Howard Mitchell Jr.’s faith brought him to barbecue sauce. In 2003, while thinking about how he could contribute to his church, he says God spoke to him in a dream, promising to give him the gift of a unique flavor. Soon after, Mitchell’s famous barbecue sauce was born. Mitchell began selling ribs and chicken sandwiches eight years later at a local farmer’s market, along with mason jars full of barbecue sauce.
“When I sold my first sandwich, and saw the expression on my customer’s face as he started eating it, I knew that I had something special,” says Mitchell. He began selling out by 11 in the morning, two hours before the market officially closed. Soon after, when he sold his barbecue-sauce-topped sandwiches at a church fundraiser, he brought in $6,500 in funds.
In 2015, Mitchell began doing the paperwork necessary to bring the sauce to market. He now cooks and bottles it at the local kitchen incubator, a shared-use kitchen that is certified for food production, and sells it in 19-ounce jars and gallon jugs.
Mitchell began attending SCORE workshops in 2013 as he wrote his business plan. Two years later, he began working with SCORE Mentor Janet Moy, who helped him place his sauce in one of the restaurants that carries it and appeared with him on “Senior Focus,” a local television program. She helped Mitchell meet the regulations needed to pass FDA inspection, and to advertise and market his business. She’s even responsible for the Review article about Mitchell.
Mitchell offers other potential small business owners this advice: “Talk about your business all the time. In other words, talk it into existence – and seek out a SCORE mentor for direction.”
Since launching his business in August 2016, Mitchell has sold over 1,000 bottles of Fatback’s Famous BBQ sauce, which is now available in 10 local grocery stores and two restaurants.
Mitchell received a “Watch Me Grow” award at SCORE Youngstown’s 2016 Salute to Small Business event. The local paper, The Review, published a feature article about Mitchell and his business.