After graduating from Lodi High School this past May, Jonathon Daub, Jacob Weisman and Zach Hughes took a calculated risk and decided to open a mobile barbecue business, JnJ BBQ.
The trio developed their business plan — equipped with a marketing strategy — after taking a hospitality and tourism management class at Lincoln Technical Academy during their senior year in high school.
“It started as a class project, but our teacher (Kirk Williams) and Zach pushed us to follow through with it,” Weisman said.
Weisman, who has always had a natural affinity for cooking, decided to take his passion more seriously during his freshman year of high school. He began experimenting with spices and herbs and started testing recipes after watching YouTube videos, which helped him develop a more pronounced palate as he expanded his flavor profiles.
“Towards the end of freshman year, we (Daub and Weisman) knew we wanted to open a barbecue business. I would experiment with recipes and take pictures and send them to Jonathon, and we would get together and cook,” Weisman said.
Both Daub and Weisman were interested at the prospect of opening their own business, however, they knew they were too young and inexperienced as freshmen.
As they advanced through high school, they gained exposure to business by working in local restaurants, where they learned the specifics of food service and fine dining, as well as navigating fast-paced kitchens.
Hughes, who became more involved in the business following the senior hospitality and tourism management class, knew he could help market the restaurant and their mission.
“We all share the same values. We want to incorporate locally-sourced, quality ingredients in our food for our customers,” Hughes said.
Both Daub and Weisman grew up on farms and understand the importance of employing fresh local ingredients in their dishes.
Weisman stressed the importance of using local produce because he believes most countries that export produce to California spray their fruits and vegetables with harsher chemicals and pesticides.
“Working with local farmers we know what they spray on their farms, so we know what we are getting, and we help support our local economy,” Weisman said. “We have a seasonal menu that is based on our agriculture seasons. We have a chicken Caprese sandwich with heirloom tomatoes sourced by farmers in our community.”
They have also created a menu to fit the dietary needs and preferences of all dining tastes, including vegan and vegetarian options.
JnJ’s will have traditional barbecue items including tri-tip, pulled pork sandwiches, and sides like coleslaw.
“It’s important to have something for everyone because barbecue is not just a type of cuisine, it is about the environment it creates,” Hughes said. “We want people to enjoy the atmosphere we bring, which is why we need to be able to meet customers and build connections with people.”
Daub, Weisman and Hughes decided to dip their toes into the food industry with a mobile barbecue trailer built by Daub, who built a smoker on top of a flatbed trailer that is towed to a location.
“It took about five months to build and over 60 hours to bolt it,” Daub said. “I decided to build it myself because I knew it would be cheaper that way.”
The young entrepreneurs knew when they started building their business plan that they wanted to be financially sound.
“We built our company without any debt and by using money that we saved ourselves,” Weisman said. “We went into this very realistically. We know that we have to build ourselves up gradually. Eventually, our goal is to open a brick and mortar restaurant.”
They decided to start with a mobile business because it was a more cost-effective approach that required less up-front money. They also decide not to purchase a food truck because it would have strained their financial resources.
“By building the smoker ourselves and utilizing social media for marketing, we have saved a lot of money on our capital that we can put towards a better product for our customers,” Hughes said.
They chose to join the Lodi Chamber to increase their visibility in the community and network with local business owners.
Marina Narvarte, the chamber’s director of membership, says the teens are the youngest business owners to ever join the chamber.
“These three young men worked so hard to start their business with no debt and they attend college full time. They have a vision, a goal and a dream, and they’re executing it,” Narvarte said.
All three teens are currently enrolled at San Joaquin Delta College with majors that will benefit the restaurant.
Weisman is currently working towards his associate degree in culinary arts, in conjunction with taking business classes. He plans to transfer to California State University, Sacramento, where he will major in business.
“I want to build myself up as a chef because I love cooking, but I know I have to understand the business aspect of things so we can be successful,” Weisman said.
Daub is majoring in business, with a minor in agriculture, intending to transfer to Sacramento State as well.
Hughes will also major in business, but intends to transfer to California State University, Stanislaus.
“Even though we will be going to different schools, we will be commuting, so we can still focus on our business,” Weisman said.
JnJ BBQ will officially launch their business next January. The ambitious owners are currently building their website and have already launched on some social media platforms.
“We plan on being at the Street Faire in May, and the farmers market next summer,” Hughes said. “We are even looking into opening at the Asparagus Festival.”
To learn more about JnJ BBQ, follow them on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/jnj_bbq/.