033 Julie-ann – JAGRD Woodfired

JAGRD WoodfiredJulie-ann swings by the Confessional for Ep 14 of Season 2 ‘Living the Dream’ to take us behind the scenes of successful Western Australian smoker manufacturer JAGRD Woodfired Smoker Ovens. In this episode, Julie-ann walks us step-by-step what you need to do to start your own smoker manufacturing company. Please be sure to subscribe and leave a review of this episode.

Julie-ann and Glenn are a husband and wife team whose skills really compliment each other perfectly. They’ve been working together for several years and have all their systems down. The result is the stunning range of smoker ovens known as the JAGRD Black Beauty series. If you have a design and the desire, you gotta catch this Ep!

Much thanks and appreciation go to this episodes sponsors:

Clean Heat Charcoal

Pit Brothers BBQ

Ministry of Smoke

Still want more? Be sure to pick up your free ebook: 27 Lessons Learned from Competition BBQ

Show Notes
  • The last thing she BBQ’d was some loin chops on the asado grill
    • Asados are good as you can adjust the height of the grill and control the temperature that way
  • Her weeknight go-to rig is the ‘Black Beauty’, the smaller of their smoker ovens which is ready to cook in 30 minutes
    • Means you can cook outside and your kitchen won’t get hot…
  • Pork ribs are her favourite thing to cook either low’n’slow or hot’n’fast
    • She’ll either do them in the Black Beauty, or wrapped on the Asado in an hour, but no smokey flavour
  • Tips for Treats – a charity initiative in BBQ comps in WA whereby the public can purchase a $5 tips card which becomes their People’s Choice Cards. Teams give the public bits of food
    • They currently get away with it under the licence of the event organisers
  • They were put on to low’n’slow by an existing customer from QLD who had bought one of their wood-fired pizza ovens who introduced them to the Australasian Barbecue Alliance page
  • They host meet-ups with up to 100 families where they hang out, cook BBQ and swap tips and techniques
  • WA hasn’t really found their own BBQ style – still rooted in American style sweet heat flavour combinations though some are trying to come up with their own styles
    • Julie-ann did try something different and got comments back from the judge that they didn’t recognise the flavours meaning that the judges were coming into it with preconceived ideas of what BBQ should be
  • JAGRD came about when they were living in Victoria with jobs they didn’t like and wanted to find something they could do together
    • Someone suggested wood-fired pizza
    • Glen got to work building a pizza trailer
    • Started serving out of their driveway in suburban Victoria
    • They hit the road, travelling around Australia catering events in a horse truck that Glenn refit with a kitchen and living quarters
    • They spent 4 years travelling site to site
    • Through that process, they were able to refine their design
    • It doesn’t make you a million dollars but it is a great lifestyle
  • Division of labour and responsibilities
    • Glenn is the builder – he designs and puts the smokers together
    • Takes him as little as two weeks to go from idea to prototype
    • Julie-ann covers accounts, marketing, distribution and logistics
    • She’s also the tester, providing feedback for Glenn to tweak the designs
  • They have several sizes and modifications available on their original smoker oven and are working on more designs. They already have an asado grill of their own up and running
  • Surprisingly, it didn’t take much modification at all to use their original oven as a smoker
  • To get to Brisbane for the 2016 comp, the drove non-stop, taking turns sleeping and driving
  • Worlds Championships Contest in Houston
    • They were drawn from the lottery for winning GC, RGC, or places
    • They took a bunch of other pitmasters with them and competed as the JAGRD Liquard Grillah Groper team
    • The comps are done in massive tents with capacities of up to 900 people at one time
      • Smokers are at one end, band at the others and free bars
    • People pay for entry to the tents with the money going to charity
    • All food and alcohol is free once they’re in there
    • When she was there there were 250 teams when in WA there is a max of 20 teams
    • The event raised over $21 million USD for charity when she was there
  • Julie-ann’s background in accounts and marketing has helped her to do research for what the public are looking for
    • Has also allowed her to keep the ‘business’ side of the business under control
    • Glenn has had a lot of manual skills that were transferrable to manufacturing
  • If you’re thinking of starting a smoker manufacturing business
    • Start by looking at what other people are already doing – market research
    • Hit Google for ideas and inspiration
    • Check out Franklin’s Graph for offsets
    • Ask around – plenty of industry people are happy to give encouragement and advice
  • Resources needed to get going
    • The passion to do it is most important
    • Just start – you have to start somewhere
    • You need as little as a welder, a gas axe and some patience
    • As time goes by, make tweaks to your designs
  • From idea to prototype
    • Start with a drawing on a pad – simply explaining something can be very hard
    • Research materials
    • Start building
    • Lots of Testing
    • Tweaking and modifications
  • Prototype to production
    • Marketing – letting people know what you’re doing and when
    • Facebook is a great communicator in that respect
    • Share the progress of each stage
    • Gather expressions of interest
    • Take it to public events – take two so you can have one cooking and one for looking. People need to be able to feel and touch it
    • 70% of their sales in the last 18 months have gone to the East Coast through their Facebook marketing efforts
  • Distribution
    • They’ve done a lot of homework and have built a relationship with a very reliable company, ‘Saddler’s’
    • $300 to ship 270kg from Perth to Brisbane. It’s cheaper than shipping to the Pilbarra in WA
  • The hardest thing about being a manufacturer
    • Having their product understood as it can do so many things
    • Use social media to present your clear message to the world
  • Tips for building a relationship on social media
    • Don’t always be selling selling selling
    • Use your own product and show it at work
    • Treat posts like a conversation – engage with every comment
    • Always be honest
  • Best thing about being a manufacturer
    • Seeing people be so excited about the product
    • Sharing what you love
  • Being a BBQ manufacturer isn’t as glamorous as it looks, but she’d still rate it as being top notch
  • What differences between East and West Coast comps scenes has Julie-ann noticed?
    • Size of the comps is the biggest difference. Biggest to date in WA was 24 teams
    • East Coast seems to be more open to new flavour profiles
  • What makes a JAGRD different to other smokers on the market?
    • A JAGRD is not just a smoker
    • It’s a Grand Champion low’n’slow smoker, but it’s also a wood fired pizza oven
    • It’s fully insulated, both firebox and cooking chamber
    • It runs anywhere from 100C – 350C
    • Can even bake bread in it
  • What is Julie-ann’s favourite protein to cook, and what’s been her most successful protein?
    • Pork ribs are her favourite
    • Briskets are a close second
    • Her biggest success was taking those pork ribs to Houston
    • They even took their own Jam wood to Houston
    • They had to do nothing to take their wood into the United States. She just packed it into her suitcase with her clothes. Anything can go in, but nothing comes home except rubs
  • Best and Worst of Houston and tips for others going over?
    • Best – doing as well as they did with their pork ribs
    • Close second – meeting all the people
    • Pointers
      • Just relax and have fun
      • Don’t underestimate yourself
      • Don’t drink too much the night before the turn-ins
      • Take lots of photos with the other teams
  • Have they thought about outsourcing?
    • They would never outsource overseas, but they are looking at outsourcing some of the work to local businesses
    • Further outsourcing may be required, freeing up Glenn and Julie-ann to focus on other aspects of the business
  • What sources in WA would Julie-ann recommend for people wanting to get into low’n’slow?
    • Mondo butchers for meats, related to Mondo Charity Warriors
    • Troy Heppel – ‘the secret butcher’ from Troy’s Meats. He’s a wholesaler who once a week will open to the public
    • Ray from Warnborough Meats – always ready to help and supply information
  • Are they planning on expanding their range?
    • The new gravity-fed charcoal smoker mentioned earlier
    • Starting to supply woods
    • Very efficient
    • Good entry level size for restaurants and cafes who want to get into smoked meats
  • What do people need to bring and how can they source what they need when competing overseas?
    • She did some research for butchers before she left
    • Reach out to your contacts if you have them
    • Search local and get feedback and recommendations from locals
    • Pack lightly – you won’t need everything you think you’ll need
    • Take your regular knives and utensils
    • Take a few of your own flavours and spices
  • What are the food bowl areas in WA and what are their signature foods?
    • Carnarvon has all the fruits and chillies
    • Gascoigne area – great for agriculture
    • Harvey for beef
    • Heat in the north and cool in the south
  • Three top tips
    • Research in both design and market: is it viable and are you filling a need?
    • Make sure you have the skills and tools – but don’t over-capitalise
    • Test your products out on family and friends
    • Be patient and take your time
    • Drawing to prototype on the first JAGRD was 18 months
    • If it’s a product you’re confident with, don’t give up