Mount Airy resident Austin Payne says he was never “book-smart” in school. However, while Payne’s classmates were concerning themselves with athletics and dates to the school dance, Payne was working tirelessly to build a business.
Payne said he first got the idea to start a business that markets his BBQ sauce in his preteen years. At a backyard BBQ, Payne did the cooking. When everyone sat down to eat, there was a general consensus — that the sauce concocted by the young man was the best the gathering had ever tasted.
Payne said it was then that he knew his destiny in life was to make BBQ sauce. Of course, the recipe from that backyard cookout isn’t what folks taste from a bottle of “Austin’s BBC Sauce” today. It took Payne a couple of years of time in the kitchen to produce what he hopes will be his recipe for success.
At the age of 16, Payne took his first orders for sauce. He then hired a company to manufacture a pallet of Austin’s BBQ sauce. Payne said that the pallet was gone within days of its arrival. Payne said the reason for that first quick sale is simple — Austin’s BBQ Sauce is the best on the market.
“I make a sauce that stands well above the taste of any other name brand,” said Payne, adding that his product is much better than large national brands such as Kraft or Sweet Baby Ray’s.
Payne started life a little behind the eight ball. “The doctors said I wasn’t supposed to live,” said Payne, referencing a childhood medical disorder which he continues to overcome on a daily basis.
At two months old Payne’s mother noticed something wasn’t quite right with her child. After consulting physician’s Payne’s family learned that he had Vein of Galen Malformation, a rare childhood disorder that is often fatal. In short, the disorder is a malformation of a vein in the brain.
The malformation results in increased blood-flow that puts undue stress on the heart, often leading to congestive heart failure in infants. The disorder often also leads to subsequent neurological problems. Payne had to undergo surgery within months of identifying the malformation.
However, Payne’s plight with the extremely uncommon condition didn’t end during his infancy. Instead, the young man has had a multitude of surgeries throughout his years. “As I grew, they had to redo it (the procedure),” explained Payne. Payne said that doctors called him a “miracle.”
According to Payne the malformation did play a significant role in his life. For instance, playing football or other athletics wasn’t an option. Additionally, Payne said that he missed a significant amount of school due to the ongoing procedures. However, Payne didn’t let the little-known syndrome keep him down. Instead, he focused on becoming what he has always wanted to be — “a successful business man.”
After launching his business with that first pallet of sauce, Payne became well-known among the students and staff at Mount Airy High School. That stated, Payne said his lack of “book-smarts” resulted in some level of a lack of self-confidence. Payne said he often retreated from classrooms quickly after the bell rang, hoping to sneak out the door with little to no contact with fellow students.
“Then one day a teacher stopped me,” said Payne, “He said, Austin, you should be proud. You are really doing something with your life. You have a business. None of these other students can say that.” Payne said that teacher also told him, “you’re going somewhere in life.”
Since then Payne has been tirelessly marketing his product, hoping to see that teacher proved correct. Payne, who also holds a full-time job, said he’s just waiting for “that one big break.” Payne said he spends hours a week attempting to market his product for sale on a national or larger regional scale.
In the meantime, though, Payne’s BBQ sauce isn’t exactly doing poorly. Currently, his product is being sold in Lowe’s Foods locations in Mount Airy, King, Winston-Salem and Stuart, Virginia. His product is also on shelves at Just Save locations in Pilot Mountain, North Wilkesboro, and Dobson. Smaller stores such as D & J Galaxy in Booneville and Mount Airy and the Mount Airy Meat Center.
With Payne’s product expanding, he said that he is even looking to make an addition to his staff of one. Payne said that he can’t handle the “demos and marketing” of his product on his own any longer. He’s now looking for a little part-time help to get the word out about his product.
Payne said that he doesn’t have a lot of time for leisure activities or hobbies. For now, between working a full-time job and trying to market his product, Payne is just tied-up. However, he says that once he gets that “one big break” all the hard work will pay off.
One day, Payne says that Austin’s BBQ will grace the menu at backyard BBQs across the nation. “Once you taste it, it’ll be the only sauce you ever use,” exclaimed Payne.
Andy Winemiller is a staff writer for the Mount Airy News. Andy can be reached at (336) 415-4698 or [email protected]