We had the pleasure to talk with Ryan Maltbie, Founder & CEO at BBQGrills.com, about his brand, the role of a domain name in branding today and why is family support important to business success.
What is the story behind BBQ Grills?
BBQGrills is an online retailer (e-commerce) of high-quality outdoor kitchen equipment, BBQ grills, patio heaters, and outdoor patio-related products! We carry many top-tier brands such as Bull BBQ, Summerset Grills, and Primo Ceramic Grills.
For me, BBQGrills.com is a lot more than just an internet retailer of BBQ products, it’s a lifelong dream that I’ve had my heart set on since the age of 16. Like many entrepreneurs and business owners, I watched my Father own his own business my entire life. Man, to say that I’ve garnered everything I know about respecting customers, following through and how o run a business through him successfully, would be an incredible understatement, that man single-handedly made me the business owner that I am today.
For the past 30 years of my life, my Father has owned and operated one of the largest and most respected pools and landscape companies in the East Bay, Bay Area. When I was roughly 13-14 years old I started working for his company (yes, I had a workers permit from my middle school), I don’t know what it was, but this idea of being able to make $200 a week and purchase a PSP over Summer break just seemed to be so ‘easy’ for me…boy was I wrong! I still remember his workers picking me up at 4 am that morning and me being half dead with a lunch box in hand walking out.
Just like a Father would he ensured he was awake that early to witness and I’ll never forget his words: “Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life”, man he wasn’t kidding. While that Summer sun was hot and those paychecks were nice for a 14 year-old kid, I came obsessed with watching him run his business with my own eyes.
When he’d happened to show up to a job site that I was at, I’d watch the way he’d talk with his clients, how they would listen, and it was almost like you could see the respect being distributed, I loved that; It was right then that I knew, “That’s what I want”.
Fast forward to my Sophomore year of High School and the only thing on my mind was “what in the heck am I going to do after this place”. I had that vision still, maybe it was a bit washed from my girlfriend at the time (who happens to now be my Wife with four children) and Friday night football games, but the hunger was there.
One weekend while visiting my Dad in the Bay Area, he mentioned to me that his pool business wasn’t doing so well, truth be told in this time frame (2007-2008) many businesses were being affected by the looming recession and putting $250,000 backyard remodels into homes wasn’t really at the top of homeowners lists. I asked him: “…what’re you going to do? You’ve owned this business my entire life, what else is there?” He simply told me “I’m going to open an eCommerce business and we’re going to sell BBQ grills online”. Truth be told, I laughed at him, I thought he was absolutely insane!
This man could barely even plug in a USB cord. and he’s telling me that he’s going to run an e-commerce based business We both didn’t even know how to spell e commerce. I simply told him, “Well, you’re crazy and I like crazy; you tell me what you need and want and I’ll make sure it gets done”.
Roughly 6-months before graduating high school, his company went live, WholesalePatioStore.com, and man, did it look ugly! I seriously don’t know why anyone purchased anything from this site because it would crash almost daily, and putting it blankly was a mess, lol! To make matters even crazier, he told me after it launched: “Okay, now to go tell these brands we have a site to sell their products…” Oh, my goodness my face. I told him: “Wait a minute, you haven’t even locked in brands yet? Do they know anything about this? You’re just simply going to hope and pray that it works”.
He’s a man of simple words and told me, “sometimes that’s all you need”. Mind you, this was the first e-commerce website to sell BBQ Grills and Outdoor Kitchen products, this had never been done before or even presents. Well, it turns out they thought he was crazy too and decided to take a chance, and in our first 6-month period, we managed to bring in $500,000 in overall sales with no advertising or marketing. While most of my friends went off to college to get degrees I took a chance on this crazy project my Dad created and decided to see where it took me.
Over the course of 10 years, that company did great. We opened three retail locations across the US, did roughly $80M+ in sales revenue, and at one point had over 20 employees. Unfortunately, in the Summer of 2018, the decision was made to close the doors of that business, while my heart and soul was in that company, and I had spent the past ten years building it, it was truly hard to simply walk away, but I walked away knowing that something better was on the horizon.
After taking a one year break and spending all of my time with my Wife and kids I quickly learned that your ‘emergency fund’ can go a lot quicker when you’re really not paying attention to it, I knew there was something that needed to be done in the next 6-12 months.
What was the reason to get the domain name BBQgrills.com for your brand? How did you manage to secure it? What other domain names do you own?
In 2016, nearly two years earlier, I purchased with a domain broker. At the time, my Wife wasn’t too thrilled about it, lol.
The purchase was for two domains BBQGrill.com and BBQGrills.com. I kept them in my back pocket, knowing that one day they would be my next stepping stone… and boy, were they! It took two phone calls and one steak dinner, and the BBQGrills.com team was assembled. Over the course of 12 months, we would work tirelessly, day in and day out to produce what our customers know and love as BBQGrills.com.
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, I knew there would be bumpy roads and financial struggles, but I never imagined they’d be as challenging as they ended up being. The goal was always to be self-funded, no outside money, no inventors, and simply no advertising.
With $600 left in my bank account on launch day, I knew that it would only take a few cancellations or a damaged grill to completely take us out. Looking back it’s crazy to even think about it. Long story short, we made it through the first few months of profit and built up a nice nest-egg of capital. Sometimes in life, there’s a mountain in front of you and you just gotta climb it.
I’ve always been obsessed with domain names; even as a child, I’d find domains like eBay fascinating and be drawn to them. For me, a domain name is a fuel that powers any business machine; it has to be easy, understanding, representing your core values and states very clearly what it is you sell. We sell outdoor grills and outdoor kitchen cooking equipment; BBQGrills.com was perfect. I do own several other domains – bbqgrill.com, outdoorkitchenstorage.com, and a few more in the pipeline that I’m very excited to grow into a 7-figure business.
We sell outdoor grills and outdoor kitchen cooking equipment, BBQGrills.com was perfect. I do own several other domains – BBQGrill.com, OutdoorKitchenStorage.com and a few more in the pipeline that I’m very excited to grow into a 7-figure business.
Ryan Maltbie, Founder & CEO at BBQGrills.com
Your brand seems very personable, you have your story and an image of your family on the website, was that a conscious choice? How do you balance your family life with running the business?
To me, my family is simply everything in my life. Growing up, while I had a solid foundation and upbringing, I watched as my parents struggled with their marriage, it was a constant battle growing up and I always told myself “my children won’t worry about these things”. To me, my children, my Wife, and my family are who I fall back on, they help me steer the course, help me navigate through these tough times, and always keep me going. I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for my children, and wanting to show them that if you put your mind toward anything, you can achieve it, I don’t think I’d be doing this. I do this for them, and them only.
Money, business, profits, loss, and success mean nothing to me if I don’t have my family by my side. The choice to market with my family is because I truly feel we don’t sell a ‘product’ we sell an experience. If you think about the BBQ’s that you had as a child or the birthday parties you celebrated as a kid, you never knew what kind of grill Dad was using, but you do remember that moment – the moment of being surrounded by family and friends in the backyard as the grill smoke covered the patio, the burgers, the hot dogs and when the evening settled down, the patio heater that kept everyone warm until it was time to call it a night…that’s what we offer at BBQGrills.com, an experience and that’s why I chose to express that in our marketing.
I want my customers to know that I’m just like them – I’m not some mega CEO on my Yacht, sipping Dom Perigon and eating caviar…I’m just a 30-year old kid with a family of his own that loves to gather around the grill and have a great time. Being a Father of Four, a Husband, and finding that sliver of time for ‘me time’ is hard enough. You throw being the CEO of a 7-figure company that grew from $600 to $5 million in 18 months…now, I don’t even know what to call it, but it can kick your ass. Balancing work life and at-home life is hard, it’s a struggle I’ve fought with well before becoming the CEO of my own company, but I try my absolute best to disconnect when it’s time to. Work, it’ll always be there, in a few years my children won’t. They’ll be off to college or to pressure their dreams and all I’ll be left with is an empty house and wondering why I didn’t take the time while I had it. I know many Fathers, Mothers, and Business Owners that struggle with this, and trust me, I get it, but you gotta walk away, get that fresh air and be where your feet are at all times.
Has the pandemic affected your company in any way? What has changed since?
Launching a business in 2020, or any year for that matter is not an easy feat. You throw a global pandemic, on top of logistical failures, manufacturing plants being shut down left and right and lead times reaching over 50+ weeks…yeah, it can be a lot. The pandemic put not only our company but our industry into a whirlwind. As I stated earlier, I’ve been in this industry for 14 years, and I’ve NEVER seen it like this. The demand for our product line has never been higher, but supply chains and nationwide manufacturing plants simply cannot keep up.
When COVID-19 first hit, I was worried, not only about sales or what this would do to our market, but what this will do to the feeling of our customers even wanting to engage in being around the patio with their friends and family…that’s our entire marketing, what happens when a virus strips that away? However, during the lock-down of most states, customers were forced to stay home; that’s when we saw a spike in clients that have removed traveling from their yearly wish list and put that money back into their homes and backyard patios.
I read a report a few weeks ago that stated e-commerce only has jumped ahead 10+ years in growth over the last 10 months, and it’s exactly what our industry is seeing as well. I’ve waited my entire life for this exact moment, and it’s never felt better to be in the driver seat in one of the largest online retailers of gas grills and outdoor kitchen equipment.
I read a report a few weeks ago that stated e-commerce only has jumped ahead 10+ years in growth over the last 10 months, and it’s exactly what our industry is seeing as well.
Ryan Maltbie, Founder & CEO at BBQGrills.com
What would your advice be to entrepreneurs who are just starting out, ingeneral, and when it comes to branding and naming?
When I was 11 years old, my Father and I were practically homeless. We’d jump from hotel to hotel, and on the weekends that I would be able to see him, we’d go to the park or walk around downtown because we didn’t have anywhere else to go. I personally thought he just liked being outside, it wasn’t until I was older did I get the big picture. During one of those months, we were living in a mother-law unit on the side of a house, the homeowner allowed my Dad to stay there because he would clean up around their house and would do little side projects; once again, this was a HARD time for him.
One night, I happened to fall asleep on the floor while watching TV while eating a ‘breakfast quesadilla’. I awoke to my entire bottom being covered in ants, I ran to the shower only to find that the water heater was off because the bill wasn’t paid, so I had to take a painstaking cold shower at 3 am, while covered in ants. When I finally came out and dried myself off, I was shriving, cold and my Dad was standing there, “what’re you doing, are you okay?” He asked, so I let him know…” I’m TIRED! I’m exhausted. I hate this. I hate this house. I hate this place. I want my friends. I want my life back. I want to know the truth of what’s going on. I want to go HOME.
I still remember to this day the look in his eyes. The white lie he’d been trying to hide from me was finally broken, he knew I knew. He kneeled and told me something so simple, so powerful, and something to this day motivates me to no end. “You’re right, I owe you an explanation, but I want you to know something. Even though we’re defeated right now, even though we’re not at home and even though we’re going through a really tough period, I want you to know one thing… It Won’t Always Be Like This”.
Whenever I’m having moments of doubt, or maybe something isn’t working out the way it needs to, I always go back to this moment and find relief in knowing that even though today might be hard, tomorrow might be a little harder; it won’t always be like this.
What is next for BBQGrills.com?
To continue to try our absolute best to ensure that we’re giving our customers the best experience they can possibly have when it comes to purchasing a new gas grill or outdoor kitchen equipment. We have pitfalls, many setbacks, and the best part about them is we know where they are so we can fix them. Working alongside some of the greatest brands in our industry, it’s an absolute honor to be doing this with them and supporting each other. Over the next 12-18 months our company is planning partnerships with the industry’s leading manufacturers/vendors, some brands that I’m absolutely thrilled to announce, we’ll be opening our first corporate office in the East Bay of the Bar Area after our country gives clear direction for the shelter in place and lastly to just continue to do right by our customers, employees, and vendors. We’re excited about the future, and we’re more excited to bring some change to this industry.
We hope the above information will help you in making informed decisions about your brand. If you want to say hi or have any questions about naming, branding, and domain names get in touch, we’re always happy to hear from you.