Under the circumstances, I would have understood if the moment went to their heads.
Television, magazine and newspaper reporters were calling them. Sales were increasing rapidly. They won a national commercial.
Still, Theresa Chu and Scott Beaudry, owners of Durham-based Barley Labs, kept their heads in the small-business game and a focus on the yearslong road they still have to travel for the ultimate grand prize – a stable, responsible brand.
In September 2012, the couple launched Barley Labs, a company that sells all-natural dog treats made out of Fullsteam Brewery’s spent grain.
About a year ago, the company was among the 15,000 small businesses and nonprofits vying for a Super Bowl commercial in Intuit’s Small Business Big Game contest. In November, Barley Labs was named as one of the final four.
GoldieBlox, an Oakland, Calif., company that makes construction toys for girls, won the most votes and a commercial that aired during the 2014 Super Bowl, which drew 111.5 million viewers.
Barley Labs’ prize package, however, included $25,000 and its own commercial, which aired nationally on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 from May 12 to June 23.
The company’s revenue increased 224 percent. Distribution went from a few independent shops in Raleigh and Durham to 28 Harris Teeters in the state, nine Lowes Foods in the Carolinas, three Weaver Street Markets, 28 independent shops in seven states and one national distributor.
Along the way, Chu said she has learned some lessons, starting with being flexible.
In November 2013, Barley Labs doubled its production after moving from Chu and Beaudry’s home kitchen to culinary incubator The Cookery in Durham.
At the end of 2013, the pair started looking for their own spot that could accommodate manufacturing products and a retail space.
By May 2014, Chu had left her part-time job as a communications coordinator at nonprofit Genesis Home in Durham, but still takes in freelance work. Beaudry still works full time as a data analyst at N.C. State University.
After a seven-month search, Chu and Beaudry couldn’t find an affordable place. So they converted their garage into the Barley Labs kitchen and production space.
Chu moved out of The Cookery in early August, around the same time the garage renovation was estimated to be finished. However, it wasn’t done until Friday. Chu and Beaudry had to bake in their home kitchen to keep up with the new demand.
Chu said she’s keeping everything in perspective.
The intense growth challenged her and Beaudry individually and as a couple, but they made the decision to put their relationship first and the business second.
“Keep your goals in sight and in perspective,” she said. “Where you want your business to be in five to 10 years – that is why you are working so hard.”