Business Owner: Cameron Treu
Business:: Bam Bams BBQ
Location: Orem, Utah
When we met Cameron, he was standing with (and dwarfing) members of the BYU Athletics staff in the dining room of Bam Bam’s BBQ in Orem, Utah. He is a giant of a man. You can tell by watching him interact with his customers—many of whom he knows by name—that he loves what he does and that as a business owner, their happiness is his highest priority.
About 5 years ago, while flipping between hockey playoff games, Cameron stumbled upon the premiere episode of Barbecue Pit Masters on TLC. Something struck a chord immediately. He went out that cold February night, bought a smoker and even though there was about a foot of snow on the ground, started experimenting. Just a year-and-a-half later, Cameron entered his first pro BBQ competition on a free raffle entry he’d won from the Arizona BBQ Association. He ended up taking 1st place in pork, 3rd in brisket and 5th place overall, beating some of the best BBQ cooks in the country—including 2 that had been featured on the TLC show he saw. After he did it again 2 weeks later, he decided to dive in.
Stoking the Flame
Cameron sold his share of the marketing business he owned with his best friend and started competing around the country. And although he picked up some sponsors along the way, taught BBQ classes and sold food from his driveway, he calls that time, “the scariest year-and-a-half ever financially.” Then, out of nowhere, Cameron got what he calls his winning lottery ticket: A famous BBQ pit boss from Austin called and offered to him a five-month apprenticeship where Cameron learned everything he needed to know to bring this “old-shack-in-Texas, eclectic-Americana-cuisine feel” back here to Utah. With $40,000 he literally built Bam Bams BBQ himself—found old smokers and fixed them up; found old warmers and fixed them up; built the tables and laid the floor himself. “It was slow, but we just dove in.”
Bam Bam’s Biggest Win
Without the slightest hesitation Cameron answered, “What has been your biggest win as a business owner?” with,“ Just how many happy customers that I have. I mean, by far the best part of my job is to watch how much people enjoy eating the food. Like, by far! And I think if that’s what drives you in your business, the money will come, you know, the success will come.”
“The biggest thing that I see that bothers me more than anything is everybody has a good idea. Everybody. But 90% of them are just too big of pansies to just do it. I left my wife and 2 kids at home for 5 months. I mean there was one week I literally had 7 dollars in my bank account and I was in Mesquite, Nevada at a BBQ competition, there’s no money coming in for 2 weeks. Had I not won any prize money in that competition, my BBQ career would have been over. I won $10,500 on a Saturday, but that would never have happened had I not risked it. So, you’ll regret it. Just jump in. Why not?”