I had the opportunity to send off some questions to Chris Mauricio founder of Cooking Weapons a local cookware business based out of Temecula, CA. I think his insight is valuable to anyone following their passion and starting a new venture.
What drove you to start Cooking Weapons?
In October of 2011 I was getting ready to use my grandmother’s cast iron pan on the grill and I knocked a skull and Crossbones magnet from an artist friend off the wire molding shelf. I picked it up and stuck it on the cast iron pan just for fun and a light bulb went off above my head .. I texted a picture of it to my long time buddy Mike Petty and told him I could totally make and sell pans with skulls on it. He asked me how much money I needed to start the company. That’s the moment we became business partners and we started Cooking Weapons, Inc.
What led to your decision to start a small niche business?
I’ve always wanted to work for myself. I have run a small computer and networking business for the last 8 years and I was looking for a new challenge. It was just a Right place/Right time kind of moment. Honestly, I’ve been out in the wild so long I’m like Tarzan.. you can take me to England and put shoes on me but I wouldn’t know how to behave in a civilized workplace environment anymore. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t run my own business.
What have been some of the challenges and rewards of operating a small business?
Boy- that’s a good one. I would classify myself as a Type A personality with adult ADD. I’ve had to learn to let go of a lot of things. For example there are design limitations of sand casting iron that has taught me to accept variations in the castings. I’ve also had to embrace the fact that I just can’t spend 3 hours in Office Depot picking the exact perfect kind of paper for warranty cards.. being the CEO/President of a small 2 man company means you wear a LOT of hats.. In reality I am the sales droid, warehouse ninja, midnight web guy, marketing and branding maven, Facebook ambassador, failed twitterer, delivery guy and t-shirt chooser. I think in a small company like ours, those are the roles of a ‘CEO’. The fun is getting to be all those things, learning what works and what doesn’t, learning to accept that you make mistakes and you screw up and you just gotta get back up and keep going. The really fun part is seeing an idea, a dream become reality, to hold something in your hands that you thought up in your head. It’s also great when you see other people enjoying something you created, seeing their excitement.
What are your plans moving forward over the next couple of years?
Obviously, we’d like to add more designs on our pans, then add lids, a bacon press, that kind of thing. Long run, we’re out to become the big gorilla in the ‘Cookwear and grilling industry for the men’s Market. Cooking is still a gender-biased industry. Cookwear is marketed to and sold in stores that are primarily geared for women. Nordstroms, kitchen stores, womens magazines… you get the idea. So you have this entire market for women, with a small subset towards professional chefs regardless of gender, then a huge gap to the right with grills and grill accessories at the far end aimed at men. Nothing else in between.. Men typically don’t go pan shopping. Usually they grab something from the kitchen that their wife said they can have or they use their camping stuff. Or maybe it’s a hand me down cast iron pan that does double duty. Most of our ‘cooking’ takes place on a grill outdoors, but we lack gear other than a grill and some tongs. I want to make it cool for guys to buy and have their own set of cookwear. Skulls, Von Dutch style flames, maybe your favorite sports team logo, all American made, quality, heavy duty, man-gear for grilling and cooking. We want to do it all. Pans, pots, knives, tongs, grills, grill accessories, BBQ sauces, dry rubs, smokers.. the whole pig, know what I mean? I want Cooking Weapons, Inc. to have the same level of recognition as say, Harley Davidson. I want your Cooking Weapon to complement and look great being used on that $20,000 outdoor grill and wet bar with real palapas and 50” LED TV that you had built next to the pool to entertain your buddies with. Damn it’s sad to see a guy using a beat up aluminum pot his wife let him have to heat beans in on that grill.
Are there other companies / people that inspire / drive you?
I’m a huge fan of Fast N’ Loud, Duck Dynasty, Deadliest Catch and especially that one guy, Parker Schnable of Gold Rush- I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone work harder and with more enthusiasm in my life. He RUNS everywhere. I like the fact that he bets on himself and although he’s had some setbacks, he just grins and keeps at it. I could do a lot worse than learning work ethics from him. My business partner, Mike Petty is really good at keeping me sane and on track. Never underestimate the power of a really good business partner. I have another longtime friend and mentor, Kevin Robertson, who I bounce ideas off of and use as my go to for business strategy.
Biggest learning experience as a business owner to date?
That would be: “You don’t have enough startup capital.” followed by “You still don’t have enough startup capital.” but don’t let that deter you. Sometimes all you have is time, energy and determination and that is just as important as capital.
Best and worst thing about following your passion?
The best would be the support from all our friends and families. It’s amazing how much your people want to see you succeed. I don’t have a worst, honestly.
Favorite dish or ingredient to make?
I do a flame seared lamb drizzled with lime juice, garlic, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, served with caramelized onions and portabella mushrooms. A Greek salad, some red wine.. I get asked to make this all the time by friends who swear they don’t like lamb.
Parting words, thoughts, insights….
Warren Miller about learning to ski: “If you don’t do it this year, you will be one year older when you do.“