This Veteran Built A $1.5M Spices & Rubs Brand

Published: October 18th, 2022
Patrick Flynn
Founder, Frag Out Flavor
Frag Out Flavor
from Golden, CO, USA
started November 2017
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Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello! I’m Patrick Flynn – founder and CEO of Frag Out Flavor. We provide the absolute best spice blends and BBQ rubs for meals that bring families and friends together. With over 20 proprietary spice blends, we have something to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. From sweet to savory, no heat to HOT, we've got you covered. As a veteran-owned and operated company, we stand behind those who defend our country’s founding principles, our communities, and the American way of life.

We do around $125K/month in revenue and have continued to grow year after year. What’s more? Being able to give back to the veteran community, whether sending blends to troops deployed down range, supporting various veteran organizations around the country, or simply connecting with other veterans on social platforms or events around the country.

Now that we've become a well-established and respected company, having such loyal and supportive customers is without a doubt the biggest motivator for persevering and pushing the business forward. We're far more than a spice company; we truly are a community of like-minded individuals who rally together to enjoy our passion for good food and BBQ.




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

I've had an entrepreneurial spirit since childhood. After returning home from a deployment to Afghanistan in 2011, I completed my master's degree and went to work in the industry. But the passion to fulfill my lifelong dream of starting my own business continued to grow, as did my desire to reconnect to the brotherhood I once knew and was a part of. These two passions synergistically fueled my ambition to start Frag Out Flavor.

Let’s face it, in the pursuit of becoming a business owner I didn’t want to start a veteran-oriented t-shirt company... The focus was on finding a way to bring something good to the table.

And that’s when it clicked…what if I could bring “something good to the table”?

I’ve always been passionate about great food and BBQ, especially after being previously accustomed to eating MREs, jerky, and Pop-Tarts for weeks at a time. More importantly, it was a great way to focus on how people can take advantage of one of the most precious things we have in our lives…our loved ones.

And so, it began…

Countless hours of R&D, cooking, and BBQ. Months of trial, and error, blood, sweat, and tears…literally – raw beef bleeds, and have you ever mixed reaper or ghost pepper? Trust me, you'll sweat from the heat and shed plenty of tears when it inevitably gets in your eyes.

But results soon emerged. Born was a lineup of spice blends & BBQ rubs, nothing short of superb quality and craftsmanship.

Family, friends, and anyone we shared the products with absolutely loved them. It was the validation I was looking for to know we could continue scaling the operation and sharing with many others around the country.


Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Prototyping is a painful but rewarding process. It starts with an idea – a flavor profile – that I have in my head. I grab a notepad, write “V1” and start blending individual spices. For each ingredient I add, I write the ingredient (spice) name and amount. This process is repeated sometimes through dozens of versions until I’ve narrowed it down to the exact profile I’m after.

Once that’s finished, it’s time to take it to the kitchen. How does the blend hold up to high heat? Smokers/grills? Prolonged cooks? Baking? What ingredients are in the blend, and will it scale well? How do the ingredients resonate together over time? These are all questions we set off to answer, and it takes many months to complete. But it’s important and well worth it. We pride ourselves on having a quality lineup of blends made using quality ingredients and craftsmanship. For this reason, work has to be put in to maintain our reputation of excellence.

In the beginning, we made large batches of each blend in a commercial kitchen using 30qt mixing bowls, yielding anywhere from 50-80 bottles based on the blend density.

After a few months, we couldn’t keep up with demand. We invested in a large 7 cubic-foot ribbon blender, which allowed us to yield around 500-800 units per batch. This was far more effective.

Unfortunately, that only lasted a few more months. After that, we outgrew the commercial kitchen. There were not enough shifts for us to sign up for, it was far from home, etc. We had a few temporary growth points along the way, but we’re now in our very own facility located in Golden, CO.

It all certainly came with risks and sacrifices. Working shifts in the kitchen until 0200 in the morning. Celebrating my 10-year marriage anniversary in the back of our truck outside of the commercial kitchen eating Subway for 10 minutes before continuing our shift. There’s a lot of work and sacrifice that went into building the company. Not just from me, but most certainly from family and friends as well.

But it’s a family business, and we all proudly work hard to make it succeed.









Describe the process of launching the business.

After we had a blend lineup to share, I launched the products online after having built a site on Shopify. I ran a couple of Facebook ad campaigns with a minimal budget to get some initial traffic to the website. It was slow growing. I was getting maybe one or two orders per day. Over the months that grew to maybe four to five orders each day.

The growth took time and certainly had a lot of trial and error along the way as to learning who our target audiences were on the ad platform.

My education and career as a software engineer made technical hurdles far easier to overcome than many others. This was a huge win for me, as many of these issues can come with high-priced solutions.

Working as a software engineer, I was able to live a comfortable lifestyle with my family and bootstrapped Frag Out Flavor with our own money on the side. We also had a couple of family members and a close friend who was extremely eager to help financially when we had some larger purchases to cover. That said – their very generous financial contributions were nothing compared to their genuine service, love, support, and being there to help us every step of the way. They will never realize exactly how valuable that was to us, and how we’ll be forever grateful for them because of it.


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

We continue to run ads on Facebook, attend large events around the country (as a vendor), grow our email list, and do anything else we can think of.

Facebook ad performance continues to underperform compared to years past. As a result, we’ve focused more on increasing AOV and CLV. Focusing on our existing customers through our private FB groups and email list has helped us maintain a relationship with them and keep them in our Frag Out family. That said, we do still spend money on the FB ad platform, but target primarily broad audiences and have to take a more holistic look at ROAS for revenue as a whole. It’s definitely a moving target now, but FB still drives a lot of traffic for us. That said, we’re only at about 1/3 of our typical daily ad spend.

We do plan to venture out to more influencer marketing, as well as TikTok in the months to come. We’re also working harder to establish more organic traffic sources as a long-term play (YouTube channel content, organic TikTok page, etc.)

Attending events in person around the country has been a great way to connect with existing customers, as well as establish many new ones. We mainly focus on large events such as Taste of Colorado, Denver BBQ Festival, Que in the Lou, and so on.

One thing that worked well to grow our email list is to incentivize customers to sign up. We’ve found a discount code is the best way for us. Another thing we’ve gotten good at over the years is coming up with enticing hooks in subject lines. This helps increase our open rates, and then we use concise messaging, quality branding, and clear offers that are hard to resist.

Our customers are extremely loyal, and our products are a no-brainer. Once you try it, you realize how great the product is and it sells itself. Repeat purchases are easy.

That said, we do continue to provide new blends, products, and promotions to encourage our loyal customers to remain customers over time.

We also went on national news (Fox & Friends) on Thanksgiving morning 2020, which gave us about a month’s worth of orders in about 24 hours. That was a nice bump, and we’re extremely grateful to our friends at Fox & Friends for making this happen!


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

Today we continue to grow year after year. We’re a profitable operation, but that’s not to say we’re without our challenges.

Despite having over 450+ retail locations selling our product, a significant portion of our business is eCommerce. We’ve been negatively impacted by the iOS changes that caused the Facebook ad platform to suffer. We’ve had to rely more and more on our wholesale accounts, and other platforms to make up the difference.

Luckily, by the time those changes were made, we had already become established which allows us to leverage our healthy email list. That said, we continue to investigate new revenue channels and marketing options every day.

We paid someone on Upwork to scrape Google for a list of several hundred BBQ shops, gun shops, and other similar retail locations we felt may be a good fit. From there we would cold-call these prospects. For those we felt were really promising, we would send them a dealer packet assembled using a branded box that contained our price sheet, wholesale agreement ready for a signature, and a few of our actual products to sample. It wasn’t extremely cheap to send those boxes, but once they had the product in hand and tried it for themselves it became a no-brainer for them to sign on as a wholesale account.

One important thing we implemented early on was the wholesale page on our website. Naturally, our ads/traffic to the website would contain some percentage of business owners who knew it would be a great fit in their retail location(s). Having the page there to direct them on how to sign up and place wholesale orders was extremely effective.

Our primary long-term goal is to continue our year-over-year growth, share our amazing blends with others, and further our mission of giving back to the veteran community.



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

Sometimes it feels I step over quarters to pick up pennies. It’s hard to not do this, but I think it’s often the result of becoming tunnel-visioned. I have to be diligent to focus on the things that are most important and not get bogged down by day-to-day minutiae.

Having a strong connection with our customers has been extremely advantageous. They’re extremely loyal, and I’m able to ask for genuine feedback that allows our company makes certain decisions. I could not be more grateful for each of them.

We release new products and blends from time to time, especially as requested by our customers and the feasibility of R&D.

Be patient. Things almost never grow as fast as you want. We all hear the stories of companies that scale quickly, but the reality is there are exponentially more who never experience this rapid growth. This is a reality you need to accept ahead of time. Don't let it be an excuse for lack of motivation or throwing in the towel, but make it the catalyst for setting realistic expectations.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Shopify as our eCommerce platform. We use Faire for many wholesale accounts, though most of them we bring in as leads.

We use Klaviyo for email marketing. I think it’s far overpriced, but it fits the bill for a few specific features I’m after.

We use SMSBump for SMS campaigns.

Other than customizations I’ve made to the site itself, along with about a dozen small/misc. third-party apps, there isn’t much else to it.

Though not a platform/tool, I do outsource all things accounting/bookkeeping. It has been the biggest relief to have a solid team do this work for us. We use Natalya and her team at Colorado Business CPA. I wish I would have gone there sooner rather than let the tax/bookkeeping headache pester me for the first couple of years.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I’m not a huge reader and rarely listen to podcasts. I hope to make reading/podcasts more of a routine part of my life. I think there would be a lot of value in this, so I’ve made it a point the past couple of years to read at least 2 books each year. I’ve read maybe a half-dozen books I can actually remember. One that sticks out is the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m sure it’s somewhat cliché to mention these days, but it really did help me out.

Other than that, my religious books/material has had the most positive impact on keeping me grounded, shaping my priorities, and making the most of my life.

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

  1. Be genuinely passionate. You should absolutely love what you're doing. You won't love every aspect of the business, but you should be genuinely passionate about serving your customers. If you're not trying to better the lives of your customers, then why do it at all?
  2. Be patient. Things almost never grow as fast as you want. We all hear the stories of companies that scale quickly, but the reality is there are exponentially more who never experience this rapid growth. This is a reality you need to accept ahead of time. Don't let it be an excuse for lack of motivation or throwing in the towel, but make it the catalyst for setting realistic expectations.
  3. Prioritize. What's the best use of your time? Are you letting the business take over your personal life and neglecting your family? If so, what's the point of having a business? Don't step over quarters to pick up pennies. I think this is a great principle that not only helps you identify priorities in your business but conceptually to all things you're trying to prioritize in your life.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

All our positions are currently filled, but new positions do become available as we continue to grow. It won’t be long before we need additional staff for the fulfillment, social media, and production. Our number of positions grows each year.

Where can we go to learn more?