Business Lawyers for Entrepreneurs
Mario Harris is a passionate business owner and chef of Smoke & Soul BBQ & Catering, a soon-to-be-open business in Richmond, VA. Dunlap Law is proud to celebrate and serve small businesses and entrepreneurs like Mario with services through our Bill Ten, Give One program.
Can you tell me about Smoke & Soul BBQ & Catering and what inspired you to start it?
I’ve been a passionate food person for years. I’ve always loved grilled food and smoked meats. Traveling around the state for different jobs, I tried a lot of different foods and felt inspired by all the different types of smoked meats and different recipes for barbecue throughout the state.
I’ve tried to start my own business several times and it didn’t work out for whatever reasons, but recently I was able to participate in the UnBoundRVA* program which is a nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs define and launch their business and really go after an idea. I went through the process, made it to the final stage and they helped me develop Smoke & Soul.
I chose the name because I wanted “Smoke” to represent the delicious meat and smoky taste that you get. “Soul” is the passion that I put into the cooking and in the food. On top of that, I’m from the south side of Richmond, so that played into the name and made it mean something.
What are some of the challenges that you were proud to overcome when building this business?
With more than a few challenges – one of the big ones was the financial challenges of getting a business started. As a result, I worked during the day since money was strapped and put in work whenever I could into the business. I didn’t have a good grasp of financial literacy and business acumen, which is where UnBoundRVA really helped.
“As I was building this business I was thinking –
how am I going to afford a lawyer?”
How did you connect with Dunlap Law and how have they helped you with any legal challenges you faced?
UnBoundRVA reached out to members of the community to help get our business started and Dunlap Law was one of their business partners. Tricia Dunlap stepped up to offer her services through her Bill 10 Give 1. As I was building this business I was thinking – how am I going to afford a lawyer? So, when I was able to meet with Tricia, it was like a dream. I did have some legal challenges and issues that she had to work through for me. I’ll tell you, she’s tough – I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of her. She’s been a blessing. Tricia is really tenacious – she helped me set everything up that I needed done, a lot of paperwork.
What’s next for Smoke & Soul BBQ?
It’s all so crazy – I wasn’t really prepared to launch just yet, but my marketing partner from UnBoundRVA, 903 Creative, posted an amazing post on Facebook promoting our business and it put us out there and got us a lot of buzz. However, I still have a few more hurdles to jump through. I’m getting a business license and securing a contract with a commercial kitchen. It’s all doable and we’re getting close.
I was reached out to by George Wythe High School where I went to school to participate in their Community Day & Bazaar on May 23, and I got a table and plan to have the business up and running by then – it’ll be out coming out party. This week is Richmond’s Black Restaurant Experience and I’ve been following all the amazing businesses participating and sharing all their stuff. The goal is to be able to be part of the event next year.
It really took on a life of its own. We’re going to ride the wave of energy we’ve been seeing – our Facebook page is going crazy with shares and comments and excitement. We’re going to take it and go where it leads us. We definitely have a good product. We’re going to do well for the community, and have some good fun with good food.
*Mr. Harris was part of the final UnBoundRVA class before the organization had to disband at the end of 2019.