EDWARDSVILLE, Ill., March 26 -- Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville issued the following news release:
The two-man spice rub business, which launched in Maryville in late 2012, is the brainchild of Chris Bohnemeier - a barbecue enthusiast, grill master and former IT professional- and his long-time friend and fellow BBQ aficionado Mike Radosevich, a veteran police officer.
Teaming with a local manufacturer to replicate their award winning blends, the co-founders marketed their way onto the shelves of more than 120 grocery stores, butcher shops and specialty outlets. Their homegrown, proprietary spice mixes - 5-0 Rub, Backdraft Rub, Sea Dog Rub, Grunt Rub and Rescue Rub - are sent mail order across the country and sold in retail locations throughout a seven-state area.
"From the very beginning, it was about giving back," said Bohnemeier. "My whole family comes from law enforcement, and Mike has served in that capacity for 12 years. We've been friends for a long time and had won several BBQ competitions. Over time, the idea (of a spice rub business) built itself."
Starting a business that develops and sells great-tasting products is one thing, giving away profits is quite another for a small start-up. With the tagline, "Spicing It Up For Those Who Serve," the company is passionate about charities that support injured and fallen first responders and military personnel.
From Day One, Chris and Mike agreed to donate a portion of every colorfully capped bottle sold to a deserving organization, including The Backstoppers Inc. (headquartered in St. Louis), Safe Call Now.org and Operation Homefront.
These donations are vital to The Backstoppers and their goal to deliver a $5,000 check to the family of a police officer, firefighter, paramedic or EMT within hours of his or her death. Backstoppers will also work with surviving families and might assume financial obligations, provide needed health/dental insurance and handle many other challenges faced by the first responder's loved ones.
Safe Call Now is a 24/7 telephone hotline available to public safety employees in crisis. Callers are guaranteed confidentiality and are assisted by trained volunteer staff from the law enforcement and mental health professions.
Operation Homefront provides emergency assistance and morale to deployed U.S. military personal and the families left behind along with intense support and comfort to wounded warriors when they return home.
"We are passionate about supporting these extremely worthy charities that provide tangible support to members of the military and to emergency responders," Radosevich said. "These charities do a terrific job and are always there whenever they're needed to support the men and women who serve others."
This ability to give back to those who serve starts with making desirable products. Code 3 uses gluten-free, MSG-free ingredients in its blends, along with sea salt and natural (rather than processed) sugar. Bohnemeier says the proof is in the blend at the dinner table and on the meat.
"Our six-ounce bottles are always filled to the brim with product," Bohnemeier said. "We're focused on providing a high quality product and giving back. I'll typically sell about 60 bottles during one grocery store demo. Given the taste of what we create and the charities you're helping each time you purchase our blends, we hope you'll be back for more."
The Code 3 Spice partners credit Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and its Metro East Small Business Development Center for providing a generous amount of marketing research and expertise during their startup.
"When our business took off and began growing faster than we'd imagined, SIUE and the SBDC staff stepped in to help us," Bohnemeier said. "They provided expert input on understanding our market opportunities and managing our record growth. With their help, we're on track to reach 400-plus locations this year."
The entrepreneurs combined this input with an inexpensive, yet effective, marketing approach utilizing social media, according to Radosevich. In the 15 months of operation, Code 3 Spices gained more than 11,000 Facebook fans and 600 Twitter followers along with enthusiastic repeat customers, both domestic and international. In fact, Chris and Mike made their first international sale in 2013, shipping a case of spice blends to a Code 3 fanatic in New Zealand.
"Code 3 Spices is a classic example of how doing something you love and giving back to your community can produce tremendous dividends," says Patrick McKeehan, the local SBDC director. "I am always impressed by Mike and Chris. It is a pleasure to be associated with this great Metro East start-up."
The Metro East Small Business Development Center assists start-up ventures like Code 3 Spices as well as existing businesses located in the nine-county Metro East region of Calhoun, Jersey, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Washington, Monroe and Randolph.
The Center provides no-cost business counseling service funded, in part, by the Small Business Administration, Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, and SIUE.
By aiding entrepreneurs and companies in defining their path to success, the SBDC positively impacts the Metro East by stabilizing and strengthening the region's economy. These impacts are achieved by providing direct, one-on-one assistance through counseling, training, research and advocacy for new ventures and existing small businesses. When appropriate, the SBDC strives to affiliate its ties to the region to support the goals and objectives of both the SIUE School of Business and the University at large.
To learn how the SBDC can help your entrepreneurial efforts or small business, contact the Metro East SBDC at (618) 650-2929 or [email protected].
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