Kevin McKee was born into the restaurant business in Whitley County, Kentucky. “I learned the business from the ground up in my parents’ 24-hour restaurant in Williamsburg,” Kevin explains. He went on to become a professional chef in restaurants in Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida. “I always made everything from scratch,” he says, “and one my most popular creations was my homemade barbeque sauce.” He developed the recipe himself by adding and taking away ingredients until he arrived at the perfect sauce. Most barbeque sauce recipes have only four or five ingredients. KD’s Homemade BBQ Sauce has 17. “I don’t mean to sound arrogant,” he says with a smile and a touch of pride, “but it’s good.”
It was his wife’s idea to start a business selling the sauce directly to consumers. “I told her no one would buy it. I guess I was wrong,” Kevin laughs. A friend owns a local store and offered to carry his product, so Kevin packaged some jars with homemade labels. When that supply quickly sold out, people started showing up at the McKee home wanting to buy more. The McKees decided to take the plunge and buy a house with a basement they could convert into a commercial production facility in Lee County, Kentucky.
MACED extended the McKees a loan in June 2008 to help cover the renovation and start-up costs. “We heard about MACED from the Kentucky Small Business Development Center,” says Kevin. “We didn’t even look any place else for a loan because Regina (Becknell, loan officer) and Yvonne (Burchett, program assistant) are such great people to be working with.”
KD’s Homemade BBQ Sauce has had quite a successful start. It was served at the Inaugural Bluegrass Ball in Washington, DC in January 2009. The delectable sauce is available at 35 locations throughout Kentucky. “The hardest part of getting this business off the ground is finding new accounts,” says Kevin. “I try to go to each and every potential retailer in person, because once I can get people to taste the sauce, it usually sells itself.” Kevin’s goal is to reach 100 locations by July 2009.
“KD’s Homemade BBQ Sauce represent a great example of the way to foster economic opportunities in Central Appalachia,” says Bill Schutters, enterprise development director. “MACED works to build wealth by helping local entrepreneurs create and grow sustainable enterprises.”