Shawn “Chef Big Shake” Davis, president of CBS Foods, updates his company’s progress since being featured on the February 2013 cover of The National Provisioner, and discusses the details of the Shrimp Burger Revolution Tour and the crowdfunding effort behind it.
Complete interview transcript:
Andy Hanacek: Hi again listeners, this is Andy Hanacek, Editor-in-Chief of the National Provisioner and I'm here today for a podcast, an update on CBS Foods with Chef Shawn "Big Shake" Davis. Folks, you might remember Shawn from our February 2013 cover story. Shawn was kind enough to allow me to visit his company, CBS Foods, and talk about the Original Shrimp Burger, which he has been producing. He's actually gone to turn to Indiegogo to crowdsourcing to kind of fund a Shrimp Burger tour here. I wanted to get an update from Shawn and update you guys on the company's growth and see how this crowdsourcing effort is going to go and what lies ahead. Shawn, thanks for joining me today.
Chef Shawn "Big Shake" Davis: Absolutely. Thank you Andy. Thank you so much.
Hanacek: So give me a little bit of an update on the company's growth since the cover story we did in February earlier this year. Has distribution grown? Have you added or subtracted or modified any of the product varieties? What can you tell me about the Shrimp Burger, the company? What's been going on in 2013?
Davis: Well 2013 has been a wonderful year and thank you again for that cover story. It was awesome. You know, we are growing. Our sales are very steady. To be honest with you, we stopped looking to grow vertically at the moment until we've secured the proper marketing budget to go out there and compete with these other big brands. We've had opportunities, let's say with Walmart, and we want to do it right. We don't want to go out there and flounder. We want to make sure we have the proper backing to go up against these big brands and compete in their market space, whether it be media, whether it be print, whether it be commercials, which takes a lot, as you know. We're looking for different creative ways to compensate that.
Hanacek: So the thought being you don't want to just put the product on the shelves and let the box speak, you need to support it and get the consumers aware of it so they go to the stores looking for it. Is that the thought?
Davis: Absolutely. We need that mechanism to pull it off the shelves. Absolutely.
Hanacek: Okay. It makes sense. So crowdsourcing, how did that develop and what kind of made you think, "Aha, here's a good idea, let's do this Shrimp Burger tour,” and have the world fund it, as it were, through this Indiegogo thing. How did that develop?
Davis: We always knew about crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, and essentially it's based on the people. We have a grassroots company and we've built it through the love of people loving our product. You know, we didn't have the big budget. We went out there in the beginning and it sat on the shelves, but through Facebook and certain social media campaigns we've been able to attract the people. We figured let's go to the people and ask them to fund this tour, so that people who don't have the product in their cities right now can have an opportunity to have it in their cities. We had an idea, let's take the Shrimp Burger on tour. Let's go from city to city, whether it be tailgating events at NFL stadiums or Friday night lights, high school games, grocery stores, we're going to take this burger on tour and give people a chance to actually taste the burger before they try it. It's like you don't go to a shoe store and buy a pair of shoes without trying them on first. I can't expect people to go to a supermarket and try my burger without understanding what the product is all about.
Hanacek: Makes sense, and I saw the video you made and there was a part where I believe your daughter jokingly talked about your original funding effort, the Shark Tank, and said something like, "You're still playing that card." I thought that was a funny part. How is stepping out and asking the crowd for help here different from that initial Shark Tank asking for funding? Are there similarities? Is it different?
Davis: You know, these people don't bite like the sharks, so it's been a lot easier and people have been extremely receptive and very helping and saying, "Let's help this guy get this tour going and I want the product in my city." That's what it's all about. If you have the demand, you have to try to fulfill that void some kind of way and we felt this was probably the best opportunity or way to get it done. We have to be creative, you know, without having the big dollars to shoot commercials and shoot television and put out big media print ads. We had to be creative, so let's start with the ground up, build the company from the ground floor, start with the people's love of the product first off, and see where it takes us.
Hanacek: Perfect. So what kind of feedback have you gotten thus far beyond whatever level of funding you're at at the moment. Have you gotten feedback or have the dollars just kind of appeared without any feedback?
Davis: You know what, it's been steady. People love the video. They love my daughter. She was the inspiration behind the product so I definitely had to get her in there.
Hanacek: Well she's definitely a natural on there I was going to tell you. She did a great job.
Davis: Thank you.
Hanacek: I don't know if she's got a future in something other than acting, but she did a really good job.
Davis: Aww, thank you so much. She loves it. She loved it man, and you know, just being with her that day and just filming that video man, it was just, that was everything to me. I can tell you this, that so far people have been very receptive. They like the concept. That's the biggest thing, understanding the concept of bringing the product to the people and really allowing the people to decide what they want on the shelf. I think that's the biggest thing. For so long things are almost kind of dictated and if you have a thousand people saying, "Listen, here goes a piece of paper that's signed. We want it in our store." I think that holds a lot more weight nowadays than just putting something on the shelf and hoping it flies off by a bunch of dollars backing it on a commercial ad.
Hanacek: Makes sense. So what's the website again, that listeners can go to to check out the video and maybe donate some funds or send some funds your way?
Davis: Absolutely. It's shrimpburgertour.com. That's www.shrimpburgertour.com.
Hanacek: Alright, cool, and the effort ends at the end of October, right?
Davis: We have 24 days left, absolutely, so we're pushing hard. These next 24 days we'll be out there screaming from the rafters and trying to get this thing down so we can hit these cities.
Hanacek: Sounds great. So once that deadline hits, what happens next? What's the next step and then what do you see for the long-term future for CBS and for the Shrimp Burger in general?
Davis: I think continued growth. Again, we're trying to get the Shrimp Burger, and again that's from the beginning the thoughts and dream was to get the Shrimp Burger in every single grocery store across the country, so if we can get that done through getting this tour and bringing awareness to the people that there is an alternative beef product out there, an alternative burger out there. We want to make sure people know that it's on the shelf. I think once they taste it, either they say, "We love it" or they say "We hate it", but the bottom line is to bring that awareness. I have to bring the awareness to people so they can have an understanding or a choice on the product.
Hanacek: To clarify to the listeners, this is not a plea to keep the company alive, right...
Davis: No, no.
Hanacek: ...this is a plea to grow the company with marketing and a plea to bring the thing to the people. It's not as though the company is going to go under if this doesn't work out or that there's no future for it, right?
Davis: No, by no means, we just want to get the people involved in the actual growth. I think once understand and have the control and say, "Listen, let's bring the product here. Let's bring the product over there", it's just giving more of the power to the people basically, but by means do we have any issues with upward growth or anything like that. I think this is a creative concept and a way to get more people involved in the product so they understand what it is when they walk by it on the shelf.
Hanacek: Perfect. I just want to make sure the listeners understood that, because I know there's a lot of crowdsourcing things out there that you look at some of these Hollywood movie crowdsourcing efforts. People look at them and say, "Why does that guy need money to make a movie when he's probably got that much money in his pocket. Why is he asking us for money?" I wanted to make sure my listeners understood that. I did and I just wanted to make sure that was the case. Okay, cool. Anything else, Shawn, that you wanted to add that we didn't cover?
Davis: You know I just want to thank you, Andy. You guys have been really great down there at the Provisioner and helping us spread our word and putting a lot of light on the company. I just really want to thank you personally and good luck to you and your company in the future. Hopefully we can tell you that this campaign turned out great.
Hanacek: Right back at you, Shawn. It's a great product and I think you guys are doing a great job. I hope to see more innovation like this. It's something the meat/seafood/poultry industry needs. It's a very, it's not a stagnant industry, I think a lot of companies are waking up to the ideas that the idea of innovation, when it comes to things like marketing and product development, and you're definitely setting a good example, at least for the little to mid-sized guys who can be as nimble as this. Some of the big guys can do it, but it takes a lot more work.
Davis: Oh yeah.
Hanacek: So congrats, good luck with the effort moving forward and I'm sure we will be talking down the line about who knows what else with CBS Foods.
Davis: Absolutely. Andy, thank you so much. Have a beautiful day.
Hanacek: Take care, you too. Bye.