For Matt Groark, it’s all about giving back.
"I always have, always will," he says. "People who know me know it's what I'm all about."
A health and physical education teacher at Washington Township High School, Groark is also the owner of a small business - Groark Boys BBQ, which he officially kicked off with a fundraiser at Washington Township in September 2018. Over the past 20 months he's cooked up pulled pork, brisket, mac and cheese and more, giving back over $30,000 to a host of charities and community organizations.
With his ever-growing popularity on social media, Groark now finds himself in position to do even more.
On Friday, Sam’s Club kicked off an initiative in response to the coronavirus crisis to help small business stay afloat and continue to give back. It gave $1 million to Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to support their efforts. Groark received a $10,000 grant and was able to tell part of his story on Good Morning America.
“The main thing is to enhance and continue doing what I’m doing with the business and in the community. The money is going back into the community,” said Groark, who encourages other businesses to apply for the grant. "This is an incredible opportunity. The good things that I do are not possible without the support of my community and people as a whole.
"Without the community, Groark Boys is not a business."
A Sam’s Club member well before starting his business, Groark buys 98 percent of everything he needs from the wholesale company. A few weeks ago, he was cooking for Food4Staff and went live on TikTok. It was nothing out of the ordinary, just letting followers know what kind of food he was preparing and the mission behind Food4Staff.
Sam's Club was watching and things just took off from there.
"I never tagged them or tried to get their attention," Groark said. "I'm live one day and Sam's Club popped up with the little blue check mark. So I talked to them, thanked them for popping in and that I was one of their best customers. I opened the smoker and showed the food, told them it was Sam's brisket.
"I told them to give me a call, let's doing something. A couple of days later, a marketing guy for Sam's sent me an email to work together on TikTok. Everyone has this stigma that TikTok is for teens; it's girls and dancing. It's not. It's very quickly growing into a marketing hook for big business. Opportunities are there and it's something to capitalize on from a business standpoint."
From that initial conversation, Groark found himself in meetings with Sam’s Club marketing representatives in charge of national campaigns.
“They were looking for some small businesses. It wasn’t about giving back, but how small businesses were surviving,” he said. “I talked to them about my business, about Food4Staff and they loved it.”
Groark Boys BBQ was ultimately one of four small businesses under consideration for its national campaign. A Zoom call with the corporate office and Sam’s decided to use it as its lead business.Sam's Club✔@SamsClub
We’re proud to announce our partnership with @lisc_hq and are giving $1 million to support small businesses across the nation like @groarkboysbbq. Join us at http://samsclub.com/smallbusiness to give or get support for businesses in your community.
“The next thing I know, a woman talked to me about the campaign. She asked if it was OK if they shared my story with Good Morning America and Access Hollywood,” he added. "I was like, ‘absolutely.’ There were meetings, I had to send videos and pictures. I told them my story. I shared everything with them. It all happened within a week.
"It came out great and there's been an overwhelming amount of support. It's been amazing. I've been getting phone calls from numbers across the country and there's been so much positivity. Calls saying thank you, calls asking if I ship my barbecue. A lot has come of it and it's been really cool, and it all stemmed from a loyal TikTok account."
That account has grown from roughly 5,000 followers in September to over 256,000 today.
Initially, Groark was just cooking barbecue in the backyard for friends and family. He'd hear the occasional comments - 'You should sell this.' He did it just because he loved to cook.
"Then it started to become a passion," he said.
What all started on Instagram, where he did cooking videos and came to find a huge food community, has exceeded any expectations when he decided to turn that passion into a business.
"My mission from the beginning was to give back because of the way people have supported and given back to my family. Any financial gain stems from that," Groark says.
“I work pretty firmly based on a quote I read - ‘Provide more in value than you take in payments.’ My value is providing food but also some hope and inspiration to the community. That’s more important to me than any money I’d ever get paid.”
Groark said he'd love to do fundraisers with other small businesses in Washington Township. One is in the works to help Mother's Cupboard.
“I owe so much to the community for getting behind me,” he said. “First and foremost, it’s about who I can help. That’s why I’ve had so much success.”