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STRATEGY

Dossier: Pork Chaps
 

College roommates turn barbecue into profit.
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Dossier

"We [cooked] the whole thing, from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. That pig was perfection."

WHO: Terry Black, 41

WHAT: Black is president of Super Smokers BBQ, a $7-million food, catering, and restaurant company in O'Fallon, Mo. He founded it in 1996 with Ron Skinner and Skip Steele.

MEATING OF MINDS: Black and Steele, roommates at Arkansas State University, cooked both for themselves and for crowds at their frat's annual spring barbecue. (Black met Skinner, the third partner, later in St. Louis.)

SOMETHING OF A HAM: Black's degree is in radio and television; after college he sold ads for a TV station in Little Rock.

PORKY'S II: Steele, who had become a USDA inspector, called Black in 1987 and proposed that they enter a Little Rock barbecue contest. "I said, 'Sure, let's go do it," says Black.

LITTLE PIGGIES: Black and Steele showed up at the competition toting an old propane tank they had found abandoned in a field and a tent made from a swimming-pool tarp.

THE WHOLE HOG: "The other guys had these giant rigs. They'd invested $25,000 if they'd invested a dime," recalls Black. Black and Steele came in 13th out of 14 teams.

STICKING TO THEIR RIBS: The two decided to pursue porcine perfection -- strictly as a hobby at first. They met regularly to experiment with seasonings, temperatures, and wood chips. They also kept entering contests.

THE WINNING LARD: In 1994, Black and Steele took sixth place for ribs in the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, in Memphis. That led to weekend catering gigs for Black and Skinner, who had now signed on.

HIGH ON THE HOG: Super Smokers has three restaurants, four satellite eateries, three concession stands at the Dome (St. Louis's football stadium), a 500-seat outlet at Busch Stadium, and an E-commerce Web site.

THE GRILL OF VICTORY: In May 2000, Super Smokers took first prize in the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. "We did the whole thing, from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail," says Black. "That pig was perfection."


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Last updated: Jan 1, 2002

LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture.
@LeighEBuchanan




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