Pouring out The Jank: STC Alumnus Heats Up BBQ Sauce Business
STC Alumnus Heats Up BBQ Sauce Business
“You either do it, or you do it!” Those are the encouraging words from owner and innovator of the Jank Gourmet Homemade Barbeque Sauce products, Lamar Jones, when asked what advice to give to someone who wants to take a chance on themselves.
Taking a chance is something Jones has become familiar with, coming from an education and music background, Jones abandoned all he knew to dedicate himself to the barbeque sauce business he is so successful in now.
“When I started making barbeque sauce I didn’t care if anyone liked it, I was doing it for me,” said Jones. “It just so happened that people liked it and said it was pretty good.”
And pretty good it was. Jones’s barbeque sauce business was chosen as H.E.B.’s Supplier Diversity of the Year Award for 2017.
The award is given on the merits of good business practices and effective go-to-market strategies and uniqueness. Jones beat out an estimated 60,000 vendors and he says it had everything to do with believing in himself.
“ It was so important to believe in myself 100 percent when nobody else did,” said Jones. “As an entrepreneur, it’s going to be vital for you to believe in yourself.”
Jones came into the barbeque sauce business in 2009, a year after he moved to the Rio Grande Valley from Florida. He knew he had discovered something new within himself.
“I can remember doing the research and seeing that it was a $2 billion industry and was growing so fast,” said Jones. “I thought if I could tap into a percent of a percent of that, it would be more than what I’m doing now as a musician and substitute teacher.”
Jones started off as an educator by day and musician by night before turning into the entrepreneur he is today. He attended South Texas College (STC) where he says the education he gained follows him in whatever he does.
“It was a vital part in my network,” said Jones. “There were some professors who really helped me out and pointed me in the right direction. South Texas College allowed me to further myself and definitely educated me on a lot of things that I wasn’t aware of, it allowed me to grow.”
Jones’s barbeque sauces grossed an estimated $400,000 for 2017 and can be found in over 200 H.E.B. stores in the state of Texas.
He says it all started by being passionate about his product.
“I developed a pallet for different flavors and that was my thing,” said Jones. “When I moved here I was limited to the take-out food options, I wanted to spice it up a little. I would get barbeque sauces and doctor them and then from that, I would let people try it and I got great feedback.”
Jones also thanks the small business owners in the area that contributed to his entrepreneurial calling.
“One of the other things that got me was that in the Valley there’s a lot of people that are selling their products,” said Jones. “You see a guy selling ice cream, another guy on his bike selling elotes. I thought, ‘Man if these people are out here on a daily basis selling their product why can’t I make a living bottling this up?’ That motivated me to sell.”
His Innovation Grant given to him by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce in 2014 was a significant moment for him in his business and has allowed him to expand into other products.
Since his original barbeque sauce flavor, Jones has started spicy and extra spicy barbeque sauce products along with a dry rub all-purpose seasoning blend, all because of the many requests he says that keep pouring in for his gourmet products.
Jones now 36, plans to continue working on his barbeque sauce business. He says he’ll never forget the life lessons he learned at South Texas College.
“ No matter what I do, I will always have my STC education,” said Jones. “I use it in everything I do, whether it be teaching or being an entrepreneur, an education is something you won’t regret. The return on investment you gain on an investment in yourself is priceless, investing in yourself is the Jank!”