One Columbia business owner continues to beat the odds - DatelineCarolina

One Columbia business owner continues to beat the odds

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Brooks Herring says that cooking barbecue has been a tradition in his family since he can remember. Brooks Herring says that cooking barbecue has been a tradition in his family since he can remember.
The limited space inside Cock Pit Barbecue makes keeping up with the high demand even harder. The limited space inside Cock Pit Barbecue makes keeping up with the high demand even harder.

By: Will Tilley

Opening a new business can be a stressful and scary journey for first-time business owners. A recent study done by Bloomberg found that 80 percent of entrepreneurs who start businesses fail in their first 18 months.

So when Brooks Herring and his dad, Ralph, decided to open their own barbecue restaurant in May 2013, the odds were already stacked against them.

But things have been surprisingly good for the Herrings and their Cock Pit Barbecue restaurant so far. They're cramped restaurant located on Bluff Road, across the street from Williams-Brice Stadium, has become a hot spot for football fans.

"We kind of took this and ran with it. It was supposed to be a food truck, it ended up being a restaurant, and ended up taking off really quick. And then football season...wow," Herring said.

Herring's story is even more special since neither he nor his dad have business degrees. In fact, the 28-year-old veteran plans to take his first college classes this spring at USC.

A U.S. Census business survey from 2007 shows that 68 percent of business owners have completed some level of college education, and only 10 percent are between the ages of 25 and 34.

So how have things gone so well for Cock Pit?

"The proof is in the pudding," Herring said. "We were opened for about three months when the South Carolina Barbecue Association gave us the '100-mile Barbecue' honor, which is their highest."

Still, it takes a business mind to figure out how to get customers into the store to try this outstanding barbecue. Herring has used social media to talk with locals and attract new customers.

Cock Pit was also one of the first off-campus restaurants to allow students to use their Carolina Card to pay for meals, and they offer special deals for students.

USC business professor Paul Bliese worked at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research for 22 years. He believes Herring's military background could be the secret to his success.

"First of all, anyone who's been in the military is going to pretty much be used to hard work," Bliese said. "And my understanding with owning a business is that you basically have to put in the elbow grease and lots of hours. I mean, there's a lot of hard work associated with that."

Joel Stevenson started four businesses of his own before coming to USC to teach business and entrepreneurship. He says it also takes a strong desire from an owner to succeed.

"You can teach it all but one thing, and that one thing is passion. If they don't have passion for it, if they don't get up in the morning and want to do it, they ought not to do it," Stevenson said.

Herring's passion for barbecue runs deep through his family's history. Cooking was a family tradition used to celebrate special occasions and holidays.

"It's been something sacred and something just in our family. And last year we decided to share that with the public," Herring said.

This family tradition is ultimately what drives Herring to provide the public with the best barbecue experience they can find.

"This is for our family, this is our namesake, this is our livelihood. This will be our legacy, and I think legacy is a very important thing in life," Herring said.

As for the future of the business, he says that there's no where to go but up. With such high demand and little space currently in their restaurant, Herring believes they will soon be able to move into a bigger place or add other locations.

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