On this podcast, we talk about regretting things that you did not vs things that you did, the difference between wealth and financial freedom, why Kosmo does not regret going full-time sooner, and so much more!
BBQ brings people together no matter the weather. Kosmos Q started as a passion project to encourage people to spend more time with friends & family.
Kosmos Q sold their first product, The Original Beef Brisket Injection, out of a linen cabinet.
Today, they ship over 30 different products to grill masters and fans around the world. Kosmos Q has nearly doubled in size over the last year after our products brought home the 2015 World Steak Championship and the 2015 World BBQ Championship.
In This Conversation We Discuss:
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Not only in life but [also] in business and particularly in websites: We all have a filter in which we see the world and by default we assume that everybody else does.
Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, a podcast dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And I believe running a direct-to-consumer brand does not have to be complicated or a guessing game.
On this podcast, we interview founders and experts who are putting in the work and creating real results.
I also share my own insights from running our top Shopify consultancy, Electric Eye. We cut the fluff in favor of facts to help you grow your Ecommerce business.
Let's get on with the show.
Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce.
Today, we're welcoming to the show, the CEO of an 8-figure barbecue company.
Started with only $500, now on to massive success. Kosmo, welcome to the show.
Hey thank you, Chase.
Thanks for having me.
Alright. I skipped over actually introducing your brand. So just quickly let the people know about the brand and what you guys, the products, you bring into the market over there.
Absolutely. Absolutely. So our brand is Kosmo’s Q. That's Kosmos spelt with a K. K-O-S-M-O-S, space, then the letter Q. We sell about...
We're working on all things barbecue, but we made our big splash in rubs, sauces, injections, marinade/brines, wing dust, and now wing sauces even.
Awesome. That's some very delicious stuff. And I think I know what I'm gonna have for dinner tonight.
So take me back in time, though. Where did this idea come from? What was going on in your life?
Oh man. Golly. this goes back a while. So when our family was young, I was, I think, 32 - 33 - 34. Our family was young and the days of going out and hanging out on the weekends were done.
So I was like, "Well, what do old people do?" I'm like, "Well, they... I guess they sit at home and they barbecue." So I went to Walmart and I bought a smoker and some meat.
And that Saturday, I put the meat on the smoker and I went and mowed the yard and did all the dad things. And finally I thought for me it was done.
Anyways, we went to sit down and eat dinner. And I just remember taking a bite thinking "Oh my gosh, this is the absolute worst food I've ever ate in my life."
And I'll never forget my wife held the trash can open as I was throwing all the food away. And I just thought to myself, "That will never happen again." And the ironic thing is I...
My very first job was running a pit at a barbecue restaurant. But no one ever... They just taught me what to do. They didn't tell me why they did it. So I didn't know what temperature the pit was [running] at or what temperature it finished and all kinds of stuff. So I set out to become...
I just wanted to learn how to barbecue. So that's what I did.
My father in law, he knew of a pit that was in a field. He pulled it out of the field, gave it to me, and I call it the Tin Man. It was built by FFA class in a country, a little small country town here in Oklahoma, and that's the pit I learned on.
And I just kept honing my craft and I never set out with the expectations of starting the company. It's just as I got better with barbecue, I realized that what you found in the store could only take you to a certain level and it wasn't that high.
The barbecue sauces weren't that good. The rubs weren't that good. And so I started fiddling around making my own, and then I started going "Oh my gosh, what if I could make it taste like this?"
So I would fiddle around and sure enough I could do it. And I was like "This tastes way better than the stuff you get at the store." And then I started...
I would go out to eat barbecue someplace and I was like, "Oh my gosh, this tastes like the stuff that you would make at home if you bought everything from the store." And it was just bland and didn't have a lot of flavor in this... Everybody's sauce was the same.
I think there was just one sauce brand in the world at the time that was just pumping this one sauce out to every restaurant.
So then I was like, "Man, I can't eat this." So we started making our own. And actually, it's still even at that time, we had people that would call us.
Because by this time, I started on the professional competition circuit and I was competing around the country and we were seeing some success.
And then people say, "Hey, where did you get that rub?" Or this, or that, or whatever? So, "Hey, can you send me some?" So we bagged some of them and sent it to them.
Well, it wasn't until I was at a barbecue competition, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And at the time, there was a competition barbecue where even to this day, they inject their brisket. And at the time, there were only two companies making an injection for brisket.
And one of them was at this competition, and I was using their product and I just... It just tasted bad to me. But they were actually people winning with it.
So I went up to the owner. And I said, "Hey, I'm using this injection and something's not right. I can't get it to work right or whatever. And is there anything you can do to help me out?"
And I'll never forget, he looked at me and said, "Yeah, you can read the directions." And then he shut his door, his trailer door in my face. And that right there just sent me over the freaking moon. And that was the day I was like, "I'm gonna make an injection.
And if he doesn't want to help people like me, I will." So that was the day Kosmo's was born. And the funny thing is, I never even really thought of making a business. Or even if I would, what would I name it? I just remember.
After finding a company that could make this product for me, they asked me, "What's the name of my business?" I didn't have a business. (laughs) I didn't have a tax number. I had nothing. And the only thing that I just felt such...
I was so on the spot that my nickname was Kosmo. And my barbecue team name is Kosmo's Q meaning it's my barbecue. Because back in the day, on all the barbecue forums, they would say, "What are you [barbecuing]? And they wouldn't say... They would just call it Q.
So this was Kosmo's Q. And I just panicked under pressure. And I said Kosmo's Q. (laughs)
And the name stuck.
And it stuck (laughs)
I was pretty good on the spot name because it's served you well over the past couple of years.
Yeah, yeah. No one has come up with anything close to it yet, so...
So how long would you say that you were... This went from a hobby to a little more semi-professional when you were on the circuit? How long was that kind of adventure?
So from the time I first started till the time I started cooking on the circuit, that was probably about 4 years. So within 2 years, I got to where I could... Well, it wasn't even... Within a year I got to where I could cook. But within 2 years, I got to where I was cooking pretty good.
And then I started making my own stuff. And then within 4 years, I want to say it was 2 to 4 years, I really can't remember, I didn't really think anything would ever happen.
But I started competing on the professional circuit. And that took about 4 years before I really started getting seriously into it.
And now this whole time that you're doing this passion, at this point, you're not even thinking about it being a business. Are you building an audience? Are you acquiring emails, doing YouTube, Instagram or what are you doing with all this exposure that you're getting?
That is such an awesome question. I remember, I was doing this before this was even a thing (laughs).
You got Gary Vee, he went on YouTube. I was doing this before YouTube. YouTube wasn't even invented yet. I think Facebook was around but it was just painful as I'll get out.
So I'd get on MySpace and take pictures or something like that. Ecommerce wasn't even a thing. The only...
I think at the time, the only places where you could probably buy stuff that were widely known was Amazon.
Well, not even Amazon honestly.
It was eBay. eBay was the hot thing.
And I'll never forget, I was like if I could take it...
When people started asking me for it, there was a...
In my little office, there was a map of the US behind me. And my wife was looking at it and she was like, "What if we could just start sending all over the country?" And I was like, "What if we did that?"
I can't put it on eBay, because at the time, you couldn't put food on there. So I was like, "What if I had my own website, and I could just point people to it, and they could buy off of it". So I made a...
Golly, it was painful back then too.
It was a WordPress site, and I would just...
People would order off of the site, and then they would send me a little order, and then I would have to call them, and they would send me a check [like a] mail order. And then I was like, "Man, this little PayPal button. I wonder if I could put this button on this website."
And my HTML coding skills that were non-existent the day before I had that idea got thrown to the wolves the next day.
And I figured out how to get the HTML button on my website that would link it so it would send it to PayPal, and they could just pay me through PayPal. And...
Do you remember what year that was?
That was, I think, 2004 or 2005?
Yeah. Ecommerce and its capabilities have definitely evolved...
...since then. So you've got this website now. And you are sending products all over the country? Was there a time that you look back on where you're like, "Hey, I think I'm onto something here?"
I remember, at the time I was, I worked for a pass waste company. And I was a route driver.
And I remember, I would always go to a 711 or something and sit in the parking lot and eat my $1.19 sandwich from there and a $0.99 same bag of chips.
And I had an Android phone at the time. I only think Apple was around. But somehow I got PayPal, on my phone. But this is before apps, you could...
You actually had to use the email browser or the website browser. Anyways, I can log in. And I remember, I logged in at lunch and I've made $1,000 that week, on my website. And I was just...
That doesn't sound like a lot. But you have to understand that at that time, I think I was probably only bringing home $500 every 2 weeks.
And I just sat there and I was like, I made pretty much what I make in a month. I brought in one week, what I pretty much made in a month and honestly, I just cried. Because I saw the future before anybody else did in our space.
And I was like, "Oh my gosh." And this was only this many people. Imagine if I could sell to 100 or 1000 or 5000 or 10,000. And then the numbers started getting really, really big in my head really quick. And that's when it hit me. There's...
I think at the time, there were like 280 million people in the US. And that's when I went "Oh my gosh, if I could sell one dollar to 280 million people. I'd be a multi-multimillionaire."
Now I know that just the law of averages, that's probably not going to happen. But I was like, "Even if I could [do] 10% If I could just sell to 10% of the... Man is not even that. If I could just settle 1% What would that do?" And that's what started the fire in my head.
And that's when I started using Facebook to promote my brand. And Facebook...
At the time, Facebook, you can only put your name on there. So my name is Darian Khosravi. So I changed it.
I changed my name on Facebook from Darian Khosravi to Kosmo's Q because you had to have a first and last and it stuck... And it worked. So I ran my brand on there before there was any...
Before there were groups or brand pages or anything. You just had your page on Facebook. So I changed my page into my brand and that's where I started posting pictures and really spreading the word out. And still, all the time, not one email address. Not one.
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How long after that afternoon in your trucking lunch and you noticed where things were trending did you decide to quit your job and go all in on this thing?
Honestly, it was probably like 6 or 7 years after that because I was...
And I think most entrepreneurs that have done what I've done, meaning [having] been an employee with a family, and then made the leap to entrepreneur.
The thing that scared me the most wasn't me. It was my family.
What happens if I fail my family? And so I I clung on to that job. And I told myself "When I work till midnight, 7 days in a row, then at that time, I'll quit my job."
And I remember doing that and I was just like... Even then I was still trying to talk myself out of it. But I was coming home one day and we have this certain hill.
And when we hit the top of the hill you can see out for miles and I just remember like I came over the top of that hill and I was like...
It's like God said, "What do you value?" Because I felt like I had this, this calling inside of me that I couldn't turn it off. I couldn't make it stop. I couldn't quieten it down. IUt was persistent, and it would not let me go. And I went home that day and I made a whole...
I think there were 200 words of things you could value. And I said, "I'm gonna, I'll narrow it down to 50." Then I got it done at 50. And then I said, I'll narrow it down to 20, 10, 5, and then my top 3.
And I narrowed it down to my top 3, which was family, finances, and freedom. And by finances, I don't mean wealth.
There's a difference between financially sound and wealthy. And I wanted to be financially sound so I can enjoy the freedom to do what I wanted to do with my family. And after I found that out, I was just *snap* immediately.
I had a Navy Seal tell me one time, "He said, Do you know what happens right the second before you die?" And I was like, "Well, no." He said, "Your life doesn't flash before your eyes. Your regrets do." And oh my gosh, it's just...
It struck me and I would just sit there when I would think of this. And I have this calling. And now this picture would pop up in my head of Kosmo taking his last, last breath and thinking, "What if I would have tried?"
And I remember waking up a couple days later. And I couldn't turn it off. At this point, the voice inside of me is so loud Chase. I could barely sleep, I could barely eat, drink, or walk.
And I remember going up to my wife. And I said, "I think it's time I quit my job." And I was so scared that she was going to say, "No, you're crazy?"
And she looked at me, *snap* just like that. And she said, "It's about time."
That's fantastic. Now, do you have any advice for our listeners out there that are thinking that maybe that they're at this inflection point in their life?
Would you say maybe do the value analysis that you did or any other insights from that?
Yeah. I think a lot of people struggle to find their "why". And once you know your "why", then the "what" becomes a little more clear. I don't know... I didn't know why I was built the way I was built. I grew up...
I was burned at the age of 17 months old. I lived a pretty rocky life in high school and junior high. I wasn't good at school. I was horrible at school. I ended up flunking out, partying, drugs...
Living that whole life just job to job from whatever place would hire me and I would just adapt and learn whatever it is I was doing.
And I just remember having this hole in me that no matter what I tried to shovel into it, it never filled up.
And when I figured out what my why was, what I value, why I value it, like everything became way more clear.
Absolutely. Do you ever look back on that and think maybe that you should have made that leap a little bit sooner or maybe potentially regret you waited too long?
No, I'm not one that lives with regrets now. I will say this. And I think we've all heard this on any entrepreneur journey if you've read even one book on it.
"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is right now." But I think that's the trip wire that you got to catch yourself on.
Because there's an actual 3rd one too, that the best time was 20 years ago, the next best time is now. But what happens if you don't? And no one thinks about that.
What happens if you fail to take action on the calling that either...
No matter what you believe that was put in you, whatever, I don't care. How about any...
If you don't take that calling seriously, then the regrets that you could potentially have will far eclipse anything else in your life.
Absolutely. Some sage words right there. Let's fast forward a bit. You go all in on this business and Ecommerce as an industry has changed rapidly since [you] almost witnessed the birth of it online with PayPal buttons being one of the first ways to do it.
How are things different these days? How have things gotten easier?
And then maybe the follow up question to that is also, what's a little more difficult these days than it used to be?
Well, I think the Ecommerce platforms have gotten... They have gotten simpler, but a massive explosion of growth in any niche or whatever inherently builds complexity.
And I think that as easy as the websites are to get up and running, the complexity of them behind the scenes is the thing that... You have to focus on both. And I do love...
It's like anybody can get in the business now. But the complexity of them, I think is...
I think we have room to navigate out of some of these complex situations into something more simpler, user-friendly, and easy to use. That's just my opinion.
Absolutely. I mean, I couldn't agree more that the barrier of entry has never been lower, especially with Shopify, specifically.
It makes it so easy to get on line and set something up. But what a lot of people don't realize is, it also makes the competition that much stronger.
And to do it the right way, you really need to stick out. And there's only a few ways to do it: You either invest the time and learn it yourself or invest the money to hire someone that's done it before.
There's not really much of a way around those two options really...
...start to get an edge and pull ahead in this game. These days, you guys are doing most of your sales direct-to-consumer through the website.
Are you just using a solution like Shopify? Or are you experimenting with some of the other ones out there like the marketplaces such as Amazon, or you got wholesale models...
What's the mix of things look like these days, we do.
I'm not a big believer in having all your eggs in one basket. I don't know if anybody's lost their website overnight, but I have. And it is a thing.
It's probably less likely to happen now than back when I started, but nevertheless, it could happen.
So I'm a firm believer in putting your eggs in different baskets. So we do have, obviously, our retail website. We do have a wholesale website, too. We do sell on Amazon.
I felt the need to lock that down years and years ago because Amazon, in my opinion, is a race to the bottom and can destroy a brand faster than anything, in my opinion.
That's just my opinion.
So we lock down our Amazon and we control it. And we also...
Amazon's got to make their money, so we have it as a higher price point than everything else. If you're gonna get that kind of convenience, then you're going to...
Obviously, I'm not going to cannibalize my own website just for the sake of Amazon. I'm just not going to do it. But it is there. Our wholesale though, shockingly, we are about...
I think about...
I don't know the exact number because it's just grown so fast. But I want to say we're in about 5000 - 6000 - 7000 retail locations nationwide.
And we do have a wholesale platform where they can actually come in and order. And they can make the order as big or as small as they want to. And no matter what we'll accommodate them.
We also distribute to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, [and] in the UK.
Absolutely. You mentioned that you "locked down Amazon" a few years ago. Now I want to boil that down and correct me if I'm wrong here but you went in and you own your brand name and your products.
So it doesn't allow other sellers to sell your products. Therefore you can enforce the pricing you want.
So you can't really stop anybody from listing your products. But we have our ways of finding you and choking you out, so to speak. You're not going to... We will not allow... Since we are the manufacturer, we will not allow it. And it's and it specifically says that in our contract.
You can't come on there and you're not allowed to sell on there period. because we are trying to protect our buddy. And then there's always going to be one person that thinks they can beat the system, and they can buy from a person that buys from a guy that buys from a distribution place.
And actually, that's a great question, because we had one that was really difficult. And then the second we found out who they were, within 24 hours, their attorneys were lighting us up.
And I was like, "Hey man, you are... You're... Actually you're getting a hold of our product. You're not buying it from us."
So we have the new transparency program that we don't know that it's a legit product. It could be fake.
And that part of Amazon, oh my gosh, well that one works. That one, they got shut down instantly. Because they're not...
If they were a dealer of ours, then we would go into him and say, "Hey, you can't do this. Get it off there."
But we had no idea who these people were. We never sold the product to them, ever. And it was a big company. And I was like, "Well, I don't know what to tell you. Take the product down." So yeah, the transparency program on Amazon...
Amazon is doing what they can to protect the buyer from goods that I'll just say aren't "authentic."
Mm-hmm. So Kosmo, is there anything I didn’t ask you today that you think would resonate to our audience?
I could think of one thing that you were hitting on a little bit ago. Shopify makes the barrier of entry so easy.
I think people really think that it’s an easy way to get rich or whatever. It’s not.
It’s actually a very, very hard way to get rich. (laughs)
But the one thing that I notice is that people are not willing to do the boring stuff meaning…
Not to get into too much depth. To have a CRO expert on your team, looking at your site, understanding how your customers are navigating your site…
And the hardest thing for me to learn not only in life but in business, and particularly in websites…
We all have a filter in which we see the world. And by default, we assume everybody else does see exactly the same way we do, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
I think, when we hired our CRO expert and we started finding the truth, --not our thoughts and feelings-- that was eye-opening and those are the types of things…
You gotta do the boring stuff.
Absolutely. Getting to the data and going into it with a hypothesis about what you are trying to find, based upon not what you think…
We have these conversations all the time with clients.
“It doesn’t matter what I think. It doesn’t matter what you think. What matters is what your customers think.”
We got a good idea about it because we’ve been doing this for ever and we worked with hundreds of clients so we know what works, generally.
You’ve a great idea about it because you made a small $10 million dollar business and your instincts haven’t been wrong yet.
But at the end of the day, who’s giving us money? It’s your customers. Let’s go find out what they think.
Let’s do what they need to be done on this website, to be the best that it needs to be for them.
Awesome. Kosmo, we talked a lot about these awesome products that you have been bringing to market. And if I am looking to pick some up, where should I go?
What’s the best place to get them?
The best place you can go is kosmosq.com. That’s K-O-S-M-O-S-Q.com. That would be your best place to go
Awesome. Kosmo, thank you for coming to the show today and sharing all of that.
You bet, Chase. Thanks for having me, man.
Alright. I can't thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their knowledge and journey with us.
We've got a lot to think about and potentially add into our own business. You can find all the links in the show notes.
Make sure you head over to honestecommerce.co to check out all the other amazing content that we have. Make sure you subscribe, leave a review.
And obviously if you're thinking about growing your business, check out our agency at electriceye.io. Until next time.