Wood + Salt: Brother-Sister Startup Deconstructs KC BBQ
Wood + Salt
Jess Anthony and Ben Anthony | Kansas City, Missouri, and Lawrence, Kansas | Microenterprise + Startup
Full disclosure: We love Wood + Salt.
This is one of the 31 Flavors of Kansas City that we at KCSourceLink know well and love deeply. Their flavors greet our eggs and avocados in the morning and our roasted meats at night. They make their way into every KC gift basket we send out.
And so we’re really jazzed to introduce this brother-sister team to you. Here they are, in all their smoky, salty goodness.
So what do you do?
We are a brother sister team, raised in KC. The name Wood + Salt refers to the most basic elements of BBQ, the wood you use and the rub you choose. Our goal is to deconstruct Kansas City BBQ to its parts and see what we can make.
We create small batch rubs, brines and spices as well as smoked sea salts, finishing salts, sustainably harvested artisan wood chips for smoking and infused sugars.
What’s your big news?
In the last year, Ben and I have gotten a chance to collaborate with some of the most amazing people and businesses on the KC food scene. Our Tank 7 sea salt is on the shelves at Boulevard Brewery. Events with the Sundry, Season + Square, the Campground, Farm to Table Kitchen, Cultivate KC, and Lawrence Local Table have had us working with those we admire most.
We are looking forward to more collaborations in the near future with the Kansas City Canning Co, KC Food Circle, Bad Seeds Farmer’s Market and the Kansas City Culinary Institute.
How did this all get started?
I [Jess] was out in the Bay Area for a while working farmer’s markets. I knew I wanted to move back home to Kansas to start my own specialty food business. After several months of business classes, a lot of soul searching and recipe testing with friends, I came back with a business plan in hand. Ben, my little brother, quickly signed on as my business partner.
We are both very creative. Ben’s approach is more measured and organized. Mine is more experiential. He is in the numbers and I am in the senses; it provides essential balance whether we are working on recipe development, branding or thinking about growth opportunities.
My background is in literature, social justice, art and just about every aspect of the service industry. Ben’s is archeology, woodworking, biosciences and most recently craft cocktails.
Who has helped you along the way?
KUSBDC, KCSourceLink, KCBizCare, KU Entrepreneurship Program, Farm to Table Kitchen, Justine Petersen Microloan, Kauffman, Made in KC/localstart.org and so many friends and family members!
[KCSourceLink note: Ben and Jess are ubersmart entrepreneurs, who know how to leverage KC’s entrepreneurial assets. Many of those folks above are our Resource Partners—we have 230+ of them—who offer no-cost and low-cost services to entrepreneurs.]
What challenges have you had to overcome?
We had a tiny starting budget. We received a microloan from Justine Petersen to help cover our first year’s insurance and fees. The rest came from tips we earned serving tables and bartending.
We are constantly trying to keep back stock as we grow. Sometimes it feels like a lot to balance. One of the places I worked in the Bay Area was for Blue Bottle Coffee. I had the opportunity to work closely with Caitlin Freeman. She is the lead baker at Blue Bottle, helped start Miette Bakery, and has published several cookbooks. She came from a fine arts background and James (her husband and founder of Blue Bottle Coffee) came from a music background. She would tell me stories about working 18-20 hour days every week to get they’re tiny farmer’s market businesses off the ground.
When I feel tired, I think about them. We paid our loan off in less than a year and are in the process of figuring out our next growth spurt.
What flavor do you add to KC?
We actually take a lot of what Kansas City has to offer. The original idea behind Wood + Salt is to play with techniques, traditions and flavor profiles coming out of the American Royale. We are not classic BBQ, but we are heavily inspired by the Kansas City tradition.
As we grow, one of our main goals is to increase what we buy from local farmers. The first few farmers we have worked with are Linda Hezel (Prairie Birthday Farm), Pam Bramlett (Lulu’s Garden) and Matthew Lilly (Goat Hill). They have each gone down their own unique rabbit holes in sustainable, small scale, culinary agriculture and as a result, have some of the best produce and herbs to offer.
So what’s it feel like to be an entrepreneur in KC right now?
Kansas City is booming right now!
On the business side there is a lot of growth happening in Kansas City and that is always a good thing to tap into. The food scene is exploding from every angle. Perhaps most obviously is the restaurant scene, but there are many amazing producers, bakers, brewers, butchers, roasters, canners, distillers and dairies who have a hand in that, and all of those are supported by a growing number of small sustainable farms run by inspired and curious farmers. Many of these organizations address other economic and community needs, providing education, employment, access and empowerment.
Before moving here I stopped on the East Coast for a month and a half. I spent time in Philly, New York and DC. While I was there I looked to see what sort of entrepreneurial resources were available and I was surprised, particularly in New York, how little there was. KC has so many amazing resources especially for the size it is. In addition it is quite affordable to live here. Ben and I are always surprised by how friendly people are.