Can 'Shark Tank' and Pork Barrel BBQ Unify the Nation?

Today's cuppa: Irish breakfast tea chased with office coffee

Back on Sept. 13, Washington, D.C., insiders Heath Hall and Brett Thompson went into Shark_Tank_Pork_Barrel_BBQ_Brett_Thompson_Heath_Hall.jpgABC's "Shark Tank" -- new episodes air Tuesday -- in search of funding for their company, Pork Barrel BBQ. They were seeking $50,000 for 10 percent of their barbecue sauce and rub business, but in the end, after some tough negotiations, they got the cash from "Shark" and real-estate mogul Barbara Corcoran -- in exchange for 50% of the business.

Corcoran even said to Hall, "I can't look at you without picturing you in a pig costume."

But the boys survived and persevered (even catching the attention of the U.K. Telegraph)  -- and here's a Q&A update on the post-"Shark Tank" progress...

Q: What's happened to your business since the influx of cash from Barbara?

Heath (in red T-shirt below) - Since getting our deal with Barbara on "Shark Tank," we've been able to prove that the free market is alive and well. Pork Barrel BBQ products are now available in over 130 stores, we've announced the opening of our first Pork Barrel BBQ restaurant, and we are even in talks to produce Pork Barrel BBQ frozen meals.

Brett (in blue T-shirt below) - Since we were on "Shark Tank," we've been able to take a huge step towards making Pork Barrel BBQ a nationwide brand. In addition to being picked up by major grocery store chains like Harris Teeter and Ukrops, we've had the chance to sell our products at Costco. We are proud to show that Pork Barrel BBQ, a company that isn't owned or operated by the federal government, can still succeed in these difficult economic times.

Q: What else in the way of advice or inspiration has Barbara offered?

Shark_Tank_Barbara_Corcoran_headshot.jpgHeath - You can't look at Barbara's story and not be inspired - she is a true American success story!  She took a $1,000 investment and turned it into a company worth billions of dollars.  In the few short months we've been working with her, I can already tell that she is a steam engine, and if you're on the track, you're going to get run over. She is a smart, savvy, and a driven business partner - exactly what Pork Barrel BBQ was looking for.

Brett - Barbara is the most savvy, hardworking businesswoman I've ever met. Her energy and "can do" attitude keeps us very focused on our goal to bring Pork Barrel BBQ's "Monumental Flavor" to the entire nation!

Q: As entrepreneurs, what would you want first from Congress if you had your druthers in terms of legislation, regulations or relaxation of regulations?

Heath - Small business is the economic engine that runs America and has made us a world leader for so many years. If Congress doesn't begin to lessen the tax burden and loosen the regulatory burden placed on so many small businesses, I fear that we'll see fewer and fewer Americans take the necessary risks associated with small-business creation. The first thing I'd like to see Congress do is repeal the death tax, which penalizes Americans for following their dreams and unduly burdens them for investing in and building successful businesses.

Brett - I am amazed at how much time we spend complying with federal, state and local regulations - it leaves almost no time to sell Pork Barrel BBQ sauce and rub!

Q: What is the entrepreneurial-funding situation out there? Was "Shark Tank" really your last resort?

Heath - In today's economy, it is very difficult to get the necessary capital it takes to start a Shark_Tank_Pork_Barrel_BBQ_Heath_Hall_Brett_Thompson.jpgsmall business. We sought funding to help get Pork Barrel BBQ off the ground from a number of sources before we found a bank that would give us a small-business loan. Without the exposure from "Shark Tank" and financial assistance from Barbara, Pork Barrel BBQ might have been a short-lived dream.

Brett - Like so many small businesses, we have a lot of our own money in the company. The combination of being on "Shark Tank" and Barbara's investment really gave us our big break. I just look at the main street in my hometown and see how businesses are struggling to keep their shops open - a chance like "Shark Tank" is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Q: What's the favorite flavor of the folks at the Heritage Foundation?

Heath - My coworkers at The Heritage Foundation have been very bipartisan in choosing a favorite between the rub and the sauce (I think some have even stuffed the ballot box voting once for the rub and once for the sauce). It looks like we might have to take this vote to the Supreme Court and have them decide a winner.

Q: BBQ is often associated with Texas or the Deep South, but what does Missouri bring to the table in terms of BBQ culture and history?

Heath - The great thing about BBQ is just how diverse it is and how many styles there are, but if you are from Missouri, you believe that Kansas City BBQ is king. For more than 100 years many have called Kansas City the "Barbecue Capital of the World." There are well over 100 barbecue joints in the area (including legends like Gates and Sons Bar-B-Q and Arthur Bryant's), and Kansas City is host to the American Royal Barbecue Contest - one of the two biggest Barbecue contests in the world.  Kansas City BBQ has a resume that would proudly stand in the same interview line as resumes from Memphis, Texas and the Carolinas.

Q: If you become BBQ moguls, will you abandon politics?

Heath - The founding principles that have allowed this grand experiment called the United States to flourish for more than 200 years is the reason I even have a chance to become a BBQ mogul.  Other American moguls like Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Mellon stayed active in government and politics, and I plan to do the same. For the American system to continue to work, we all must be active participants or this grand experiment won't last for future generations. However, I won't be asking Congress for a bailout - that I promise!

Brett - I think Heath's answer is the most political I've ever read - which is a clear indicator that we never will - or could - abandon politics.

Q: Which political figures do you think would most enjoy a good BBQ (and which would you most like to cook for)?

Heath - I have yet to meat a politician that didn't love great BBQ.  In politics, you always have half of the people loving you and the other half hating you, but in BBQ it seems like everyone is backing you regardless of ideology. In 1769, George Washington wrote an entry into his diary saying he "went up to Alexandria to a 'barbicue.'" Our first Pork Barrel BBQ restaurant will be opening in Alexandria, Va., in the spring and I'd love to get the chance have the Father of our Country come back to Alexandria for another "barbicue."

Brett - I can't believe Heath chose George Washington - I think our BBQ has a real role to play in solving our nation's current problems. We created Pork Barrel BBQ to help bridge the partisan divide and unify our nation.  We are confident that many of our nation's problems can be solved if our elected officials would take time to talk about common sense solutions while eating Pork Barrel BBQ.

pork-barrel-dc-logo.gifQ: Has the "pig costume" comment had any lingering effects?

Heath - Barbara's comment regarding the pig costume has generated a number of reactions.  Some thought it was mean and generated a lot of sympathy, and others thought it was funny and view it as a real improvement for me. I'm just having fun with it and have garnered a whole new level of respect for mascots - it gets hot in those suits! I'm still waiting to see if Barbara will join me at an event in a shark costume?

Brett - Heath has such a great attitude - I'm so happy to have him as my business partner, but I'm even happier that I don't have to wear a pig costume.