Bryan Furman was laser operator at the JCB manufacturing plant in Pooler when he decided to start a small BBQ business on the side.
“I have a passion for cooking and felt like there was no good BBQ where we stayed. And I wanted to be able to leave something for our kids,” he said.
He tried to open a small place in Savannah in 2012, but pivoted to catering when the location fell through. By June 2014 he found a 450-square-foot shack on Old Coffee Bluff Road and opened B’s Cracklin’ BBQ, serving his deliciously different Heritage pig-based dishes a few days a week.
Within months, Furman’s reputation for fine, flavorful BBQ caught on fire, with B’s Cracklin’ BBQ named among the “South’s Top 50 BBQ Joints” in Southern Living magazine and “5 BBQ Joints You Can’t Miss” in Garden and Gun magazine in 2015. His wife Nikki quit her job to help run the business when they were flooded with new customers.
Then B’s caught on fire, literally, and burned to the ground. Georgia’s BBQ community and loyal customers came to the rescue, supplying equipment and other items to keep B’s in operation.
“After we burned down, we did pop-ups and fundraisers because neither we nor our property owners had any insurance. It was a total loss,” said Nikki. “We knew we needed insurance from the beginning, but the building was so old and dilapidated that the owner could not insure it. We knew she didn’t have insurance, she knew we didn’t, but we took the risk because we wanted to be in business so bad. It was a difficult situation.”
They found a new location and needed $30,000 for interior tenant improvements, working capital and new equipment, including a huge new smoker. They were directed to the Small Business Assistance Center (SBAC), which led them to business consultant Becky Brownlee at the UGA Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
“We met with Becky and did all the paperwork they needed, then gave them a list of what we needed and would spend money on,” said Nikki. “We sat down and did a budget for the next two years and an income statement. It was pretty simple once we got the ball rolling, and the loan got approved very quickly.”
“We put together reasonable, conservative financial projections that were accepted by the SBAC for their funding request,” said Brownlee. “Then a lot of our work centered on making sure they set the business up as a real business this time. We made sure they had systems in place like QuickBooks for record keeping, point of sale systems, employee handbooks and job descriptions, and showed them how to maintain accurate employee records.”
“We lost everything in the fire,” said Nikki. “The numbers we had were based on the small shack with a couple of employees. They are now nowhere near what we anticipated because we have more employees and space, but everything is flowing smoothly and well.”
They also immediately found insurance, which they will evaluate annually.
“Business grows, things change and they will acquire new assets, so they will have to check their policy every year,” said Brownlee.
B’s now has 14 employees. Bryan plans to train his crew for promotion and eventual ownership of several new locations around the state.
“We like to hire young people who are eager to learn, grow and do something with their lives,’ said Nikki. “My husband is great at bringing in young people and training them, like the employee who came to us as a dishwasher and has worked his way to kitchen manager. He’s going to Atlanta with us to open our next location.”
The Furmans have posted a web page noting gratitude to their friends, the SBDC, the SBAC and the City of Savannah for helping them after the fire. “Becky and the SBDC really helped us get back on our feet,” he said. “They made sure we are structurally sound so we can model our business and open another. They made our little dream-our dream shack-the reality of a thriving business.”