Interviews

BBQ Dreamz: This is all about us trying to build something together

6 min read

02 August 2018

For over four years, Lee Johnson and Sinead Campbell have reigned supreme over BBQ Dreamz, which was born out of a passion for Filipino cuisine. Here we share their story.

Before starting BBQ Dreamz, Lee and Sinead both worked full time. They told Real Business that conflicting schedules left them with little time to spend together.

Running their own business has not only enabled them to spend more time together, but given them both control of their own schedules and the freedom to make their own decisions.

This, they said, has brought a whole new level of work satisfaction. We find out how they met – and how both their skills are used to craft and drive a successful business.

How did you both meet?

We met through mutual friends. While Lee was studying at university and Sinead was doing her MA – we’ve been together for 11 years now.

What inspired you to start a business together?

We have always loved cooking and entertaining for people and would regularly host big barbecues or birthday parties for our friends and family. We combined that passion for food, entertaining people and our experience, and turned it into a business.

Lee has worked in restaurants for years, while Sinead has spent time working in the services industry, such as bars. It was a combination of that and wanting to start our business to have control over creating our own future together.

What specific roles do you both have?

We both do a bit of everything. But Sinead tends to do most of the cooking, menu development, testing and preparation, while Lee handles the logistics and planning side of things. He manages relationships with suppliers, drives the food truck and plans for business growth.

The administration side is something we manage together – including staff rotas, accounting and finance. Our accountant uses QuickBooks Online Accountant and we find it’s an easy platform to collaborate through and get a real-time view of our finances. We also heard of other street vendors using QuickBooks – and the fact the company focuses on small business success really appealed to us.

The yummy food you can expect to find there

How do you separate work disagreements from your personal life?

It’s quite hard to separate the two, so we try to find a balance. If we go for a meal together, we might agree not to talk about work, but 10 minutes in we’ve already started to! We’ve found that making sure we have certain “no work” days helps.

On Sundays we don’t do any work or talk about it – it’s definitely hard to separate, but we love what we do so don’t see it as a negative thing.

Do you have any rules to leave work at work?

Yes, we’re trying to implement that now. As we’ve focused on growing the business since we started out, it’s been hard to do. But now we realise the importance of switching off and how it can help us recharge our batteries again.

What are your individual strengths?

Sinead leads the creative side of the business, developing new menus and coming up with new ideas for the food. Lee’s strengths are in the managing the logistics, organising and planning ahead, as well as finding new markets to grow and work in.

If you could swap your business partner for somebody else, who would it be?

In all honesty, we wouldn’t want to be with anyone else. If we had to though… Lee would choose Michelin Star chef Nuno Mendes and Sinead would choose a better version of Lee!

What’s been your biggest business achievement to date?

Standing the test of time for four years has felt like a real achievement, and we have really grown from strength to strength. To be regularly recognised for different accolades is great, we were recently voted 2nd place in Time Out for street food.

We celebrated the business’ fourth anniversary in June. Looking back at all the photos from when we started out to where we are today makes us incredibly proud of what we have achieved.

What are the perks of running a business together?

We get to see each other all the time! In our previous jobs, we had different and conflicting schedules. Lee worked in the restaurant trade which meant evening shifts and Sinead in an office doing 9-to-5.

Being able to run the business together with the same focus on vision for it is great, this is all about us trying to build something together.

What are the downsides of running a business together?

Finding downtime to separate work and personal life is difficult, but we know each other really well and understand one another, so we make it work. Going on holiday together is also hard because the income comes to a standstill.

What celebrity couple are you most like?

Kim and Kanye West. Lee would be Kim and Sinead would be Kanye.