By Ryan Waldrep, Assistant Director for Entrepreneur and Small Business Development
Small Business Spotlight | Bibb County | Region 6
Summertime is here! Well, almost. And with the rising temperatures and longer days, who doesn’t love going outside on the weekends (or if you’re really lucky, during the week) to grill burgers, chops or steaks for the family?
But, if you’re like most people (myself included) the moment the food is done, you’re inside while the fire is left to die down. But what if there’s could be more to the fire?
Sure, it provides heat to cook with, but have you ever paused for a moment to marvel at its beauty? Think about it. When was the last time you gathered with a group of friends around an open fire to tell stories? In South Africa, they enjoy the flame and gather around it once the cooking is done. And this where Stebin Horne was introduced to the braai, and the story of Kudu Grills began.
Stebin’s wife is from South Africa, where the rural areas are populated with cattle and corn farmers, just like many areas in South Georgia. During a visit, he noticed that her brother had welded a metal grate to a disk harrow. The family used it to cook on, but they continued to hang around long after the meat was cooked for fellowship and storytelling. This intrigued Stebin and got him thinking – why would you cover up the enjoyment of the fire? Why would you not show and experience that?
He came home and partnered with his hometown friend, Steward Vernon, to bring this experience to America.
There are 11 national languages in South Africa, and the only word that is the same across each of these languages is “braai,” which means to gather and look across an open flame and create a communicable style of cooking. The braai is so revered, that September 24 is National Braai Day. “This style of cooking can engage people and bring them together,” says Stebin. “What a great thing!”
So if all other grills are engineered simply to efficiently cook, how can the experience be converted into the best it can be? Immediately, Stebin thought that the experience of cooking and the fire must be enhanced, and the Kudu illuminates the experience around food and flames.
Kudu grills differ from the competition, as Kudu allows the user to cook anyway they desire. The design, which won a Mercer Innovation Award, allows the user to grill, smoke or cook on a surface – such as a griddle – all at the same time. To top it off, the Kudu is 100 percent portable and adjustable.
Kudu Grills hit the retail market in early 2017 in stores such as Ace Hardware, boutique grilling stores and local outlets like Dry Falls Outfitters. The reception of Kudu Grills on the marketplace was tremendous, and the company met 50 percent of their total annual sales goal during the first quarter of 2017.
To help define the viability of the product, Kudu Grills turned to an unlikely source: Kickstarter. With Kickstarter projects, more seem to die on the vine rather than survive. However, Kudu used it as a test market, rather than a funding source, to get the product off of the ground. Kickstarter was used to validate the product and generated 30 to 40 percent of sales prior to launch. This increased momentum and established credibility for the company.
Stebin offered some words of wisdom for those thinking about starting a business:
“Be judicious with dollars and put forward a product that is well received and high quality. Then stay focused and find the right partners that will support the venture.” – Stebin Horne, Founder & Innovator, Kudu Grills
And he has surrounded himself with partners, Stewart and Chef Kevin Gillespie, who share that vision. They each know how to build a business and what it takes to help it grow.
Kudu Grills are African inspired and American made. Kudu imports South African accessories and wood, but manufacturing them in Macon truly defines the company. Kudu uses a local fabricating shop in Macon to make the grills. And the printing for instruction and promotional items are produced in Macon as well. It may cost a little more for these services, but using local suppliers provides more local job opportunities.
Got a Small Business question? Start the conversation! Contact Ryan Waldrep, Assistant Director for Entrepreneur and Small Business Development, at (404) 877-8406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.