As a Marine, Darryl Alexander understands the importance of discipline and commitment. So when he began planning his transition to civilian life, he had no qualms about investing the time and effort necessary to fulfill his lifelong dream of owning a barbecue restaurant that would transplant the spirit and taste of his native Memphis to his adopted home of southern Arizona.
When Darryl learned about SCORE’s free business mentoring services, he eagerly shared his idea with Phoenix SCORE Counselor Jim Batz, drawing on some “hip pocket” notes that Darryl considered the foundation of his business plan. After a lot of work and research Memphis Best Barbeque started serving Darryl Alexander’s recipes throughout the Arizona desert in 2007 and is going strong.
Darryl stayed in touch with Jim while taking a 10-week course in business planning at a local community college. Because their office appointments were limited to an hour, Jim gave Darryl his home phone number to call whenever he had a question. “Jim was no longer just a counselor, but a teacher as well,” Darryl says. “He continually kept me focused on developing a sound strategy.”
Following Jim’s advice, Darryl developed and fine-tuned his business plan, researching everything from equipment costs, payroll and insurance costs to product and price comparisons of Arizona’s other barbecue restaurants.
After using SCORE’s free services in addition to receiving mentoring from Jim, Darryl showed his business plan to Jim and could tell his teacher was impressed. “He simply said, ‘What else do you need from me? You’re ready,’” Darryl recalls proudly. Equally wowed was the bank, which quickly approved Darryl’s application for a $250,000 SBA-backed loan to complement his savings.
But most heartening to Darryl has been the response of his mealtime and catering customers, who have helped Memphis Best BBQ exceed its first-year revenue projections. “I think the biggest thing is that people see me here working as hard as anyone else,” he says. “The quality I put into the restaurant transfers to the quality of the food, and they’re happy to tell others about it. I’m so happy that I can give the people of Buckeye a place to relax, enjoy the scenery, listen to some blues, and eat good Memphis barbecue.”
“SCORE Mentor Jim Batz has truly been a wonderful mentor. One of the things he stressed early on was defining the mission of my business, and considering every possible influence, threat and opportunity. Now, I understand what he was talking about.” Darryl says. “Jim felt my passion and sincerity, but he was very frank in telling me that I was way off-base,” Darryl recalls. “He started ‘red-inking’ my notes and asking questions that I couldn’t answer.” Undaunted, Darryl used Jim’s critique as inspiration. “I left his office thinking that if I was going to make this dream come true, now was the time to do it, and do it right,” he says.
After all was said and done and Memphis Best Barbeque was up and running, one of Darryl’s first customers was Jim Batz, who was visibly proud of his client’s accomplishment. “I’m going to put Jim’s picture up in my restaurant because he has truly been a wonderful mentor.”