In 2015, Marion White was faced with an ultimatum.
“It’s your job or your business,” his boss told him.
White’s turkey barbecue which he sold by the pound had become increasingly popular, causing him to deliver it before work, after work and during lunch breaks.
“I chose the business,” he says.
The consultant turned turkey barbecue tycoon operates Sweets Turkey BBQ and Catering with his wife Kassinda, whom he met while attending Dudley High School.
The food truck, which launched on Sept. 19, serves Greensboro for now, though the company aims to serve the rest of the Triad and surrounding areas. They will be serving customers at LeBauer Park this Friday and Saturday for GHOE.
Sweets is just one of many food trucks that has thrived during the pandemic in a time when restaurants have struggled to stay open and keep their employees.
“When COVID hit, we did a pound sale,” Marion says. “It was like, ‘Everybody get their pounds of barbecue because we may be locked in the house for a while.”
As the point of contact for food suppliers during an event Marion catered, Kassinda learned of his barbecue delivery gig, as Marion used business cards and word of mouth to grow his clientele.
“The goal was to grow it grassroots without social media,” he says.
Kassinda joined his venture in 2017, using her business degree from NC A&T State University to elevate the endeavor from pounds to plates.
“One of the major things we had to do was to develop a marketing plan to take the delivery model to the next level,” she says.
The base starts with a smoked turkey barbecue recipe that Marion received from his dad George more than a decade ago. He tweaked it to its current state, using a secret blend of herbs and spices to compliment the smokiness and moisture of the meat. Sweets opted for all smoked meat options, a healthier alternative to foods that are usually fried.
And according to the truck’s customers, the time spent on the recipe doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Everything I’ve had on their menu so far is amazing, and the fact that they don’t cook with pork is a plus!” says Infiniti Ruffin, a regular customer.
Ruffin has been following Sweets Turkey BBQ since their days selling plates on S. Elm-Eugene Street. These days, she likes to get a smoked turkey barbecue sandwich, a hefty portion of baked beans and a cold cup of homemade sweet tea. Customers can also indulge in chicken wings, turkey legs, green beans, macaroni and cheese and “world famous” slap ‘yo mama peach cobbler from the menu.
The Whites believe they’ve been successful because they focus on the product, not themselves.
Marion stresses that the truck’s slogan, ‘The best turkey barbecue in North Carolina’, wasn’t pulled from thin air, but from customer’s mouths.
“It truly is the best BBQ in NC,” says Nicole McCullough, another regular who visits the truck every week for a plate.
The owners say they follow the Swahili principle of “ujamaa,” stressing that people prosper with the help of the community.
“We want people to support us not just because we’re a Black-owned business, but because we have an excellent product,” Kassinda says.
Asmyne Brooks of Sweetz Spot is hoping for her own community support. She made desserts as a side hustle, pushing cake jars in local nail salons and catering dip treats for baby showers prior to the pandemic. After being laid off from her counseling job because of COVID-19, she decided to take her desserts to a food truck rather than return to a desk job.
“I really had no choice and said, Let’s see if it’s possible,” she recalls. “I never thought I would just not work and be an entrepreneur, but I really didn’t have anything else to do.”
With her boyfriend Brandon Dawkins, Brooks opened the Sweetz Spot on April 16, selling products such as ice cream, candy apples with various toppings, caramel corn and lemonade. Brooks redefined the funnel cake, offering it in banana pudding, Oreo and strawberry flavors. After choosing inventory and a business name, the only thing left was a slogan.
Brooks consulted her family and friends until her father, Larry, shouted “The best truckin’ sweets in town!”
Brooks typically runs the truck with the help of Dawkins, family and friends. On slower days, you may catch Brooks’ 3-year-old daughter Anei behind the register.
“Sometimes when it’s slow I’ll bring her with me and it’s so cute the way she’ll try to take my order,” Brooks says.
Anei is Brooks’ designated sticker helper, removing stickers from apples when they’re purchased, and adding the company’s logo sticker to orders.
And like the flexibility afforded to Brooks to bring her daughter to work, Marion says running his own business means he can forgo the restrictions of a corporate position and show up to work authentically.
“I can wear my hair the way I want to; I can dress the way I want to,” he says. “It’s allowed me to be myself.”
Follow The Sweetz Spot on Facebook and Instagram @thesweetzspot. Stay up to date with Sweets Turkey BBQ & Catering on Facebook and Instagram @sweetsturkeybbq. They will be at LeBauer Park this weekend for GHOE.