We had the good fortune of connecting with Christie Vanover and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Christie, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Honestly, I didn’t realize at first that I was creating a business. I used to cater for friends and family, and they would ask me for the recipes. In 2010, I started a blog at Zestuous.com. This allowed me to catalog my recipes and provide them quickly to anyone interested.
In 2015 as I started to fall in love with grilling, I launched a new website, GirlsCanGrill.com, that included recipes that were primarily cooked on a grill or smoker. Within the first year, grill companies started reaching out to me, asking me to review or use their products. And soon after that, my site grew enough in popularity that I was able to monetize it with ads.
That’s when I realized that I had created a business. Fortunately, I had a full-time job, as well. So I worked through the kinks of developing and running a small business until it was profitable. In April 2022, I was able to leave my other job, so I can now operate Girls Can Girll full time.
What should our readers know about your business?
Personally, I didn’t start grilling until I was an adult, and I had a hard time finding resources to help me learn the process. I wanted to create a platform to fill that void. So in 2015, I established Girls Can Grill to teach other people how to grill.
My background is in public relations. I have both a master’s and bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, and I have managed PR for corporations and federal agencies like the Army, Air Force and National Park Service. I have also worked for multiple news affiliates.
Those experiences provided me with a tremendous advantage, because behind the scenes, I had writing, photography, video and marketing skills that are so important for any business today.
As I learned to grill and became really passionate about it, I took my communications tools and started developing recipes and product reviews and publishing them online and via multiple social media platforms, until my business grew.
Eventually, I became a competitive pitmaster, which is what I think sets me apart from other similar online grilling platforms. And I’m most proud of my nationally distributed rub line sold through Spiceology and my recent championship titles. I’m a 2022 California State BBQ Champion and a 2021 Nevada State BBQ Champion.
One of the biggest challenges with growing Girls Can Grill was balancing this business with my full-time job and my family. I worked a lot of late nights and weekends to grow the brand. But in seven years, I reached a point where my husband and I were comfortable with me transitioning to my business full time.
And honestly, the timing was perfect. During the pandemic, a lot of people became inspired to launch their own businesses focused on their passions, including several new online grilling platforms. Now that I am devoted to Girls Can Grill full time, I have already started launching new BBQ tips, recipes and grilling lessons to further help all the future pitmasters out there.
The one thing that I want the world to know about my story is that dreams do come true if you are willing to put in the work. A lot of people tell me that I’m lucky to have a business based on my passion. It wasn’t really luck.
I’ve spent hours learning and researching both the ins and outs of grilling and how to successfully brand and market an online business. And I followed a strategic course of managing my finances, so I had the financial freedom to step away from a full-time job.
It truly is a dream come true, and I do feel blessed that I’m living my best life, but getting here took determination, sacrifice and a strong support system. I believe that anyone out there who is willing to put in that commitment can also forge their path to create a business around their passion.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Las Vegas, so there is always something to see and do here. But as a former park ranger, my love is off the strip. There are so many beautiful natural places to visit nearby.
The visit would start with dinner at Echo & Rig, and after the meal, we’d pick out some great meats from their butcher shop. The next morning, we’d hang out in the backyard and fire up the grills and smokers to prepare some meals for the week. Then, we’d freshen up and hit the strip for a show – most likely a Cirque du Soliel production.
The next day, we’d take a kayak trip down the Black Canyon, launching at the base of the Hoover Dam. We’d pull out some of our grilled tri-tip sandwiches to enjoy on the beach before hiking to the Arizona Hot Springs. Then, we’d grab dinner and drinks in Boulder City at The Tap.
To take a break from the sun and heat, the following day would include a couple escape rooms at Escapeology, followed by axe throwing at Axe Monkeys and an instagram-worthy, off-strip meal at Truffles N Bacon Café.
For the final day, we’d hit the hiking trails with our smoked pulled turkey wraps and either explore Red Rock Canyon or Mount Charleston. Then, we’d head back home and whip up some margaritas and tacos with any leftover BBQ we had left.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are a few people who deserve shoutouts for helping Girls Can Grill become what it is today.
First and foremost, I wouldn’t be here without my husband, David. He has supported this dream from the beginning, even when neither of us really knew where it would go or what it would become. And he’s always honest with me. If a recipe isn’t awesome, he’ll let me know, which I appreciate so much, because I want to create the best content I can for the GCG community.
I also have to thank my friend Kita Roberts. She runs a similar business, and in fact we’re direct competitors. However, we’re a team. If she learns something that can help our businesses, she shares it and vice versa. She is also my constant cheerleader – or my “huckleberry” as she likes to say. She’s always looking out for me both professionally and personally. You truly can’t ask for a better friend.
Lastly, I have to thank my parents and in-laws. Running a grilling website and traveling around the country to cook meat in a parking lot is a pretty random job. But they’ve always had confidence in me and even travel with me to competitions to lend a helping hand.