Allen Clark stands with items that he uses in his "Low Country Boil in a Box." Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Allen Clark is a man of passion. It’s evident the moment he begins to speak. He beams when talking about his family, his job and, most recently, the launching of a part-time business.
Clark, of Cleveland, Tenn., founded Low Country Boil in a Box, a catering business with a single product.
Having pitched his business idea to a group of business professionals participating in a CreateHere 48-Hour Launch, Clark was encouraged by the positive feedback. These start-up summits are designed to help people launch sustainable businesses that promote the development of local economies.
Clark’s concept is simple: For $30, you get delivered to your doorstep the ingredients for a Low Country boil dinner for four. All you need to provide is boiling water. The idea of Low Country Boil in a Box came to him one night while reading “No More Mondays” by Dan Miller.
Since then, he said, it’s been full speed ahead.
Q: What made you think of selling and delivering a meal in a box?
A: I’ve been making Low Country boils for about eight years. The first one I made was for my own engagement party. I realized that it’s a quick, easy meal to make, and it’s a recipe that people can find something they like in it. Cooking a Low Country boil is also a social experience. People stand around the pot and talk while it’s cooking. Then, when it’s ready, you just dump it out and everyone eats. Since I enjoyed it, I thought I could make some money doing it for other people.
Q: What response are you getting from the public?
A: It has been incredible. The reason? The food is good. I tweaked a standard Low Country boil recipe to what I consider to be good. I also wanted to create a consistent product, so that when people ordered it again, they’d know what they would be getting. After about seven years of cooking it, I’ve got it down to a science. I can work the ratio so that it will taste the same if I’m cooking for four or 40. In addition to delivering it to people’s front doors, I also cook on-site for parties, events, etc.
- Age: 39.
- Profession: Disability specialist at Unum; owner of Low Country Boil in a Box.
- Family: Wife Shannon; daughter Maeve, 4; son Spencer, 2
- Education: Bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Wesleyan, Master of Business from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
- Book: “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.
- Movie: “Animal House.”
- Music: “I don’t really listen to music. I listen to business podcasts.”
SOMETHING THAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?
“I met my wife in kindergarten.”
Q: What’s in the box, and how is it prepared?
A: A Low Country boil includes corn cobs, red potatoes, kielbasa sausage and shrimp. It’s packaged in three sealed bags. Bag A contains potatoes and the first round of spices. Bag B contains the corn, shrimp and sausages. Bag C is extra spices. I added the third bag for people who want extra spice and heat. Boil about three quarts of water in an eight-quart soup pot. When the water reaches its first boil, empty Bag A. Cook 15 minutes, then empty Bag B. Cook 15 minutes and add however much spice you desire out of Bag C. The meal will be ready in seven minutes. It is important to remember that when you empty the bag to stand back in case there’s a splash.
Q: Did you think you would be working in a food-oriented business?
A: No, but I have always loved to cook, and my first job was washing dishes. I also worked at a company in the corporate food division. While I was in the master’s program, though, I was ready for a change and started working at Unum.
Q: Since you have your full-time job at Unum and your part-time business on the side, do you have time for fun?
A: I enjoy both my jobs, but I don’t have much time downtime. I used to read one nonfiction book a month, and I haven’t done that in more than a year. The only books I read now are business books. I do, though, have time to read to my children. We have reading time every night before they go to bed.
Q: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
A: I would love for my business plan to have flourished. In 2012, I’ll see what it looks like and if it’s benefiting my family. I’d like to be a business owner because it would give me freedom and flexibility.
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...