Small businesses are important to communities and running a business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!
Ask Duane Boring to describe his product Buff Lo Dip and his eyes light up. “It has the taste of dipping buffalo chicken wings in ranch dressing, just minus the chicken,” he says with a smile.
Good served hot or cold, this locally made dip can be used on or with almost anything. In fact, he names a long list of items his customers use it on as a condiment including hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, baked potatoes and sloppy joes to name a few. It’s also commonly used on pizza, as a dip for chips, chicken nuggets and vegetables. “People get pretty creative with it sometimes,” he said.
Buff Lo dip – and yes, that’s the spelling – buffalo without the ‘A’, was born out of necessity in Duane’s home kitchen. “Years ago, there was a fast food restaurant that offered a similar sauce for dipping their chicken nuggets. I loved that stuff and had it at least a couple of times a week but they discontinued it,” he explained.
Since no one was selling anything like it, he decided to make his own for dipping those fast food nuggets. “No one was selling it so I got up one Saturday morning and started pulling things out of the cupboards. I started mixing things up and wrote down the measurements each time so I would remember how to repeat it. And you know something? What I came up with was better than what they had in the first place!”
When his family liked the product, he packaged up samples to take to church. “I went to church with bags of eight ounce sample cups for a couple of weeks and asked people to try it. After a while, people were meeting me at the door wanting more. They wanted it for all kinds of things. They were putting it on sandwiches, pizza, all kinds of things. I just made it for my chicken nuggets!”
When requests to purchase the dip started to come in, he knew he had something special. So he began the year and half long journey to start his business and to learn the legalities of producing, selling and distributing food.
When he rolled out his Buff Lo Dip at McArthur Super Valu on July 11, 2011, that first order of 234 jars sold out in two days.
Today he has his own kitchen facility and distributes in thirteen states, thanks to Rural King. But he has a stronghold in gas stations, local groceries and other stores throughout southeast Ohio, Cincinnati, Columbus, Kentucky and West Virginia.
The former insurance agent oversees all aspects of his family business including production, marketing and working with distributors. His company van now has over 300,000 miles on it as he crisscrosses the country introducing new audiences to Buff Lo Dip at expos, trade shows and events. From a chicken wing festival in Memphis to the Holiday Market in Cincinnati and hunting and fishing expos everywhere in between, it seems that Duane has left no rock unturned as he works to grow sales.
He credits the partnership with Rural King for helping the business grow into new markets including Florida, Tennessee, Alabama and Missouri. “It’s great when you’re working a show and you’re able to tell someone who just said they love your dip that they can buy it a Rural King in their own community,” he said.
They can also ship to anywhere in the United States.
However, Buff Lo Dip isn’t just about making money. He is all about giving back and offers a fundraising program for non-profits. One example of fundraising success is the work he does with Future Farmers of America (FFA). “I like working with FFA and last year was our biggest fundraising year with them,” he said.
As he talks about the business, he shares a good bit of wisdom that can be applied, not just to business but to all aspects of life. “Listen to everyone’s advice and use some of it because everyone in the world will tell you what to do. You have to listen, decipher and take from it what will work for you.”
He has another sound piece of advice regarding getting what you want. “My son has asked how I keep getting into different stores. I tell him that I walk in with a jar of dip, a business card and a smile on my face. What do I have to lose by asking? If I don’t ask, the answer will always be no. Why not give it a shot? The worst that will happen is they’ll keep my sample jar and not order anything,” he said.
The Vinton County native said that his wife Trish and three kids Zac, Levi and Amanda have been supportive of the business and all have played different roles in making it successful. “It’s not a huge company. We’re not millionaires or anything like that but I like what I’m doing and that’s more important than making a lot of money at a job you hate.”