So I’ve decided to take you all on a journey of how Bigmista’s Barbecue came to be. It’s not a short journey, but it is shorter than the book I plan to one day write. I will break the story up because I'm taking you back to the very beginning of when we first met (2000 or 2001) to give you a full picture.
My telling this story has more to do with making folks aware of the struggles of a small business owner than anything. I think all to often people have a watered down version about the REAL meaning of an entrepreneur. I’m not talking about the people that go out, buy a business and then hire folks to do all the work for the sake of money. In my mind I’m talking about the people that lay out their dreams before you and pray to God you don’t trample them with your judgement and criticism. The people that even if you leave them in a crumpled heap on the floor, will resurrect themselves in spite of the haters that don’t see what they see.
Being an entrepreneur is more than working when you want, how you want and with whom you want. It’s about more than keeping ALL the money (which you don’t). It’s about sharing your strength with the world. It’s a strength that creates a love so strong you sacrifice personal relationships for business relationships (think about it). A love so strong those on the outside can’t understand the struggle and sacrifice that goes along with sharing that love. It baffles their mind that you’re willing to risk it all for the sake of trying to get you to see what they see or feel what they feel. None of this became more apparent to me than when we decided to bring our (Bigmista’s) food to the world.
I never knew I wanted a restaurant until we had a restaurant. My husband, Bigmista, should have had one long before he did but the motivation wasn’t there for him to act on it. People would often tell me I should let him open a restaurant. I would respond with "NO" because I know my husband - he wants to cook the beans but not count the beans and I didn’t want to count them for him. Boy was it a crow eating day when that all changed.
On our first so called ‘date’ he made me jambalaya with a tomato and cucumber salad. In my mind I was like wow, this dude goes all out. It wasn’t until a few meals later that I realized his kitchen was equivalent to a kids playground. For him it was effortless to create an original dish. Making dinner at 10pm would make most folks look at you side ways, but for him it was like asking for presweetened tea. It soon became apparent to me that it was his joy and passion. It was so infectious that it brought me joy whenever I saw him in the kitchen. Sometimes it would be like a Snow White moment. I would look in the fridge and in my mind hear crickets. Neil would look in the same fridge and suddenly music would fill the air. Cartoon birds would appear on the window sill and woodland creatures would magically appear. He would dance, chop and make a mess with the ease of a funky, plus size, ballerina. The way his pecs would flex during chopping would make my knees a little weak.
I knew in my heart that this is what he should do for love, not for a living. Making a living just meant getting a check. Doing it for love meant it was just for the shear joy of it all that happened to produce a check. And even though I knew this in my heart I still had an employee mentality. I was a government employee, with a government paycheck, and government benefits. It was a job where I had become complacent but very unfulfilled. I was trying to change that by returning to school to pursue a degree in finance. And although I enjoyed the world of finance I knew I would never find the type of joy Neil experienced in the kitchen.