Bryan Furman was a laser operator at the JCB manufacturing plant in Pooler, GA 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 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 & Gun 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. To keep the business going, they did pop-ups and fund raisers.
“We lost everything in the fire. Neither we nor our property owner had any insurance. It was a total loss,” says 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, new equipment and a huge new smoker. They were directed to the Small Business Assistance Center, which led them to UGA SBDC in Savannah Area Director, Becky Brownlee..
“We met with Becky and did all the paperwork, then gave them a list of what we needed and would spend money on,” says 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 SBDC for their funding request,” says Brownlee. “Then we made sure they had systems in place like QuickBooks for record keeping, point of sale systems, employee handbooks and job descriptions. I showed them how to maintain accurate employee records.”
“The numbers we had were based on the small shack and 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,” says Nikki.
They also immediately found insurance, which they now evaluate annually. “Business grows, things change and they will acquire new assets, so they will check their policy every year,” says Brownlee.
B’s now has 11 employees at the Savannah location. With their sights set next on Atlanta, Nikki found a building that had been a BBQ, with smokehouse in place, on Craigslist. They opened their Atlanta B’s Cracklin’ BBQ in October and hired another 19 employees.
“Our new location seats 65 and has a full bar, outdoor patio and live music every night from Thursday through Saturday,” says Nikki. “We’ve just finished putting new policies and procedures in place for both locations.”
The Furmans are grateful to their friends, the SBDC, the SBAC and the city of Savannah for their help after the fire. “Becky and the UGA SBDC really helped us get back on our feet. 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.”
Recently, B’s Crackin’ BBQ was featured in both the online and print editions of Bon Appetit’s magazine. Check it out here.