VAUXHALL, NJ —There is no doubt about it that Chris Finnick has a big appetite for success. Ever since taking over his uncle’s Vauxhall-based barbecue takeout restaurant, Finnick has been serving up healthy portions of southern barbecue to the delight of his loyal customer-base.
That was 12 years ago, when he left his job as a delivery driver for Staples to take over Mama’s Southern Style BBQ 2, a family-owned business started by his Uncle Dan Wiggins in 1997. “It was rough starting out,” said Finnick. “Despite taking over an established successful business and having my uncle mentor me for a year, I had to learn everything on the fly and get used to the pressure of meeting the demands of the customers.”
But over time, Finnick would master the kitchen and learn the day-to-day operations of running a successful takeout restaurant. “It’s really a family affair,” said Finnick. “I am fortunate that I have my wife, mother-in-law, aunt, children, sister-in-law and siblings all pitching in to help with all aspects of building a successful business.”
In fact, the business has been so successful that over the last three years, Finnick had been looking to expand. “There is only so much you can do in a 750 square foot space,” said Finnick. “Despite our space issues, we were pushing 700 or more meals a week out of this kitchen.”
But all that is changed for the better. With his aunt’s help, he was able to put together a solid business plan. She also signed him up for an SBA Meet the Lenders workshop, but that was just the beginning.
Thanks to a chance meeting with Dave Margulies, Regional Director of the Kean University Small Business Development Center, Finnick was able to take his business to another level. The center is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the State of New Jersey, and is hosted by Kean University in Union County, that assists hundreds of small businesses annually. The center provides entrepreneurs like Finnick with no-cost business counseling to help grow and expand their businesses.
“When I met with Dave, I told him my goal was to find a new place so that we could increase our capacity to serve more customers,” said Finnick. “Dave has really helped me to understand the business finances and get a handle on all the costs associated with our business operations. That has allowed me to refine the business plan.”
As a result of the assistance received from the Kean University SBDC, Finnick was introduced to Lilibeth Herrera, senior vice president of the Regional Business Assistance Corporation (RBAC), an SBA provider of 504, Community Advantage, and Microloans. Thanks to a well-detailed business plan in hand, Finnick was able to secure a total of $90, 000 in SBA loans from RBAC. Finnick received an SBA Community Advantage Loan for $75, 0000 and an SBA Microloan for $15,000. All of this has gone toward helping Finnick to move Mama’s Southern Style BBQ 2 last fall just down the block from its current location on Springfield Avenue.
Finnick used the money to purchase some new equipment, make some leasehold improvements and use some of the proceeds for working capital to help him complete the move to the new space. “We went from 750 square feet to about 2,200 square feet,” said Finnick. “I cannot tell you how much the new space means to me. Instead of shopping every day for inventory, I can cut that down to two or three days a week, because we have more storage and freezer space. We now have two ovens, five fryers two stoves. It just gives us more flexibility and capacity to provide a better experience for our customers. “
And while most people takeout, the new space has seating for 20 customers, up from the 8 seats in the old facility.
The move allowed Finnick to continue to serve up a menu that includes barbecue chicken, ribs, pulled pork, fried shrimp and fried catfish that come with an assortment of sides that include collard greens, string beans, cabbage, baked mac & cheese, french fries, coleslaw and potato salad. Not to mention its signature cornbread and desserts. According to Finnick, the rubs and sauces for the barbecue are family recipes that come from North Carolina and have a vinegar base. Meats stay on the barbecue pit for six to seven hours at a time.
“When SBA resources like the Kean University Small Business Development Center and the Regional Business Assistance Corporation work together they can take a business like Mama’s Southern Style BBQ 2 and bring it to the next level,” said SBA Regional Administrator Steve Bulger. “The combination of expert business advice and the right amount of capital is invaluable to a business owner like Chris Finnick. It’s just what his business needed to grow.”
“As we celebrate National SBDC Day, we cannot underestimate the economic impact that the 12 SBDCs located across New Jersey have on our local communities,” added Bulger. “Annually, the SBA provides $3.4 million to the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers and as a result of our 40-year partnership with NJSBDC, the State of New Jersey, Rutgers Business School and all the colleges, universities and community colleges that make up this network, we are able to assist thousands of entrepreneurs who want to start or grow a small business here in New Jersey.”
Today, Mama’s Southern Style BBQ 2 employs six people with an eye toward increasing that down the road. In the meantime, Finnick has enjoyed numerous visits from members of the New York Jets and New Jersey Giants Football Team and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
“I have to let the new move all sink in,” said Finnick, “But my vision for Mama’s is to eventually expand to a nice sit-down restaurant and possibly franchising the takeout concept down the road.”
When you get right down to it, the plan is all designed to satisfy Chris Finnick’s appetite for success.