This week is a very special episode for us here on the podcast. In the past, we’ve had the opportunity to sit down with owners of large businesses, small businesses, and everything in between. Today, you’ll hear from a new business owner. But this isn’t just any new business owner. Chris Andrews used to work as a crane operator until he started listening to our podcast (among others). After blasting through every episode he knew starting his new business had to happen and was worth the minimal risk. After a lot of planning, Bienville Bites Food Tour has been born and has a few tours under its belt. They are currently set up with 7 local restaurants in downtown Mobile and they take a 3-hour tour while stopping at local shops to taste their foods. Now that your appetite has been whet, let’s dive into our first episode with the owner of a business born out of the audience of this podcast!
Chris: This is Chris Andrews with Bienville Bites Food Tour.
Marcus: It's awesome to have you on the podcast, Chris.
Chris: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Marcus. Really appreciate it.
Marcus: So, full disclosure, Chris is a client, but the cool thing is, and I'm going to let him kind of tell the story as part of this podcast is, he's a client because he listened to the podcast.
Marcus: So, we're going to leave that there. We're just going to leave that as a cliffhanger. Give us a little bit of information about yourself Chris. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college? What did you study? Are you married? Give us some of the details.
Chris: Yeah. So, I've grew up in Mobile County my entire life. I was born here in Mobile. I was actually raised in Saraland. I lived there the first 25 years of my life. Graduated from Satsuma High School. They can probably tell by the accent.
Marcus: Would never have known.
Chris: But I graduated high school and it was, what am I going to do after that? I had no idea what I wanted to do after I graduated high school. So, I played around with going to Faulkner State at the time, and went to there for a semester, realized 13th grade was not for me.
Marcus: Yeah. It's been a long time since I've heard it called that. That's pretty funny.
Chris: That's what it was.
Marcus: 13th grade.
Chris: Yeah. I was done with school at that point. It was like, I've got to get a job. I've got to get a trade. That was kind of my mindset at the time.
Chris: So, I got a job. I did HVAC work. I did that for probably about 8 years. I did air condition work for a local company in town. I've just had different jobs since then. I was postal truck driver at one point for three years. Then I landed, what at the time I thought was my dream job, which was at AM/NS Calvert, it was ThyssenKrupp at the time. TK is what everybody knows it as.
Chris: That was my dream job. My entire family, going back to my grandfathers, it was always, you get a job and you work there for 35 years. You get the benefits and you retire. You live a middle-class life your entire life.
Marcus: Those days are gone now.
Chris: Those days are gone. I believe they are. But that was the story of both my grandfathers, that was the story of my dad. That was the story of my uncles. And so that was my dream job. That's what I wanted to do. And I got that job and I realized, this is not what I want to do for the next 35 years of my life.
Marcus: What were you doing there?
Chris: So I'm a crane operator there.
Chris: And it's a great job, but that also led me to hating that job. That's a long day, 12-hour shift. So, I've got headphones and I'm listening to podcasts. That's where I come across your podcast. From the very beginning, I listened to every single podcast that you've had.
Marcus: You hear that, folks? He listened to every single one.
Chris: Every single one. The day they come out, I'm listening to it. The first thing I play.
Marcus: That's awesome.
Chris: So, I've always kind of had a little bit of an entrepreneur ... I don't know if everybody here thinks this way, but-
Chris: ... I've always thought, "Man, I could run a business." Or, "What if I ran this business?" I think me and my wife-
Marcus: Kind of scheming [crosstalk 00:03:25]
Chris: ... both kind of played around with those ideas and things. It just never really stuck, but listening to your podcast really encouraged me to, man ... I don't have to have a business degree. I didn't go to college, I guess I should backtrack a little bit with that.
Chris: I went to that one semester of Faulkner. I've took a few college classes online. There was one point in my career where I wanted to be a teacher, a history teacher. I'm a history guy. Long story short, I guess ...
Marcus: It's okay, we got time to kill, man.
Chris: History's my thing and I want to do something with that.
Chris: I love Mobile, I've always been ... Especially local history, with Mobile history, the history here is so rich. But what kind of job can you get with that? There's not many things out there.
Marcus: There's not many. [Cartilage 00:04:21] has the historic building thing locked down at the city and outside of that and Stephen McNair with the Historic Preservation ...
Marcus: I don't know that there are many other positions-
Chris: There's not, yeah.
Marcus: ... where you can really do anything, so ... But I just think, like, you have no idea. I mean, even for me, just having you sitting here is a testimony, because let me ... Jared and I were talking about this earlier. We've been doing this for two and a half or so years.
Marcus: And really, I mean, and I say it in a lot of the podcasts, so forgive me if you've heard me say it before, but this was really an experiment just to see if we could share some of the positive things that were going on, that the business owners were doing in this community because I felt like there's so much negativity in the world. We wanted to share the stories of the people that were actually doing the cool things in Mobile because there's a changing of mentality that's happening here.
Chris: No doubt.
Marcus: And I think the more that you can share that positive message, the more people will grab onto it and run with it, which you are absolutely doing. So, why don't you, just as a way of segueing, why don't you tell us what Bienville Bites is and how it came to be.
Chris: What Bienville Bites Food Tour is, is a three-hour walking tour through downtown Mobile where we stop at seven restaurants and shops, and we taste samples at each place.
Marcus: Sounds like my kind of tour.
Chris: It definitely is. I know you're a foodie. It is. We go to different places. We taste samples of food. We've got gumbo, beignets, Panini Pete's, we got paninis. At Three Georges, we go into the back kitchen and you can make your own chocolate praline. It's a VIP thing. Nobody else in Mobile can do it, except for on the Bienville Bites Food Tour.
Marcus: That's cool.
Chris: So, it's pretty cool.
Chris: We go to Kazoola as one of the stops that we go to. We talk about Cudjoe Lewis. You have to take the tour to find out stories.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah. No, I'm excited. I think when I shared what you were doing with my wife, she was like, "You're an idiot because that would have been your dream job," because I absolutely love food.
Chris: So, how I found out, you probably think, well, I probably took a food tour in other cities. Well, these food tours, they're all over the United States, they're all over the world in the big cities.
Chris: In the tour cities like Savannah and Charleston. New Orleans got several of them. A friend of mine, we were sitting around one-night playing cards. She's telling us about a food tour she took in Savannah. The entire time, she's sitting there talking about it, I'm just like ...
Marcus: That's it.
Chris: Why is there not a food tour in Mobile? It would be perfect. With all these restaurants that are down here now, if somebody doesn't do it ... Or, somebody's going to do it. And so that was kind of my thing was, this is it. This is what we need to do.
Marcus: Yeah. Those moments, as we were fortunate enough to hear those stories, and sometimes they're from Mobile and sometimes they're not because we've worked in a lot of places. But we're fortunate enough to hear those stories and those moments, where somebody has an idea and they're like, "Somebody needs to do this." And then it dawns on them, that, "Wait a second. That somebody should be me." We've had those things, too. Well, we've said, "Well, somebody needs to do X," and then it's like, "Well, wait a second. That's really supposed to be us." I mean, there's an opportunity there.
Marcus: And so that's the lesson that I hope people take. I mean, there are other things, too, that we're going to discuss, but one of the lessons that I think people should take away from this episode of the podcast is that if you have something that you're constantly saying, "Hey, somebody should do X," then chances are, that somebody is probably yourself.
Chris: Yeah. That's right.
Marcus: Yeah. Alright, so you have now ... This is new.
Chris: It is. It's brand new to Mobile.
Chris: So there's a lot of ... That's probably the hardest part, is being able to communicate exactly what we do. Our first tour is the LoDa Stroll, so we go through the Lower Dauphin Street Historic District of Mobile. We eat at seven different restaurants. We go to different historic places and we talk about the history of Mobile. We tell stories about Mobile. We're promoting the restaurants.
Marcus: Which I think is phenomenal.
Chris: That's basically the goal of Bienville Bites Food Tour. We just want to promote Mobile the best way we can.
Chris: It's a great thing for locals to learn about ... Locals don't know all the stories of Mobile.
Chris: And it's a great thing for tourists, and the tourism industry in Mobile especially has taken off, as you know. And so, we want to be a part of that.
Marcus: Yeah. Now, it is cool to see ... We were talking a little bit before we started recording, guys like Scott Tindle, Andy Vickers, he's Scott's sidekick. Just what the mayor's doing, and bringing the cruise terminal back to life. All those things. There's a real kind of transformation taking place in the effort of trying to make Mobile a destination city, right?
Chris: There is. Yeah.
Marcus: But one of the things that's always been very difficult for me, when we have family come into town is, well, unless you're coming in the summer and you can go to the beach, what is there to do?
Marcus: Right? And the cool thing is now there are starting to become more viable options for folks that are visiting. Just recently I was in Cotton State and there was a table of people that came in, and it was quite obvious that they weren't locals. And so, I just started a conversation with them, as I'm apt to do, like, "Where are you from? Blah, blah, blah. And, by the way, have the brisket. It's delicious."
But, anyway, they said that they weren't from the area, but that their cruise had been ... What's the word?
Marcus: Had been delayed. And so, they were just taking that as an opportunity to see Mobile. There are going to be more and more people that are looking for those options, and this is a cool thing that gives them a taste. There's, what, 43, 44 different restaurants in downtown Mobile?
Chris: Yeah, it's crazy.
Marcus: It is. It's insane.
Chris: And what's even crazier is, you go to West Mobile on a Friday night and O'Charley's and Chili's, they're packed out.
Chris: We want to encourage people in West Mobile and across the bay, Eastern Shore, where you live, "Hey, come downtown." This is where we've got all these locally owned restaurants, with local produce and local food that's crawling right across the bay, in Baldwin County. Supporting these local restaurants-
Marcus: I mean, you want to talk farm-to-table, it's Von's, she's using all-gulf seafood. It's Dumbwaiter, they're doing some excellent things with farmers locally. Noble South, by all means, is using local ingredients. I'm sure a bunch of the others are, too. But, yeah.
Chris: Going back to kind of what you said, I took a cruise out of Mobile a few months ago, and every conversation I'd have with people on the cruise ship, I'd ask them, "Hey, how'd you like Mobile?" Things like that. We never had a conversation about, it never turned into, "Did you go to the Battleship?" Or, "What museum did you go to?"
It was always, "Where did you eat?" They always told me, "Oh, yeah, we ate at this great place downtown." The conversation always went to food. That's what the tourism people, I think, the tourists that are in our town, they want to know where the best restaurants are.
Chris: And so, you take our food tour, you get a sample of all the restaurants. We're going to really encourage you to, "Hey, go back to those places. What was your favorite place you went to? Go back!"
Marcus: Yeah. Alright, so getting back on track, tell us about your first job. Were there any lessons that you remember from that?
Chris: My first job, I was 19 ... That wasn't my first job, I had a few high school jobs, but ...
Marcus: Yeah, no, I mean-
Chris: My first real job, when I was 19, doing air condition work ...
Chris: I didn't have a clue, honestly. I just really didn't have a clue. I sit here, I shouldn't even be an entrepreneur, it's not in my blood, really. I mean, nobody in my family has ever owned a business. Like I said, I've never took a business class. But that's what I love about your podcast. That's what kind of also encouraged me. All these people who've been on your podcast. I can't think of anybody who ever had a business degree.
Marcus: There have been a few, but I think that's the point. The reason and I don't know if we've covered that enough. I think we covered it in the previous episode a little bit, but if you missed that one, the whole purpose behind asking where you're from, where'd you go to school, did you go to college, is because what you people should be paying attention to is, there is no formula.
Marcus: You didn't go to college. Well, guess what. Neither did Abe Harper. Okay, well maybe somebody did go to college. Maybe somebody has advanced degrees, like Stephen McNair. I mean, it just covers the gamut. It doesn't matter.
Marcus: Just stop making excuses-
Marcus: ... and get started.
Chris: And that's what encouraged me.
Marcus: Do you remember ... of course you do, because it was last weekend. Do you remember the first tour?
Chris: We had our first tour last weekend.
Marcus: What was that like? What was that experience like?
Chris: It was our friends and family tour that we had. We're trying to work the kinks out before we open things up for the public in a couple weeks, November 11th. It was challenging. I was a little bit nervous at first.
Marcus: Of course.
Chris: And then, a few minutes in, after we started, the bottom just fell out of the sky and started flooding outside.
Marcus: Yeah. Welcome to Mobile, right?
Chris: Exactly. The rainiest city in Mobile, we're going to have a walking food tour, that's ... But we provided ponchos for everyone, and nobody got soaked. The rain stopped. It was a little chilly outside, but it was great. I didn't really realize how much fun it was going to be. At the end of the day, I looked at my wife and I was like, "That was just fun." And to think, that's probably the worst food tour that we'll ever give in Mobile, was last week.
Chris: Our first one.
Chris: And so, if that was the worst experience that we'll have, I think this is going to be a lot of fun. And I think the people of Mobile are going to enjoy it. I had a lot of good reviews. There was a lot of people that are on the tour, my friends and family, that had never been to Panini Pete's downtown.
Chris: And they enjoyed it. They can't wait to go back.
Marcus: There's no doubt we have world-class eating.
Marcus: I mean, especially guys like Panini Pete. He's flying all around the world. I mean, he's on the Food Network. He's doing all kinds of stuff.
Chris: Yeah, he's all the time, yeah.
Marcus: If you were talking to someone that wanted to get started running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?
Chris: It's funny, working in a steel mill, there's a lot of people out there who have the entrepreneurial mindset. But instead, they just stay comfortable in their job. They stay comfortable up there, the steel mill or as a plumber or with their trade. That was my thing. I think you just need to get out of your comfort zone a little bit and just go for it.
Marcus: Right. No risk, no reward, kind of thing?
Chris: Take a risk. I mean, it's a risk, it really is, to put yourself out there. It's a risk. There's a lot of pressure with owning a business, you know that.
Marcus: [crosstalk 00:16:25]
Chris: And if you fail, you're failing in front of everyone.
Marcus: Right. It's fairly-
Chris: But that's awesome, I mean, really.
Marcus: It's fairly public, but also the recognition is fairly public, which is nice, too.
Marcus: But I think, over the years, I've listened to a number of people, that are much more successful than you or I, talk about hitting rock bottom and, "Okay, so I've declared bankruptcy three," not me, personally, but these people like, "Oh, I've declared bankruptcy three times." Or, what I mean, even Dave Ramsey, for instance. Multi, multimillionaire. Really successful. He's declared bankruptcy before. But there was just something in him that said, "No, I'm going to make this work. I'm going to figure it out. Let's do this."
There's something inside of the mind of an entrepreneur that just says, "I've got to give this a shot. I've got this idea. I'm going to make sure that I see it to fruition."
Chris: Yeah. I think a lot of people stay in their comfort zone, working a 8-5 or working a job that's got the good benefits, because being a business owner doesn't have the best of benefits when it comes to insurance, things like that, retirement.
Marcus: Sure. Yeah. Are there any books, podcasts you've listened to, besides this one-
Chris: Not enough, I guess.
Marcus: Yeah, exactly. People that you've been mentored by or organizations that you're a member of that have been helpful?
Chris: The biggest thing that helped me open this business, particular, when I started digging around about opening up a food tour, I came across this company called Food Tour Pros, out of Chicago. It was started by a guy who, he opened a food tour in Chicago in 2006 called Chicago Food Planet. He's turned this company into a huge ... it's got to be the largest food tour in America.
Chris: People were always coming up to him saying, "Hey, look, I'm going to start a food tour in my town, what do I need to do? Give me the steps. How have you been successful?" So, he started this company called Food Tour Pros, and that's what they do. They help people who want to open up a food tour in their town do that, and he goes through all the steps. It's a two day, three-day course in Chicago. I took that course. 400 people around the world have taken that course.
Chris: That was an invaluable experience for me, not having any experience in business before. He helped me outline everything out that I, as far as becoming an LLC and with insurance, things that I had no clue about.
Chris: As far as, obviously, this podcast, I think people always talk about GaryVee, obviously. He was a podcast that everybody listened to, and, How I Built This. I think one that I don't think I've heard mentioned on your podcast before was the EntreLeadership Podcast, by Dave Ramsey.
Chris: That one has been really a valuable resource for me. And guys like Seth Godin and Simon Sinek and John Maxwell, he has featured on that podcast. That would lead me into going to find other podcasts that they've been on. John Maxwell and their wisdom is invaluable.
Marcus: Yeah, John C. Maxwell is arguably one of the foremost thought leaders when it comes to leadership. He has a book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, that if you have not read that book, then you deserve to ... Ren's nodding in approval. If you have not read that book, then you need to go out and buy yourself a copy, because it will change your life.
And then, you mentioned a couple of others. Gary Vaynerchuk, I mean, he's really prevalent online. I mean, his message really is just what we've been talking about here, which is just get after it, do it. Get going. Gabe, from Soul Caffeine, was the one that mentioned How I Built This. When I first heard it, I was like, "Wait a second, they ripped off our idea." Because a lot of it is just finding out the story of the individual, which just goes to prove there's an interest in understanding the mindset of an entrepreneur and what their stories are. Those are all great resources.
So, you've only been running the business for a little bit, but what is the most important thing that you've learned about running a business?
Chris: Like you said, I'm a rookie at this, and so I can't believe somebody's even asking me.
Marcus: You're here, dude.
Chris: I just think about ... I'm going to go off lessons I've heard off of other people from your podcast.
Chris: Scott Tindle was pretty influential. I'll never forget the time when he told me, "You don't have to quit your job to start a business. You can start something in your free time." And that's what I did. Those things were really helpful.
I think about Jeff Roberts, the time he said, when he was on your podcast, said, "Run the worst-case scenario of what could happen." And, for me, it was, "What, I'll be out a couple thousand dollars in debt?" If this thing fails, doesn't take off, then-
Marcus: Then that's it? But what if it-
Chris: I'm out a couple thousand dollars and-
Marcus: What's the upswing?
Chris: ... and the upswing is, yeah.
Marcus: Yeah, I build a-
Chris: It's unlimited, and we're going to start other tours. We going to have other tours. We're going to have an evening time tour. We've had a lot of people who want to do a date night.
Marcus: Because a lot the restaurants aren't open-
Chris: It's going to be different restaurants. Exactly.
Marcus: Yeah, they're not open for lunch, and so you get a completely different feel when you go for dinner.
Chris: Right. And that was the complicated part about starting this was, we want to start a lunchtime tour on, it's Saturdays right now. Finding those restaurants, a lot of them are only open for dinner, but a lot of them are only open for lunch. So, we'll have different ... I think we're going to have an evening time tour coming up pretty soon. I think the sky's the limit, as far as Mobile. I mean, I can really see multiple tours that we're going to have in the next few years.
Marcus: That's cool. Well, what do you like to do in your free time?
Chris: Well, I've got three small kids. They're five and under, so they keep all ... that's a lot of my free time, is with them.
Marcus: Yeah. You guys like to go to the beach or go fishing or-
Marcus: ... go camping or any of that stuff?
Chris: Yeah. We do. We live on the water, so that's been really fun. I like to kayak in my free time, a little bit. I'm also a big football fan, of course. Roll Tide. Got to get a roll tide in there.
Marcus: Alright, let's wrap this up. So, tell people where they can find out more about Bienville Bites.
Chris: Go to BienvilleBitesFoodTour.com, the sponsor of this podcast built a really nice website you guys got to go check out. You can find us on Facebook, follow along with us. But, yeah, go buy some tickets and experience Mobile's first-ever food tour.
Marcus: So cool.
Chris: It's going to be a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun.
Marcus: So stinking cool. Yeah. I'm excited to get in on that as well. Well, Chris, I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast, dude. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
Chris: No, man, hey, I thank you. Thank you for the resources that you guys provide online. They've been valuable, also. I have to mention the Blue Fish videos that you need to go watch every week. Those have been helpful and just the way you promote Mobile also is great. I appreciate that.
Marcus: We are trying to do our part, man. Chris, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. Bet you never thought I'd say those words to you.
Chris: No, that's crazy still, even here.
Marcus: Man, it's been great talking to you.
Chris: You got it, Marcus. Thanks.