Bigmista’s Barbecue, owned and operated by the husband-and-wife team of Neil and Phyllis Strawder, started out as a way for Neil to raise money for barbecue competitions he started doing back in 2006. He would cook lunches that Phyllis would then deliver to places like Kaiser, Wells Fargo (Neil’s last employer) and LACOE (Phyllis’ employer).
The idea to compete in the first place came from the great guys Neil met on the BBQ Brethren Forum. After posting, reading and finding community on the site, Neil decided he wanted a smoker. At the time the Strawders lived in a two-bedroom apartment, UPSTAIRS, with a balcony. Phyllis, being the supportive and understanding wife that she is, said sure. As competitions produced awards, so came more request for Neil’s signature barbecue.
Neil’s first smoker!
In November of 2008, Neil and Phyllis decided to make Bigmista’s Barbecue official. Instead of opening a brick-and-mortar eatery, the Strawders started vending at the Watts Farmer’s Market. With plans to grow slowly, they hit the road crawling. They discovered that trying to sell barbecue during Thanksgiving and Christmas was a bad idea but hung in there, wanting to see if people would like their food enough to buy it on a regular basis. They hoped that if things went well enough, Neil would be able to leave his job in August of 2009. By February 2009, Bigmista was in five markets and Neil turned in his resignation without any regrets.
Bigmista continues to grow: the crew began vending at the Torrance Farmer’s Market on Saturdays in January 2010 and is adding another member to the team. Neil and Phyllis attribute their success to faith in GOD and a very supportive family that works with them. Without either, none of this would be possible.