After Stephan “Steph” Franklin of Simply Marvelous BBQ received his master’s degree at Southern Illinois University, a job as a residency director at UCSB brought this South Side, Chicago native to the West Coast. But it was in college that his love for BBQ began.
“I got into grilling during college just because it was a cheap way to eat,” Franklin said. “I’m a fisherman, too, so the very first thing I ever smoked was fish. Actually, Barracuda.” He soon added other proteins, such as turkey during the holidays, and by 2006, his reputation for good barbeque had evolved into the launch of his own business.
When asked about managing the business, Franklin said that the best business advice he received came from his mother: “She was worried about me quitting my day job to open up a restaurant, which was smart, because the market crashed in 2008.” His mobile barbecue business requires less overhead to run than a brick-and-mortar restaurant or only focusing on high-end catering (although Simply Marvelous BBQ offers high-end catering, too). “And I still don’t have a restaurant, which has been a saving grace during this pandemic.”
The catering side of the business is on hold currently due to the pandemic, but Franklin’s multi-prong business has sustained him. Aside from catering, which is only half of the business, Franklin curates BBQ spices under his name and sells custom-made dry rubs and spices for other companies. For example, Franklin’s curated rub for Snake River Farms in Eastern Idaho is used in their burger that caught the eye and tastebuds of Oprah Winfrey. So much so, she’s listing the burger on “Oprah’s Favorite Things” this year.
This kind of attention makes sense, considering Franklin has 25 Grand and Grand Reserve barbeque championship titles under his belt. He’s won in the chicken, ribs, pork butt and brisket categories where judges look for appearance, taste and tenderness. Simply Marvelous BBQ’s combination of signature rubs, unique spices and perfectly cooked meat has Stephan Franklin’s name—and BBQ—on the lips of barbeque judges and chefs from coast to coast.
All the accolades aside, Franklin has still experienced some racial bias as an African American business owner in California. “Maybe prior to me putting a picture of myself on the website,” Franklin said. “I would meet some clients, and I wouldn’t get a call back. Now, I don’t worry about it because they know what they’re getting into.”
What makes his BBQ stand out from others is his eclectic style. “We don’t focus on Texas or Kansas City style barbeque,” Franklin said. “It’s based on everything we’ve meshed over the years to come up with our own style.” As far as the key to his success, it’s all about the details. “Understanding flavors, and having experience,” he said.
Franklin explains that having another job when he first started out was extremely helpful because he was able to reinvest money he made from barbecuing back into the business. “I could afford to (purchase new equipment) because I had a different job (to pay the bills),” he explained. Advice he’d tell his younger self would be to watch who you hire because they become the face of your business. “Now, you have Yelp and Google reviews that can hurt your business, even if it isn’t your fault.”
According to Franklin, patience is key when starting any business. “Take your time and do it right. Don’t rush.” He also affirmed that if you don’t have the passion for your business or line of work, don’t even start. “It’s hard work and you’ll get burned out.”
To learn more about Simply Marvelous BBQ, contact (805) 708-5276 or visit simplymarvelousbbq.com.