A natural choice for your BBQ: Feature Friday Q&A with FunniBonz CEO Jim Barbour

Some people would say that Jim Barbour is a saucy kind of guy. But the West Windsor entrepreneur would take that as a compliment!

After launching his own line of all-natural BBQ sauces called FunniBonz in December 2008, Barbour has been treating NJ residents to his unique and all-natural creations.
As of January 2009, FunniBonz has sold 2,200 cases which are 26,400 jars and are in 102 store locations and have received orders from Market Meats in Vancouver, Canada and Selfridges in London, England making them an International company. With 3 full time employees, 6 part time employees, 12 part time independent contractors and 1 intern for the summer, FunniBonz is growing rapidly!

Rob and I actually ran into the FunniBonz man himself at Murphy's Market in Beach Haven over 4th of July weekend while we were shopping for dinner. It was hard to miss his enthusiasm and of course, his yummy BBQ chicken! One bite and I was ready to spoil my dinner appetite. So of course, I had to learn more about his sauce and how his brand is grilling the competition.

Meet Jim Barbour, the
saucy guy behind FunnizBonz BBQ Sauce:

Q: Jim, I love your sauce and it's rare to find all-natural varieties. What was your inspiration to start the business?

Aside from not really liking the job that I had(an electronic discovery account manager in NYC), I have always had a love of cooking and I have always wanted to start my own business. I spent a lot of time grilling out and I could not find a sauce that I really like, so I decided to make my own.

Q: FunniBonz is a great and unexpected name for BBQ sauce. Where did it come from?

When I suggested to my business partner Ryan, that I was going to create my own barbecue sauce he said that we should call it FunniBonz, and the name just stuck. It just seemed right.

Q: So why BBQ sauce? And how did you learn about flavor and food combinations?

I learned food combinations growing up. I was always the kid at my mother’s apron strings and I have always had a curious fascination about good food. I did not know the first thing about making a barbecue sauce, but I know what flavor combinations that I like and I feel that I have an innate talent for layering and finding a balance when creating a sauce or a dish. The sauce is a pretty unique blend, but I pulled the things I love best in several sauces that I have had.

Q: In addition to being a unique blend, what else sets you apart from other all-natural sauces on the market?

A: One thing that sets our sauce apart from other all-natural sauces is the flavor. Our sauce is a full bodied, sweet and tangy style barbecue sauce without the heavy vinegar bite. Because of this, it pairs with everything from chicken to pork, beef, vegetables, seafood and tofu. It is also one of the lowest in sodium on the shelf. We also have a very unique packaging process where we heat our sauce for a certain time and to a certain temperature at the time of bottling. This process allows our sauce to withstand higher heat without falling apart or burning like most other sauces. This allows you to actually cook, bake or grill with our sauce without the drastic change in the consistency of the sauce.

Q: Let's go back in time for a second. I
read that you were a drama student at UNC Greenboro. This may be stating the obvious, but do you feel your academic training has helped you make Funni Bonz more successful? Do you have any tips for other potential entrepreneurs on getting out there and marketing your product?

My dramatic training has helped me in so many ways. I love to perform and I love to be in front of people. I am able to read people a lot better and also adapt to my environment. But I also feel that every aspect of my professional career has played a part in making me the person that I am and preparing me for this role.

My advice to other entrepreneurs that are looking to market their own products is to just do it. Most people never move from talking about an idea to actually doing it because they don’t know where to begin. People become so preoccupied with the 1 million reasons why it can’t be done rather than fixate on the goal at hand. The true secret is to just do it. It will take a lot of hard work and dedication and the road will be filled with obstacles to overcome and problems to fix. But if you start by putting one foot in front of the other, eventually you will be walking. Don’t let yourself or anyone else put doubt in your mind and make you lose your focus. If you want it, go for it! Start knocking on door and go out and get it!!

Q: You certainly have been getting out there with in-store taste testings in various NJ locations. What do you like about them and what brought you to LBI?

A: I love meeting the people. I love to see their reaction when they taste my product. I love the when kids love my sauce. Especially the picky eaters!! I love to know that I have an effect on the dish that a mother will prepare for her family or to know that FunniBonz has become a staple in someone’s house. It just makes me feel good that I can bring joy to other people. I don’t have a house down in LBI (yet) but I spent my childhood growing up there every summer. So on the 4th of July it only made since to spend my day at a store that I really enjoyed and that was Murphy’s Market. They brought our product into their stores and have been really great to us. I am proud to have my products in Mr. Murphy’s stores.

Q: In addition to Murphy's, how has the support from local NJ markets been for you?

A: The support from the NJ supermarkets has been tremendous. I began this journey with Pennington Quality Market where Don and Chris Rellstab welcomed me into the store with open arms. They allowed me to feature my product and sample to their customers. Colin John, the grocery manager of Whole Foods in Princeton looked at my product and told me how he championed local vendors and facilitated my entry into the Whole Foods Mid-Atlantic Region. Ken Toth the meat manager from McCaffrey’s brought us in to all of the stores and has always supported our cause. We have had such a great experience with the NJ supermarkets. I could not imagine starting my business anywhere else.

Q: Future plans?

A: We have just opened the catering arm of the business where we will do everything from rolling up a smoker to your event and do a real BBQ meal with pulled pork, chicken, ribs and upscale southern sides to delivered catering trays to a more elegant fine dining catering menu. I also have plans to develop my FunniBonz line of cryopaked meats such as FunniBonz Pulled Pork, FunniBonz Pulled Chicken, FunniBonz Baby Back Ribs and FunniBonz Brisket among other things. I will distribute these smoked meats out to retail locations.
I do have plans for restaurants in the future. The restaurants will offer a culmination of our smoked meats, sauces and rubs along with a variety of other menu items that will surely keep people happy!
I would also like to compete. This year has been so filled that we have not had a minute to breath. There are so many things to do and I want to do them all!! All in good time. But I do plan to compete next year. Maybe we can do Memphis in May. That would be a lot of fun.
Special thanks to the following people who had a hand in helping our business get off the ground: staff photographer Karri McKenzie, graphic design firm called Creativenergy owned by Linda Abbedrabo, who designed all of our labels and graphics, animator and producer named Stephan Lay who creates all of our animation and digital visual effects

FunniBonz BBQ Sauce is available is various Whole Foods Markets across the state and local supermarkets. For more information including store locations, recipes and the online store, visit http://www.funnibonz.com.

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