specifications.

Once I had the specs and 3D imagery, I hooked up with an importer of different products from China who had manufacturing contacts there. We sent them the technical documents and they did a few prototypes.

What I have learned so far is that designing the product was the easy part. Getting it in stores and into the consumers hands was the real challenge.

The back and forth between China and us took about 3 months. We adjusted the prototypes twice to make the handle more comfortable and spaced the cleaning grooves in a more universal way so they would fit 90% of grills (we measured the width and spacing of grills bars of over 20 manufacturers to establish our spacing). Some corrections/comments were made by e-mails and some we had to receive samples from China/Fedex to confirm.

Also, the width of the spatulas was established to be 1¾ in. It was determined that this optimal width would allow you to flip food easily while not affecting the efficiency of the tongs.

One more big challenge we had was the packaging. We wanted an open sleeve packaging so clients could feel and see the product clearly. Attaching the tool securely to the packaging was troublesome. We had to find the exact location on the packaging to lock the unit with the least number of tie wraps possible and the tie wraps had to be strong enough to survive the boat trip from China and over land. It took us 2 months to finalize our packaging so that it showcases the BBQ Croc perfectly for the consumer.


Once approved we were ready to go… But go where?

If you don’t have stock you will never sell and what better motivator to sell than a warehouse full of BBQ Crocs?

So, we ordered the first 40 foot container of BBQ Crocs® for the 2017 season. We found a Canadian distributor to work with us for sales and storage. Typically, he keeps between 15-25 % of sales (depending on the deal). He also has a large warehouse, which was super important as we did not want to tackle that part for now.

We went out and sold and presented the product during the entire year.

We did not patent but we trademarked the name BBQ Croc® in Canada, US and Australia. We are choosing to continue to innovate, improving constantly to stay ahead of any competition. Building on our Brand is also very important in our business model.

Describe the process of launching the business.

In our case, we knew we had to sell the BBQ Croc® through big box stores and on Amazon. Our Canadian distributor helped us on the retail side, we took care of Amazon Canada and we have an exclusive reseller for Amazon US. We made that decision in the US because being from Canada drop shipping was more difficult, shipping full skids directly to our reseller warehouse was more economical. Also, at the time,’s Global Selling was just getting off the ground.

We built our web site to be a source of information to consumers and also a reference for buyers who wanted quick easy to access information and videos on product features.

2017 was a slow year because we entered the market late in the retail buying season which is typically 6-12 months ahead of in store dates. For 2018, we secured programs with The Home Depot Canada, Home Hardware, Canadian Tire and Bunnings of Australia. We also started getting a lot of sales and positive reviews on both Amazon sites. Our distributor got us in the doors of a few of these retailers, but all the presentations and closings of these deals were done by me… this is normal since who better than the CROC MAN to sell my little baby CROCs!

What I have learned so far, is that designing the product was the easy part. Getting it in stores and into the consumers hands was the real challenge.

Also, nobody can pitch your product like the founder. Whatever opportunity I have to be present at any show, launch, or other event, I am there...

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

We have introduced new sizes: 18 in and 26 in. The 18 in is now our best seller and the 21 in which is our first model is still doing great. We also introduced a specifically designed clip on flashlight that snaps to the shaft of the BBQ CROC when needed and unclips if not needed.

I believe that growing the brand is crucial to keep retailers and consumers interested in your product and it is the key for continuous growth. We either design new products ourselves or take existing interesting barbecue related products and make them better. I believe you must stay in the segment that brought you success, which for me is BBQ tools and accessories.

We also partner with many Web resellers (The Grommet, Touch of Modern, Sporty’s, Groupon, etc.) to grow sales and promote our products on those platforms.

I also do lots trade shows and demos in big BBQ stores when I have a chance. We always sell a ton of BBQ Croc® and people who experience the CROC MAN at the grill working the tool I designed become ambassadors of my brand forever!


And doing a demo:


How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

As of today, we are working hard to develop the retail side in the US and things are looking good (we are starting with ACE stores with more to come).

We also have 3 new products in the pipeline for 2019.

We sell about 70% of our products through Brick & Mortar stores and 30% internet.

We work on a margin that varies between 35 and 55%, depending on volume and client. We do not work under 35%.

Quality is very important to us, which is why finding the proper Chinese manufacturer was a challenge. We produce very high-quality products for 2 reasons:

  1. Brand name building which leads to higher possible MSRP, and
  2. Low product returns (they can really hurt the bottom line!)

We plan on introducing 3-4 new products per year so we can continue to offer Innovative BBQ solutions to grillers.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

One mistake I did is advertise locally on TV and others… Waste of money. Unless you are established all over the country with a very strong brand, I do not recommend it.

The more you interact with others (retailers, consumers, etc.) the more things can happen. Never slow down or stop or give up. If the product is good and you fight, many things can happen when you least expect it.

Work is 50% and luck is 50%, so the more you interact in retails shows, consumer shows, web shows, etc. the more you create opportunities for that 50 % luck to happen.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

You need a great idea and you need to surround yourself with people who can bring your idea to the shelves or to the market place you want.

You cannot do it alone, but you will often feel alone. That is normal.

Where can we go to learn more?

A great place to discover all our cool innovative BBQ Croc® tools and accessories is to visit our website:

Lots of info, pictures of products and features and videos of tools in action.


Nicolas Vallée, Founder of BBQ Croc
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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