In 2005, Donna and Terry Grant’s enthusiasm for outdoor cooking grew into SmokinLicious®, a small business that sells high-quality wood selected specifically for wood-fired cooking techniques.
Twelve years later, the Grants have a thriving company — and tips for any small business hungry to grow. It comes down to expertise, the right partners, the right package and a willingness to keep learning.
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- Flat-rate, zone-based pricing
- No freight classification code needed
- Great for occasional LTL shipping or easy management of multiple shipments
- Comes in two sizes; the smaller box has an integrated pallet
1. Become an authority
Research. Grilling for guests at their lake house in western New York produced many savory meals — and generated much admiration. “Our friends and family always wanted to know why our steaks tasted better,” Donna recalls. Their secret was cooking over hardwood.
Encouraged by their results, the couple decided to market their gourmet wood. Donna’s background in science helped unlock the chemistry behind the flavor, but to really understand all of the complexities involved, the couple knew they’d need to dig deeper.
Go hands-on. For an in-depth understanding of how wood interacts with fire and food — timing, temperature, cut of the meat, and so on — the couple visited chefs in the U.S. and Canada. Those first-hand insights were invaluable, Terry says. Getting culinary knowledge from the source helped them build their expertise.
2. Share your knowledge
SmokinLicious has sponsored cooking competitions and exhibited at trade shows, demonstrating how to wood-fire cook everything from peaches to brownies. This strengthened their brand, and they started receiving speaking invitations from groups like the American Culinary Association. “That paid off,” says Donna, “there’s no question about it.” Soon, their reputation — and their customer base — took off.
3. Choose your partners carefully
Experiment. In the early days of SmokinLicious, the Grants tried several different carriers, assessing which provider best met their business needs for:
- Reliable service
- Competitive transit times
- Separate pickup locations for ground and freight
Evaluate. For Donna and Terry, the best match was FedEx. “They looked at what our needs were to make our business work,” Donna says. “To us, they’re an integral part of our team.”
4. Consider your packaging
Be cost-effective. Hardwood is heavy, making it difficult to ship economically. Initially, SmokinLicious moved even relatively small shipments as palletized freight. Then they found a better option. “The FedEx Freight box has been a lifesaver to us,” Donna explains.
Designed to hold shipments of less than 1,200 lbs., this sturdy flat-rate box provides a more cost-effective option for dense less-than-truckload (LTL) freight.
Mind your quality control. For the safest possible food-grade wood, SmokinLicious must guard against outside moisture, which could lead to mold or bacteria growth.
By combining the FedEx Freight box® with their own special inner lining, the company devised a handy, secure way to transport their wood products directly from their facility into the customers’ kitchens.
Put the consumer first. The next offering from SmokinLicious? “Micro-chips.” These smaller wood chips will be available to commercial kitchens, including custom blends.
And switching from loose wood chips enclosed in shrink wrap to the kitchen-ready FedEx Freight box offers chefs an easy, convenient setup: scoop out however many chips you need and close the box for next time, maintaining the product’s sanitary conditions.
Keep growing. As for Terry and Donna, they’re excited for the opportunities the micro-chips will create for them — and excited to discover new ways to satisfy their customers.
Wood fire is “the oldest style of cooking,” Donna says, “but there’s a lot to learn.”
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