Delivered fresh to your door all the way from Dayton, Ohio – who can resist such a decadent temptation?
Lea Richards, a 24-year-old single woman from Dayton, Ohio has an interesting job title: Head Hog. That’s right, Head Hog. Hard to imagine that a woman would actually give herself such an unflattering title, especially for those who live in an image-obsessed city like Los Angeles ― but for Richards, it suits her to a T. She’s the owner and operator of PigoftheMonth.com ― a business that provides FedEx delivered barbecue that she cooks up herself using a collection of recipes she’s collected over the last two decades as a dedicated barbecue aficionado.
Richards has a degree in finance and realized, with her first job out of college, that she was on the wrong career path, in fact, she hated it. So she quit, determined to find a vocation that would inspire and excite her. She loves to cook, has a special fondness for home-style American cuisine and has a big collection of time-tested recipes from all over the United States.
Self-financed and with the support of her family members, she launched Pig of the Month a little over six months ago. Now, like many solo entrepreneurs, she’s working hard to make her business a success, doing what she loves and following her passion to bring her grilled goodies and all-American sides and deserts to barbecue craving palates everywhere.
After sampling her tasty pulled pork and baby back ribs, we sat down with Richards to find out more about what inspired her to face the daunting task of launching her Pig of the Month enterprise.
Singular magazine: What’s been the most difficult part of launching your own business? What kind of obstacles have you faced?
Lea Richards: The obstacles have changed in type and scope as the business has grown. At first, the biggest problems were getting a license from the USDA and learning how to write a HACCP plan. (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point – used in the food industry to identify potential food safety hazards.) And figuring out how to run a commercial kitchen with no experience. That was interesting to say the least!
Now the major challenge is getting the Pig of the Month brand name out there. It’s a long process to get your website ranked ― longer than I would have expected. Luckily, I have such a fun product that it’s not hard to get people to try it.
Ongoing, the most annoying thing we deal with is shipping. Having a perishable product that uses dry ice and needs to get to its destination in 2 days or less is really trying some days. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve our methods in that area.
Singular magazine: What do you do to get the word out about it?
Lea Richards: I contact publications like Singular magazine and do a lot of reaching out to bloggers and media to try to get them to try the barbecue. Since I’m only online, I can’t lure people into a restaurant so I have to use other methods to get people onto my website.
Singular magazine: What have you learned about yourself in the process?
Lea Richards: I’m more creative and determined than I ever gave myself credit for. It’s an uphill battle trying to compete with the bigger names out there, but I know my product is better and I’m willing to stick it out until everyone else agrees!
Singular magazine: What’s your best-selling product and where do most of your customers live?
Lea Richards: Our best selling product is our Key West Ribs and sauce. They have a unique flavor and are the item that’s been covered the most by bloggers and the media so far.
Our customers have been widely based, but I did notice a large concentration being from the northeast ― New York, New Hampshire and Maryland ― but I can’t pinpoint why that is yet.
Singular magazine: How much time do you spend a week working on your business?
Lea Richards: All of it! Maybe not directly working on the products, but I’m always talking about it, looking for good joint ventures and marketing ideas, reading something about business ― things like that. It’s incredibly time consuming, but it’s also so incredibly rewarding to see “the baby” grow. It makes it all worth it when you see that people like what you’re doing and are happy because they just ate some tasty Pig of the Month barbecue.
Singular magazine: Where does the pork come from? What all do you offer in addition to barbecue?
Lea Richards: Our pork is from DuBretton Farms, based out of Canada. They offer certified humane and natural baby back ribs that are a great cut of meat. We also offer sides: corn pudding, corn bread, baked beans, buttermilk coleslaw, and pimento cheese spread ― all homemade by me in the kitchen. We just started sourcing these alcohol-themed cupcakes from the Drunken Cupcake (flavors like pretzels and beer, mai tai, margarita, strawberries and champagne) and we’re starting to sell desert bars and cookies from The BonBonerie in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Singular magazine: Where do your recipes come from? Are they yours?
Lea Richards: I’ve had a lifelong obsession with reading cookbooks and cooking magazines so the recipes are ones that I’ve adapted and tweaked from lots of different places until they were exactly as I like them. The pimento cheese spread probably had 20 different recipes and different versions to get to what I use now.
Singular magazine: Barbecue is not likely a real healthy choice in terms of fat and calories. Any advice on how often one should indulge?
Lea Richards: As my dad likes to say: “You don’t make friends with a salad.” I say that anything that’s terribly delicious you should eat in moderation. I eat something from our kitchen about once a week, twice if I know I’m working out extra hard.
Singular magazine: Now that you’re so busy with your business, do you have time for a social life?
Lea Richards: I try to balance it all. When I do get out with friends I end up talking about the business. People seem to be fascinated by it. I never totally get away from it, but I wouldn’t want to either. I was in a relationship but it’s hard to maintain something new when you’re working constantly and your focus is somewhere else.
Singular magazine: How did you come up with the name and your tag line: “Let’s Get Messy.”
Lea Richards: The original idea was to have a barbecue of the month club. I do offer that, but I thought it best to expand and let people order whatever they wanted, not necessarily order for 6 months at a time. The “Let’s get Messy” tagline just seems to fit. Barbecue is messy and should be fun at the same time. I think that really conveys the feeling I was hoping for.
Singular magazine: Why is this concept good for single people?
Lea Richards: This way you can have dinner ready without having the muss and fuss of barbecuing yourselves for hours and hours. It’s also a great way to throw a party and just have it delivered to your door to be reheated ― you can even take the credit for making it, I won’t mind!
Singular magazine: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Lea Richards: I’d like to have our ribs and sauces in gourmet groceries all over the country and be continually growing. Who knows maybe even a cooking show on TV. I think we need one with a girl at the grill!
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