Manning’s Hometown BBQ is more than mouthwatering food that customers rave about; for owner Derek Manning, it’s a legacy.

“I want to leave something for my kids,” the father of three expressed. “That’s important to me.”

Manning’s mother passed away when he was just 4-years-old. He is inspired by memories of his father working hard to raise him and his siblings.

“I learned from watching him cook,” Manning said. “About 20 years ago, I started experimenting on the grill for myself.”

Manning developed a BBQ that is coveted for its tenderness and flavor.

Although his father cooked, providing for the family as a single-parent by working two jobs sometimes meant there was little food in the house.
Manning said this has driven him to open his business.

“I want my kids to never see some of the things I saw,” he said. “I wanted to get into business so my kids never go hungry.

Manning’s business journey started 15 years ago when he began selling dinners out of his house, and he was encouraged with the response.

“People just loved it,” he laughed.

He began to set his sights on a food truck. Manning built up his credit and began inquiring at local banks about small business loans. It was a loan officer at Chemical Bank that directed him to GROW.

He worked closely with the business development officers at GROW to evolve his business plan and expand his skills through GROW programming.

“I did a lot of hard work,” he expressed. “I never gave up. It was all worth it.”

After all of that work, Manning received a micro-loan from GROW to purchase a 35-foot BBQ trailer.

“It is so eye-catching and beautiful,” Manning beamed. “People always ask me how I got it, and then I tell them about how GROW really helped me.”

A self-described people-person, Manning’s enthusiasm is contagious. At his 50th birthday party, which he hosted at a local park (complete with social distancing and face masks) his bright red and chrome BBQ trailer was the star of the show. While community members enjoyed live music and lined up at the trailer for free BBQ, Manning spread his arms wide and said, “This is what it’s about.

Manning has plans to bring his business statewide, and eventually, across the Midwest. As for his other hopes for the future?

“I want to stay happy doing it,” he smiled. “I want it to always be fun.”