Monique and Chevalo Wilsondebriano have long heard success stories about other people starting their own businesses and couldn’t imagine it happening to them. But last month, after years of being doubted and turned away, the South Carolina husband and wife were pinching themselves following Charleston Gourmet Burger Co.’s stellar showing on QVC.
“We were just talking on the way home,” Monique said a day after their successful QVC appearance on Thursday, July 27. “I looked over at Chevalo and said, ‘It is so incredible that we got to this point because so many pieces had to align for us to get here.’ There were times when … we got all the pieces of the puzzle together and something will break off … So now, finally we have all these pieces fitting together perfectly.”
The company was initially launched as a bottled burger marinade business and since being picked up by Lowe’s, Walmart and Kroger within the last year and a half, it has now expanded to include an innovative microwaveable burger, which was Chevalo’s original idea for the company.
The hearth-baked bun-wrapped cheeseburger, which is ready to eat from frozen in a minute and 20 seconds, is sold exclusively on QVC and was promoted on “Gourmet Holiday” after the couple finally broke through to the shopping channel’s executives. The burger is marinated in the Wilsondebriano’s signature blend of molasses, tomatoes, garlic, cloves and other Low Country ingredients. Within the first half of their appearance, they’d sold 300 of 1200 premium chopped beef steak burgers and were completely sold out by the end of the 10-minute segment.
The positive feedback was immediate following their appearance.
“Our representative was holding back tears because she was like, ‘You guys sold out on air and that’s something that rarely happens there on QVC,'” Chevalo recalled. “A product may sell out hours after or sometime after, but you sold out within your allotted time and that was a big deal.”
Support poured out on social media, too, and the parents of four have hardly been able to sort through their notifications. Even family, like Monique’s sister, couldn’t score a 12-pack of burgers, which is now available to order on QVC’s website for $55.46 — if you sign up for the waiting list.
However, the road to get here wasn’t a walk in the park. It’s been five years since Monique and Chevalo started selling their marinated burgers at farmers markets with their BBQ grill in tow. Today, their marinade and sauce are distributed in more than 700 Krogers and 900 Lowe’s stores nationwide.
“Almost every one of our stores [we’re now] in, we were told ‘No’ before we were told ‘Yes,’ and a lot of times, we were told ‘No’ not in a nice way,” Monique said of how their journey began. “People laughed at us when we first got started. People laughed at us and they thought this was the stupidest idea they had ever heard.”
And while running a business as a couple can be a challenge, the Wilsondebrianos know they can always lean on each other for support.
“When we see things differently, we both [still] have the common goal to build a business and to be successful, and that goes through all aspects of our life,” Chevalo said. “In raising the children … all of that is a compromise. But to realize that if we both have the same goal, [which is] to be the best at doing something … the end goal is going to be fantastic.”
But the end goal is far from realized. Charleston Gourmet has a flurry of products in development for the next few months, including new microwaveable burgers exclusive to QVC. A bacon cheeseburger, double cheeseburger, double bacon burger and a smoked brisket burger topped with pulled pork are slated for release soon. The oft-requested turkey and veggie burgers are currently being perfected.
For all of their current success, Monique has something she wants all hopeful business owners to know.
“Just don’t give up,” she said. “That would be my one thing for people: just don’t give up.”