Part 1. Making an impact
Historically, men have dominated the world of barbecue. But the times they are a-changin’! Today, more and more women in BBQ are running the show – in the kitchen, behind the pits, and at the manager’s desk.
Smokey Mo’s BBQ, which operates restaurants throughout central Texas, is highly supportive of women in leadership positions. “We didn’t set out to create a women-led company, but over time, women have readily emerged as general managers and store managers,” says Kim Harris, chief financial officer at Smokey Mo’s. “We value hard work and excellent performance, and our female leaders have rapidly risen to the top of their field based on merit.”
For Shari Saldivar, co-owner of Smokey Mo’s Stone Oak store, it’s all about family.
“The most important part of most people’s lives is family. We have our home family, our work family, and an amazing community that we also consider family. Most of our guests return because not only do we feed them fresh, tasty barbeque, but also we get to know their families and build genuine relationships.”
Shari got her start in barbeque at the age of 21. She began as a cashier and advanced to administration, training, and then management.
She moved to San Antonio in 2014 to open the Stone Oak store with her husband, John, brother-in-law Bobby, and sister-in-law, Lesleigh. Together, they have worked in the barbeque business for more than 20 years. “I find ways to continue to learn every day.”
The Saldivars knew Smokey Mo’s founder Morris Melchor. When given the opportunity to open a store, “we decided it was a journey we wanted to take.”
Today, balancing the demands of the job with raising a family is a delicate effort. Shari’s morning begins with getting her four children ready for school. At 8:30am, she joins her team at Smokey Mo’s. She prepares group packages and takes deliveries to local businesses, including much of the medical community in the Stone Oak area. Typically, her day ends around 5 p.m. when she leaves to pick up her children from school and after-school activities.
“I wake up every day knowing that I have an opportunity to make an impact. Having rewarding guest interactions and building a team that works well together is a huge part of my personal mission.”
Katrina Human, general manager at Smokey Mo’s Evans Crossing location, started working while still in high school.
One of her courses offered credits for real-world job experience. At the advice of her teacher, she explored an internship at Smokey Mo’s. She started with the family-friendly BBQ business back in 2015 and the rest is history. “I fell in love with the company and the owners – and never looked back!’”
Katrina’s total years on the job now number six, including four years in management. She spent two years at the Spring Branch location and three years at Boerne before moving to the Evans Crossing store.
“Everything I know I learned on the job. I’ve also taken extra classes through the years to improve my management skills. I like proving to myself that I can do whatever I set my mind to.”
Her greatest strength? Relationship building. “I can get along with anyone.”
Her advice to women entering a male-dominated profession? “The BBQ smokers aren’t for men only. Don’t let anyone say you can’t do something. Prove them wrong – with a big smile on your face.”
Jackie Felps is a wonderful example of doing what it takes.
Jackie began as a store manager at Smokey’s Spring Branch restaurant, started out as a cashier and moved on to “back-of-house” and “front-of-house positions” at three different Smokey’s locations. Management was impressed with her tenacity and promoted her in March 2018.
“I never planned on getting as far as I’ve gotten,” Jackie says. “Over time, I realized this is what I really want to do. I’m passionate about my work. I want our customers to have the best experience they can with us.”
Smokey Mo’s BBQ is proud to be a place where women in BBQ can change the industry and make an impact every day.