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SPI 721: How to Build a Brand the Smart Way with Susie from Hey Grill, Hey

Finding an underserved audience and providing valuable free content is one of the quickest ways to build a massive brand online. But how do you turn your followers into paying customers?

This is a challenging transition for many of us when we first start charging for our work.

My guest, Susie Bulloch of Hey Grill, Hey, has done an amazing job creating irresistible paid products to complement the free information that has defined her business. She runs the highest-trafficked barbecue and grilling recipe website, and today we find out all about her journey and mission!

Susie and I discuss everything from choosing a niche to monetizing your reach through ads, sponsorships, and affiliate marketing. We also talk about creating digital and physical products to serve your audience’s unique needs and generate reliable monthly income.

This episode is a fantastic behind-the-scenes look at an inspiring success story. There’s much to learn from Susie’s growth, so listen in to discover how to apply the same principles in your business. Enjoy!

Today’s Guest

Susie Bulloch

Susie is the BBQ Brain behind the Hey Grill, Hey website. Her passion for smoked meats and developing fun, new recipes have landed her on the Food Network, cooking turkeys with Shaq, and on a couple of Guinness World Records. When she’s not grilling, she’s hanging out with Todd and their three kids, preferably outdoors!

You’ll Learn


SPI 721: How to Build a Brand the Smart Way with Susie from Hey Grill, Hey

Susie Bulloch: I think a lot of people who have built content based businesses where your audience is used to getting everything for free, transitioning them to a buying audience isn’t always easy.

I was like, here’s all these free recipes. Just kidding, pay me for one. And it was like, it was a bit of a shift. I really had to coach my audience and develop a level of trust that I hadn’t previously established.

So for us to be able now to match our revenue from the product company to that digital advertising that we’re getting on our website feels like a massive accomplishment. And it’s been a couple of years to get there.

Pat Flynn: Today we have a fascinating and absolutely inspiring conversation with Susie Bulloch from Hey Grill Hey. This is a brand built around barbecue. Now barbecue is obviously delicious and amazing, but what’s even more amazing is the story behind this brand, Hey Grill Hey. and how it started and where it is now and how it’s utilizing community creating products and best serving its audience of barbecue enthusiasts.

And I swear, even if you’re not a barbecue enthusiast, number one, you might be after this. But secondly, Susie and all the value she has to offer is absolutely incredible. And you’re going to love this. And if you aren’t inspired by this, not just to make barbecue, but to work on your business and to serve your audience and build community, even around a brand like barbecue, well, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

So I know you’re going to love this. This is Susie from Hey Grill Hey, here we go.

Announcer: You’re listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, a proud member of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network, a show that’s all about working hard now, so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host, he’s got an IMDb page that hasn’t been updated for a while. Pat Flynn.

Pat Flynn: Susie, welcome to the SPI podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Susie Bulloch: Thank you for having me. I’m actually thrilled to be on the SPI podcast. I was, I still am, but when we first started our company, my husband and I were avid listeners. So, yes, this is very exciting.

Pat Flynn: That is so cool. And so from listener to where were you when you were listening to the show and you said you were just starting out?

Like how did how did that all begin? What what gave you your interest in just getting online in general?

Susie Bulloch: So I was already online. I was running my business, but I was learning what it meant to actually run a business versus just a hobby project or a passion project. And you were a speaker at a food blogging conference that I attended actually.

Everything Food Blogger Conference. Everything Food Conference, I think it was the first Everything Food Conference, and I attended. After that, I got your book. I read Will It Fly? Oh wow. I put my little business model in the little four paper folded. You know, like I did, I did all of it. And we became avid listeners of the podcast.

My husband had not yet quit his job at the time to join me in the entrepreneurial pursuit and was honestly quite skeptical of, you know, this new realm of kind of digital entrepreneurs because it was very different than what we had grown up with. And the idea of entrepreneurship was, you know, owning a business or a small brick and mortar shop or a retail location or a restaurant.

Those felt like real entrepreneurial pursuits. And so we kind of had to relearn and re identify what You know, the world of being a digital entrepreneur meant and try to figure that out together. And he has since come on and join me and is as entrepreneurial as they come. But it was a large jump and a large leap for us to kind of step into this realm.

And so we were, we were big fans of the podcast, just framed things in a lot of different ways and helped us think about things in different ways and pursue new ideas. So it was awesome.

Pat Flynn: Amazing. Thank you, Susie. And shout out to Todd as well, who couldn’t join us today. But I’m, I’m curious because you have a food related brand and typically, like you said, when entrepreneurs are into food, it’s either a food truck or a restaurant or something like that.

Very rarely do we see a brand like yours go to where it is. How did you decide to go down this route? And maybe for those listening, like, what is Hey Grill Hey today. What is it exactly?

Susie Bulloch: Sure. Let’s start with a little background. So Hey Grill Hey started as a food blog and prior to me kicking off my own food blogging career, I actually worked for other people’s websites creating content.

First it was a deal blogger helping her write coupon and deal saving like money saving related content. And then I forayed that into a job writing recipes for a company that manufactured smokers. And their whole goal was, you know, at the time, a decade ago, if somebody bought a grill they were kind of handed this spiral bound notebook of 10 recipes that was like, best wishes, I hope you figure out how to use this.

You might only ever cook these 10 things. And they wanted to really make it more modern so that when somebody bought a grill they would have a resource online that they could access. And I kind of had that experience of writing online content, and so I got hired for that job. And that’s where I found barbecue and fell in love with barbecue.

And really learned how lacking the space was. And I loved food. I loved eating food. I loved making food. I loved feeding people food. And finding barbecue was really like, a switch point for me. A spark went off and I was like, Oh, this is like, this is it. This is different. People were showing up at my house around dinner time, uninvited, just to see what we had been cooking that day.

It changed us a little bit culturally and how we lived just in our family and in our neighborhood. So that became the thing for me was barbecue was everything. And I had been reading food blogs forever. And as I was writing these recipes for this brand, I realized nobody’s writing barbecue recipes online.

They were all kind of secrets. Like all the barbecue world was very gatekeepy and very secretive and you had to grow up in the barbecue community or you had to know somebody that taught you how to barbecue. And I didn’t really have that in Utah. So it was a lot of like self teaching, but also so eager to share and just wanted everybody to have that same experience that we were having when we were cooking barbecue like it, it changed our family for the better. And I knew it could do the same thing for so many other people. And I knew that there was a market for food blogs. And I knew that food blogs made money.

I mean, I was being paid by a brand to write recipes. So there must be money out there for people writing recipes. So I literally typed in one day, like, how do you make money food blogging? Like, is this a business and can you, and that’s really what kicked off the journey of Hey Grill Hey I started my own website and started publishing my recipes on there in 2015.

And since then, our website has grown to be the highest trafficked barbecue and grilling recipe website in the world. We have millions of visitors every single month checking out recipes and learning how to cook barbecue for their family and friends. It’s the coolest thing ever. Amazing. But that’s how it started.

It started as a food blog where we generated most of our revenue from, you know, online display advertising and sponsored partnerships and affiliate relationships and have since forayed that into a product company and an online course and, you know, all the things.

Pat Flynn: Yeah. And I do want to get into those things.

Those are things that, you know, we have a lot of experience here at SPI. I have experience with physical products, but It’s very different than where I started, which was similar to you, which was just writing content and creating stuff. So display revenue, so using like AdThrive, I would imagine, and different companies like that.

Susie Bulloch: Yeah, I’ve been with AdThrive and Mediavine and yeah, just third party ad management. I mean, I started blogging when bloggers were still coding their own ads. So I saw the invention and advention of all, you know, all of these ad companies coming into the space and how that actually became part of, you know, really mainstream revenue generation for people in the online content creation space.

Pat Flynn: Have you dove into the world of affiliate marketing as well on your brand and with what kind of companies if so?

Susie Bulloch: Yeah, I’ve been affiliates with all sorts of companies. I mean, companies that sell grills, companies that sell thermometers, everything that was very adjacent and through 90 different platforms just based on the brand.

We’re actually in the process of building out our own affiliate platform right now for my own products, which is so fascinating to have that experience being the influencer and setting up an affiliate program to sign on as an influencer and then now being on the brand side, building one. There’s so much learning that goes involved that’s like involved in every single step of this.

Pat Flynn: So how do you choose? I would imagine that with the reach that your blog and website has had, you’ve had a plethora of companies reach out to you just like, Hey, can I get in front of the audience? Can I I’ll pay you for this? I’ll pay you for this. What goes through your head when you get a lot of inquiries like that?

How do you manage that intake?

Susie Bulloch: Oh my gosh. Initially it was like, I’m sorry, you want to pay me to what? Like I’m using this already anyway, you would like to put money in my pocket to use this thing. And of course, I think everybody who is in that online creation space, you get that first email and you’re like, you’re going to send me a free tub of mayo for four posts like for free and it feels like this great win, you know, like you’re being noticed and brands are paying attention to then getting to a point where negotiating contracts is like a multiple week process. But we finally hit a point where, I mean, it, I think we ran the whole gamut. Seriously. It was like free mayo to like, Oh, I can charge for this.

So then we were like taking everybody like, Oh, you’re going to pay me. I will take every sponsored post because my husband quit his job and we’re trying to build an entire business off of this like really unpredictable ad revenue stream. So sponsored revenue kind of felt like a savior almost that we could work with companies that we already used and loved and they would pay us and it was like we were able to establish long term relationships with some really great brands that really helped keep Hey Grill Hey online, honestly in those first couple of years as we were getting our feet underneath us to the point where we stopped taking sponsored contracts altogether because we realized that as we’re launching our own brands, I was like, man, I’m spending all this time promoting other people’s products.

What would happen if I made my own product and then I promoted that instead? Because if it’s worth this much money to these brands for me to promote them, how much revenue could I be generating, promoting my own products? So that really started a shift in my brain into building our own physical product company and launching our line of barbecue seasonings and sauces.

And that came about because of the sponsored work that I was doing. So we haven’t actually done any sponsored work in a really long time. It’s kind of been this fun little full circle that that was part of our business, but now it’s not anymore.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, that is cool. And as a brand now with your own physical products, I’m curious, are you, I mean, you probably don’t need other brands to sponsor you guys or you sponsor them because you have your own reach, right?

So it’s kind of all encompassed and sort of vertically integrated your own products with your own reach and your own content. Is that true? It’s just all encompassing inside of the Hey Girl Hey brand.

Susie Bulloch: Yeah, it has been to this point we haven’t spent any marketing dollars on advertising or anything like that.

We had a few, a few barbecue teams locally that we like sponsored to go out and compete and use our products. But that was, that was more like personal relationship based and less like get the brand out there to everyone. Yeah. Like I said, we’re just kicking off our affiliate program. But other than that, we really haven’t done any paid ad placements for anything.

It’s been really a cool experience to be able to advertise for your own products and to have those years of experience advertising for other people’s products taught me a lot about what type of content works. What does the audience respond to when they’re seeing brands placed naturally and organically in a piece of online content?

And I just tried to pick up all of those little nuggets and start applying them to our own brands. So it’s been really fun.

Pat Flynn: That makes sense. Can we go back to the first physical product you created? Like you’re like, okay, we’ve promoted these other brands. Like, let’s promote something of our own. What was your process for figuring out what it was to promote?

And how did you let the audience know about that?

Susie Bulloch: My audience actually told me what I was going to be making for them.

Pat Flynn: That’s the perfect answer. I’m so thankful you said that. That’s the best way to do

Susie Bulloch: it, right? It is the best case scenario, honestly and truly. I have a recipe. It was one of my first viral recipes that I ever shared for a barbecue dry rub.

It’s. A very simple, like, brown sugar based paprika classic barbecue seasoning, something that you would put on ribs or pulled pork. For example, you make me hungry, by the way, I know that is a real hazard of recording podcasts about barbecue. Actually, you spend a lot of time hungry after you leave. You’re like, man, I could go for a sandwich.

So my sweet rub seasoning was the first product we ever came out with and it was at the demand of my audience. So it was one of my first viral recipes I ever shared, put it out there and it went crazy. And I started getting messages from people saying, you know, I’m making this sweet rub by the gallon.

It would be very convenient for me personally if you could just pre bottle this and I would buy it. And so we started looking into what that would take. We looked at cottage licenses in our state so that we could sell locally. We quickly realized that our audience was not all in the same state as us.

And so cottage laws would not apply. I needed something that I could actually cross state lines with and sell and do direct consumer e commerce marketing. So that required us to find a co packer with the proper insurance and licenses and certifications. And, you know, if we were going to do one rub, we might as well do three rubs.

And we kind of set a budget and said, okay, for our first physical product, we’re willing to put this much into it. We know that if we sell all of these, and it was a small run, Right. I think it was only 250 of each of these three seasonings. And we knew if we sold all of them, we would make our money back and we wouldn’t be out anything.

And then we could either decide to move forward or put up shop. And my husband was an auditor in his previous life. He’s like, please do not do a physical product company. Like you, you have made it. This is the dream. A digital entrepreneur is the dream. You don’t have to manage inventory. You don’t have to have a warehouse.

All of these things. So he’s like, I’ve audited inventory companies and they are the worst. Like, please don’t do this. But every week I would send him messages from our audience saying, please do this. So he finally caved and let me do it. And he said, okay, we’ll do a trial run, not let me do it. But just, you know, I was able to, to win over the accountant in him. He said, all right, we’ll take a chance. And we move forward with these three products and we, all we had hoped for was a break even, right? Like if we sell this many, we’ll break even and then we’ll know what direction we want to head if we like doing this or not. So we just treated it like an experiment.

We launched these three products and there wasn’t a ton of lead up to it because I didn’t know how to promote products really, like other than a few teasers and stories about what was happening behind the scenes. But we launched the products about a week and a half before Christmas, which was hardly enough time for people to even get them for Christmas.

Right. But we sold out in 24 hours of each of the rubs. And at that point it was like, oh, I guess we have a product company now. Like it wasn’t even a did we like it or didn’t we? It was like, obviously, there’s demand. Obviously, there’s a need or a desire or whatever the case may be, either to support our company or to try the products or people really wanted this convenience.

But we realized there was enough of a demand for us to run with it. So from that first run of 250 products to where we are now, it’s been about four, almost five years that we’ve actually been doing, was it three or four? Anyway, somewhere in the three to five year range that we’ve been running products and figuring stuff out as we go.

But yeah, that was our first step into the product space. And it was, it was, it was audience demand. They, they asked for it and they showed up and they bought it when we rolled it out. So it was a, it was a dream scenario.

Pat Flynn: I love it. When you had this first product come in, was it like in your home? And then like when you shipped it out, did you have to ship them like individually or did you use some other third party thing to help with the fulfillment of it?

I’m curious.

Susie Bulloch: We did all the fulfillment ourselves. And this is where I’m surprised that my husband is still like as invested in this as he is. I was actually out of town with my friends when we got word from our co packer, okay, they’re done. Come pick them up. They’re ready to go. We didn’t know exactly when they would be finished.

And I was on a three day weekend trip with a few of my friends. And my husband’s like, you know what? They’re done. I’ll go pick them up. He went and grabbed them and I’m like, okay, do you want me to wait till we get home? And he’s like, no, just hit go. Like, let’s just launch it. We’ll probably sell a handful.

I can handle the fulfillment. So I hit the go button and to have them all sell out that 24 hours, he was like, great. Thank you so much because I was not there to pack or ship any of these, but he did all of the shipping was like through, I don’t remember he set up something to do the shipping and like he really handled the product company and got it off the ground.

It would not exist if not for the man who said he didn’t want to do it, completely taking over and doing every step of it. So big thanks to Todd for pulling that one off.

Pat Flynn: And then fast forward for today, you have a lot more products and I’m guessing that he’s not individually packing each of those.

What’s happening now?

Susie Bulloch: No, we have six rubs and six sauces as well as we roll out multiple times a year. These limited edition kits around the holidays. And we have a warehouse. I’m in my warehouse right now in my office at my conference table. So we like have an actual physical space. We have an operations manager and a fulfillment team.

And we do all of our e commerce and our retail fulfillment out of our own space. So what started in my mom’s basement has since grown to, we hired a third party fulfillment company for a while. And then we’re able to bring it all in house.

Pat Flynn: How often are you going to the warehouse? I’m curious, is that a daily thing or, or just a couple times a week?

Susie Bulloch: I’m here on Monday and Tuesday, not because I need to be in the warehouse, but because I have a desk and a comfy chair and I like to come. Sometimes it’s nice after doing whole, like homework, working from home after working from home for. I mean, I’m at almost 15 years now that I, I was working from home when my, my oldest was only six months old.

So I’ve been doing this for so many years. It’s actually nice to have a space a couple of days a week just to come and feel like this is a dedicated workspace. I can come put on my work hat here and do the computer work. The other days I’m at home making content and cooking barbecue and filming recipe videos.

But it’s nice to have a couple of dedicated office days at this point in my life.

Pat Flynn: That’s awesome. I was just curious because with, with one of my other brands, I’m thinking about getting a studio outside of my home and, you know, setting up a warehouse and stuff for shipping and whatnot. And I, some days I’m like, Oh, I don’t know if I would even go in if somebody else is handling everything, but I guess you’re right.

It would be nice to sort of just escape for a little bit and, and sort of have a place to plant myself to just do that work, right?

Susie Bulloch: Yeah. I mean, I certainly don’t need to be here. Our operations manager is phenomenal. Our warehouse team is fantastic. Like they don’t need me here. I’m not overseeing anything like they have it completely handled, but there is a sense of like, comradery and energy when some people from the team are here cause we all generally work remotely.

So it has been nice and I was surprised. I never thought I would come into work in an office space after working from home for so long. But even just a couple of days a week, it feels like a different kind of change of pace to have something. Plus it’s I think exactly four minutes from my house so I don’t have to deal with a commute.

Pat Flynn: Well, that’s nice. That’s great. Now, I’m curious about the brand today. How are you or what changes have you seen since when you started as far as like what’s working for marketing? I know, for example, that search engine optimization has changed a little bit as far as what it used to be and a lot of even first ranking. What is your biggest strategy?

Susie Bulloch: My biggest goal when I first started was to just have enough traffic to support our family. And where we were making a majority of our revenue from advertising income, it was the that was the main focus for a lot of years was just building out the content company to support our family. Like a media company. Correct. And once we kind of hit those goals and we realized how volatile that space is, you know, one Google algorithm update can do a lot of change to a company that’s specifically based in online content.

We realized that our family needed more security. We realized that our employees needed more security and we wanted to give as much of that as we can, possibly could. So we did start to diversify and we had the online, you know, I have an online barbecue school and that was a form of consistent subscription type revenue for us.

And then we had like the sponsored income and the affiliate income. And we kind of started collecting these various forms of revenue that were all in line with the overall goal and objective of us being digital entrepreneurs. But they could diversify our income enough that we could support like we could turn the dial at any given point on any of these revenue streams to help supplement what we would potentially lose in a Google update.

When we launched the product company, we envisioned it as just another dial on the wheel. We envisioned it as just another way for us to, if we need to supplement lost ad revenue, we can crank up promotion on the product company. We can turn up this dial. What we didn’t anticipate was how much the product company would grow. This year we’re actually going to match our product company revenue to our digital advertising revenue, which is so significant. And we’ve done it very slowly. Our product company was not by any means an overnight success just because I had a large online audience. I think a lot of people who have built content based businesses where your audience is used to getting everything for free, transitioning them to a buying audience isn’t always easy and it’s different from somebody who’s an influencer who makes a lot of their revenue from recommending products, whether that’s affiliate or sponsored, their audience is used to buying from them.

I was like, here’s all these free recipes. Just kidding. Pay me for one. And it was like, it was a bit of a shift. I really had to coach my audience and develop a level of trust that I hadn’t previously established. So it took a while for us to really get our legs underneath us. Our first sale was great.

Right. And it gave us a lot of hope and a lot of aspirations. And it told us that we were on the right path. Everything after that has been work, work, work to get this product company, to have legs underneath it. So for us to be able now to match our revenue from the product company to that digital advertising that we’re getting on our website feels like a massive accomplishment.

And it’s been a couple of years to get there. That’s kind of our focus right now is because the digital landscape is fairly tumultuous we’re seeing a lot more consistency in the product space. It feels like the marketing efforts that we’re putting in there are a little bit more of a tangible return. I know if I promote this product for this long in this way, I can see this type of sales and I can expect this type of revenue.

So it gives us a little bit more of that safety and security. I mean, nothing’s ever actually safe and secure when you’re an entrepreneur, you know, but it feels a little bit more stable and a little bit more supportable and certainly more scalable because like you said, there’s only so much search traffic.

There’s only so many keywords you can target. There’s only so many recipes that I can create in the barbecue and grilling space. And I feel like there is a point where we’ll max out on what revenue I’m able to generate just from the digital media side of the business. Whereas the product side of the business, I feel like the door is wide open and there’s a lot more potential for me to grow.

So that’s where a lot of our focus is right now is on that product company to see where we can scale that too. And I have a little bit of a personal vendetta with it as well. So in. In the barbecue and grilling space, when I started all of these years ago, and I was writing recipes for this company that manufactured grills and smokers, they wouldn’t even publish my first name.

I, I was authored as S. Bulloch because I was a female in the space and it diluted the credibility of the recipe. And so when I kicked off my own website, I was very intentional about putting my face on it, putting my name on it. My products have my name on them. I wanted to intentionally represent women in the digital space for barbecue and grilling because there just wasn’t enough. Now that door is so much more open. There’s thousands of women creating barbecue content online. Tons of them publishing recipes. You see them on the competition circuit, on television, and there’s so much more representation.

So I’m thrilled that I was able to be a part of opening that door.

Pat Flynn: Heck yeah. Dude you started a movement in a way.

Susie Bulloch: It’s so cool. I can’t even tell you how fulfilling it is to me. I just got a tag on Instagram this weekend from dad who was cooking with his daughter and he posted a picture of her doing her favorite thing.

She was like spritzing her pork butt on the smoker and he’s like this is my girl doing her favorite thing tagged me and said I can’t wait till Sunday when she gets to open her present and the gift that he had bought her was my seasonings because she’s like your favorite online creator and I just like I almost died inside.

So to know that these doors are opening in a way that were previously closed is like so incredibly fulfilling in the digital space, but I’m feeling the same call now in the product space. If you walk down the grocery store barbecue sauce aisle. All of them are dude names. It’s Rays and Rufus and Stubbs and not that any of them are bad.

Like I don’t want to disparage or take space from people who are currently existing. What I want to do is open a pathway for other women owned food brands. It’s really disappointing when we look at venture capital or funding, a lot of that is required for growing a food brand. It’s very, very expensive.

There, there are much better product companies to pursue than a consumable food company. It’s a tough market. The margins are low. Like don’t do it. It’s a terrible idea. I can’t believe that I’m still doing it knowing what I know now, but I have that same kind of like chip on my shoulder because a lot of venture capital and a lot of funding is going to male owned brands still and there just are not enough women that own product companies in the grocery space, specifically in the grocery space.

It’s really, it’s really imbalanced. And in the grocery barbecue space, it’s even less, less, less. So I’m feeling the same pull that I felt when I started my, my online presence is I, there needs to be more representation. I know they’re out there. So I’m feeling that same push in the product company. So that’s where I’m really putting a lot of my focus right now is I think there are more doors to be opened in the food space, especially by a women owned brand and especially in the barbecue space.

So that’s, that’s my secondary mission. I want you to make better barbecue is my first one, but I want more doors to open for everybody to feel comfortable making barbecue is really like a really big purpose and passion for me.

Pat Flynn: That is so freaking cool. So we want to see Hey Grill Hey, and other women owned barbecue or even just food in general down the grocery aisle.

Susie Bulloch: National grocery. We need more female owned food brands represented in national grocery shelves for sure.

Pat Flynn: Okay, so this hasn’t happened yet for any of your products.

Susie Bulloch: Nope, but we’re working on it.

Pat Flynn: Okay. Well, anybody listening, if you have any connections, like, just go to Susie, we’ll connect you. Anyway, that is so cool. Is there also, was that an underlying goal, sort of, from the start with the brand name? Because every time I see Hey Grill Hey, I literally want to say Hey Girl Hey.

Yes. Like, is that, is that a part of it?

Susie Bulloch: I absolutely needed my brand to have a feminine element. And so we played with a million different names of girl and grill because I didn’t want to hide behind a first initial and a last name. I didn’t want it to feel like I was just trying to fit in with the guys or just, you know, snake my way into an existing space.

I really wanted to carve out a new space where women were comfortable because I was seeing their comments online. I was seeing women communicating in barbecue and grilling groups on Facebook or leaving comments on my website. Like I love cooking like this, but nobody ever taught me or I want to cook like this for my family, but I didn’t know how to learn.

Like there were, there were just no resources and then culturally it wasn’t passed down. So it’s really cool to see such a resurgence now of women cooking in barbecue. Because if you go back a really long time, it was actually women who started and maintained the fires and who cooked the food over those fires that the men brought home.

So actually wood fired cooking historically is a very female led style of cooking, but it got shifted in the marketing of the post war era that really pulled toward the men cook the meat outside. And so we have entire generations of women who have kind of been disenfranchised from this way of cooking that our ancestors all did.

I mean, even the indoor oven is within the last hundred years, you know, our grandmas grew up cooking over wood fired ovens. Like it’s, it’s not that far removed, but culturally it shifted so significantly that it feels like it’s been forever. So it’s fun to see women coming back into this space and really embracing and being excited about this style of cooking and to be a part of that.

So Hey Grill Hey was very intentional. I wanted it to feel playful. I wanted it to feel approachable and certainly not intimidating. And maybe you’d get a little bit of a chuckle. ’cause I really believe the barbecue is fun and it’s supposed to be fun. And it’s a style of cooking that is like a perfect for bringing people together and to celebrate and to enjoy.

So it was all very intentional that it was lighthearted and fun and, and a bit feminine as well.

Pat Flynn: Well, when I first heard it, it. I knew it worked and it works really well. Just, you know, congratulations on everything and, and where things are going. And again, if, if we could support you with your mission, I think we have to, and we’re happy to do so.

On your first product launch, I want to go back to this because you said, you know, for a while you were just given recipes away for free. And this is what a lot of us are doing online. We’re giving away our content for free. We’re going deep and sharing things without any barrier. And then all of a sudden when it, it’s time to sell something, it could be very intimidating, intimidating. It could be scary. And you might even hear a couple people say, Oh, it’s sold out. You know, we knew it was going to happen. Did you hear any flack for, for you selling product on your site that was originally all free and anybody could get anything for just looking it up?

Susie Bulloch: I still do something really that every business. person that I’ve ever talked to has told me is a terrible idea and I just can’t stop. I do it anyway. All of my recipes for my seasonings and my sauces still live on my website for free. You can make them. You don’t have to buy my products. And that was very counterculture to both barbecue and products because you know, that’s secret recipes.

These are our secret, our secret secrets. We don’t tell anyone the secrets, but I built an entire business on sharing secrets and not keeping anything hidden and explaining everything. And the feedback that I have gotten most consistently is from people saying, that that actually helped establish trust.

It helped them feel more comfortable buying my product because they knew that I would stand behind it whether they made it at home or whether they bought it from one of my retail partners or from my website. And they could try it out first. They could make a small batch of my sweet rub, see if they liked it, and then decide, you know what?

This is good, but I don’t want to make it every single week and buy a big bottle of it. So it’s a little bit against the advice of most. people, but that’s what I was known for and still am known for is sharing and inspiring and giving ideas and, and, you know, starting that creative process of cooking and making cooking fun and accessible.

And I wanted to carry that same theme through my product company. So maybe it was a slower start for us because, you know, we kind of. Kept that theme going as we started rolling out products, but I think it has been pivotal in building relationships with my audience that span years. There are people that have been cooking my recipes for Thanksgiving for the last seven years and they will always cook my recipes for Thanksgiving or birthdays or family gatherings or Sunday dinners like that level of trust is really, really valuable. And I think when it comes time to deliver and ask if you have served and you have established that relationship and you have established trust, it makes that sell a lot easier, and honestly, it doesn’t feel like selling. And people that have bought our stuff have said, you know, I don’t even necessarily need this, but I love you. And I love what you’ve done for my family, and I love what you’ve done for my cooking, and I want to support you however I can.

And if that’s a bottle of seasoning, then that’s a bottle of seasoning. And they show up for us. And so it feels more… relationship based than transactional really, which has been fantastic. So I, I don’t know. I don’t think I would change a thing. I, I think still many people would tell me that I’ve done it wrong, but it felt really good to do it that way.

So we’ve just kept it up.

Pat Flynn: That’s the same way I did it. Same way I did it. I have free information on my website about how to start a podcast yet I still offer a podcast course in a community that people can go to learn podcasting and people still pay because they’re happy to, because it’s packaged more nicely there, number one, and number two, it’s payback for the service that I’ve offered them. And sometimes it’s been three or four years before a person finally ends up purchasing something. And I imagine it’s the same for you as well, but we’re here for the longterm. You know, we’re in this for the longterm. I love that. Thank you for being another prime example of doing it.

What I feel is the right way, you know, for a lot of the audience, it’s like, well, they need results now. And I think that if you know that what you’re doing is for the right reasons and you are coming from a place of service, there will be people who will support you now, but. people will support you later.

And I think it’s about community. And so I’d love to ask you about the community that you’re building. I know that you have some raving fans behind the brand and how are you in today’s world sort of cultivating that community and getting people to not just find you, but also find each other.

Susie Bulloch: Man, there’s, I feel like there’s so many avenues now for people to connect and to find what they’re interested in.

Like pick a platform. If that’s your favorite platform, you can find people on that platform. But one of the first things that we did was building out our newsletter and our newsletter has like newsletters sound so old school, but I feel like they’re really experiencing a bit of a resurgence right now.

It’s not just the nostalgia, but it’s, it’s that direct communication with creators that you care about and you can clear out a lot of the, the excess and the fluff that sometimes comes with social media where you’re just constantly bombarded with quick information to have a newsletter where everything’s in its place and curated and intentional and service based, I think is really valuable.

And our newsletter has been a consistent source for us of traffic and revenue because we sell to our audience, but we also, you know, here’s our newest recipe this week. Oh, it’s a big holiday. Let us hand curate, so you don’t even have to think about it. Like that part’s done. All you got to do is click and print.

Like you’re good to go. That’s great. So the newsletter has been great for us. We launched an online barbecue school and community called the Grill Squad. Like, you know, my girl squad, but it’s the Grill Squad. And it’s not just for women, but our community there. That’s I think where our raving fans really live, because those were the first people to say, you know what?

You do have everything on the Internet. But again. We have these courses that are beautifully packaged and they’re instructional with videos and they teach so much and we send you a welcome box when you join the Grill Squad with an apron and as you go through the course material and pass it off and share in our group a picture and a story about your cook, we’ll ship you a patch that you can then iron on to your apron.

It’s like Boy Scouts for barbecue. It’s the funnest thing ever. So our audience is like collecting and sewing on their patches that they get to wear at their family cookouts. And, you know, everyone’s like, what is that? Oh, this is my brisket pitmaster patch because I cooked a beautiful brisket. So I earned my patch.

And so it’s very interactive. It’s very like supportive of the community because people want to share and they can ask questions and receive answers, not just from me directly, but from other community members. So that’s been a really, really cool place that we do send those raving fans to say, you know what?

I think you would like to hang out here. This would be a cool place for you. And we do lives to that group every single month. So there’s a lot of interaction that they get directly with Todd and I. And that’s, that’s been fantastic. So yeah, newsletter, Grill Squad, that’s continued to grow. And then we have, you know, specific information for our product company, email newsletters that we send out, and we have an app that has tens of thousands of downloads that we’ll occasionally send push notifications to, to keep them in the loop about what’s going on with the brand. We have our text subscribers. That’s our, we have the barbecue, like our barbecue helpline, basically. You can join our text group and we’ll, you know, we get to chat back and forth via text.

And so I mean, if there is a way for us to touch our audience, we’re constantly thinking about those touch points. We’re constantly looking at the best way to interact, the best way to engage, the best way to serve. And if there’s a platform that you like, hopefully we’ll be there. Like, hopefully, Hey Grill Hey is there in a way that’s meaningful and that is fun and interactive for you to engage with and you to learn from and you to be a part of that experience and community.

Pat Flynn: What a perfect way to segue into the end of this. Thank you so much, Susie. This is absolutely incredible. Hey Grill hey, on all the platforms, I know you have an YouTube channel, TikTok as well, I’m assuming, and, you know, all the things, all the things, all the things, right. And then, of course, I’d love to push people to the newsletter and check that out.

We have a newsletter on our side as well, and it’s been very successful for us. So I’m so happy to see another company using a newsletter in this way. Where can we go to subscribe and check that out?

Susie Bulloch: There’s a bar right at the top. Or as you scroll through any of the recipes, there will be a pop up subscription for you to join the newsletter.

When you do, it’s really cool because you don’t just join the newsletter and get filtered into every week, but I’ll actually send you a few emails just to get you started of the most popular recipes on the website really introduced you to the brand. I have a meat temperature guide actually to help you. Like, that’s one of the most common questions that I get is like, I want my steak cooked this way. Or how do I know I won’t kill anybody with chicken? So we tried to just lead with value out the gate to help you better make barbecue at home and kind of hold your hand through this process as you start making, you know, food for your family and the people that you care about.

But yeah, that’s where you can jump on the newsletter. You can check out our online community at and all of our products are available at

Pat Flynn: Love it. Thank you so much, Susie. I appreciate you. Thank you for the inspiration and congrats on all the success.

Susie Bulloch: Oh, thanks for having me.

This was really, really fun.

Pat Flynn: Super fun. Thank you.

All right. I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Susie. Isn’t she amazing in the brand that she and Todd and her team have created is absolutely incredible. And I love how she’s focusing on her own products, advertising. for her own stuff, which is amazing.

Now she’s on the brand side now working on an affiliate program for her stuff, which is cool too. So I just absolutely love this story and I hope it inspires you just as much as it did for me. And so definitely check her out and we’ll have all the links and show notes and all that kind of stuff over at the show notes page at Again, And I absolutely love this happens actually way more than I realize, listeners of the show creating success stories and then coming on the show to share them. It’s, it’s my all time favorite thing. So well done, Susie. Well done, Todd.

Well done to everybody who’s just taken action just like she is. Keep up the great work and I look forward to serving you in the next episode. Make sure you hit subscribe so you don’t miss out. And I’ll see you in the next one. Cheers. Peace.

Thank you so much for listening to the Smart Passive Income podcast at I’m your host, Pat Flynn. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. Our senior producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media, and a proud member of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network. Catch you next week!

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