I have sold all my shares in Saddleback & Slice to Co-Owner, Matt Gillett
My letter announcing the sale. Thank you for subscribing & encouraging my writing journey!
You may have already seen the news that I have sold all of my shares in Saddleback BBQ, Slice By Saddleback, all of our properties, and the LLC’s to Co-Owner, Matt Gillett.
It’s been a long process and I have a lot of mixed feelings about the sale that I’m still trying to process. On one hand, I’m super proud of what we have achieved and that the businesses are in a place where they can be fully handed off to Matt. On the other hand, I will miss regularly interacting with all of our customers and colleagues.
Even though this process has been a long time in the making and it’s a very amicable separation, I still feel a bit of stress and anxiety about the transition. A lot of my identity was wrapped up in being the owner of a local small business that people cared about.
I feel a bit like I did after the sale of Liquid Web. The business just keeps moving forward without me. Never missing a beat. I suppose that makes me feel a bit of joy and a bit of sadness. But the only thing constant in life is change and change is what stimulates growth. Change is a necessary part of improving and getting better.
In the next few weeks, I’ll have a lot more to share about my experience owning profitable restaurants for 8+ years. But for now, here is my full letter announcing the sale to customers.
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My Letter: Matt Gillett is now the sole owner of Saddleback & Slice!
Hi from Travis, The only thing crazier than starting a restaurant may be investing in one. And my investment in Saddleback only happened because of incredible timing.
Saddleback was my first investment after selling LiquidWeb. Because of that sale, I had a non-compete that somewhat limited my ability to work for a year. So with that time, I wanted to see if I could provide a little help to the local economy by investing in small businesses that traditionally had trouble getting financed.
At this time I was also engaged to be married and my fiance Laken suggested that we hire our long time friend, Matt Gillett’s, new catering company for our wedding. It made perfect sense.
As a part of that discussion with Matt, he mentioned that his dream was bigger than the catering company and that he wished to open a restaurant. Since I was looking for investments, the timing was incredible… But I told him a few things:
This is a bad idea. Restaurants are too hard and don’t make money.
I know nothing about food or restaurants and I never want to be in the food business.
I have 3 rules of investing: No restaurants, no bars, & nothing you don’t understand.
So of course, we decided to break all the rules and make the investment.
I explained my rationale for breaking all my investment rules to Matt. We are making this investment in YOU. We want to give you a little push of support to help you chase your dream. I made it clear: we have no interest in owning a restaurant longterm. Success for the Stoliker family was defined as: Matt Gillett being a successful entrepreneur with a growing and thriving business that provides for his family, provides for the growth of his employees, and positively serves the community.
Matt Gillett has achieved all of those goals beyond my wildest dreams and that is why it is time for Matt to fully take the reins.
Saddleback’s success wasn’t due to luck, or hope, or even my investment and help. No, Matt Gillett made his own luck. He willed the success to happen. Simply put, he worked harder than anyone.
I got to see Matt work 12 hour days 14 days in a row. I saw him cover an overnight smoker shift when employees called in sick after he had already worked a 12 hour shift! I saw him drive across town in the middle of the night to bail employees out of jail. Seen him leave his own family on holidays to personally make and deliver holiday meals for other families in the community. I saw him film a promo video for Saddleback from the hospital just a moment after his 3rd child was born!
I’m not saying all of this to “glamorize hustle culture” or imply that other people don’t also make sacrifices. I’m saying it because it’s true and I witnessed it first hand. Matt lived by the motto: This will not fail. I won’t let it.
Matt and I are still close friends and the business brought us closer. We have been through incredibly difficult lows together, both personally and professionally, and we have been through the highest of highs. It’s been an incredible journey together.
Highlights for me include: Being profitable every year in existence in a notoriously unprofitable industry. Winning Best BBQ in Michigan, Small Business of the Year, & Michigan 50 Companies to watch. But Saddleback became more than just a restaurant. We were able to use it as a platform to help other local small businesses, serve people in need, educate the community, demonstrate alternative transparent pay systems, be an example for how restaurants can provide employee retirement programs, and an occasional funny post. Those were some of my personal favorites!
For the past year or more, Matt and I have built an exceptional management team and they have already taken over all of my (Travis) responsibilities. For 6 months or more, the team has done my (Travis) job better than I could have done it myself. They are the best of the best and I thank them. Our customers & employees will remain in good hands.
I want to make it clear: while I will no longer be an owner of Saddleback & Slice, my commitment to Matt Gillett, our team, and their success remains steadfast. I'm stepping back not to distance myself, but to see these ventures thrive further. This is a planned evolution. I'm always here for Matt and our team, ready to assist whenever needed.
To all small business owners: my mission is to support entrepreneurs tirelessly. You're not alone; I'm just a call or email away, always ready to lend a hand. I will continue to invest in and help any local small business owners that need help. Please reach out if you need anything.
So what is next for me?
Last year I started a newsletter and podcast called “The Year Of The Opposite” and it’s completely free.
I hope you will subscribe to my newsletter. This week I plan to share some of my favorite stories about the Saddleback journey, business lessons, how to succeed in the restaurant business, and why most restaurants fail. I’ll also be sharing my personal Thank You’s to all of you that helped make Saddleback a success. There were too many to list here.
Please consider subscribing for free to “The Year Of The Opposite Newsletter & Podcast.”
The goal of my newsletter/podcast is to share my personal stories and experiences in hopes that I might make readers a little happier and maybe even a little richer.
I know, lofty goals Mr. Stoliker!
Well, no one ever said that I lacked confidence. ;)
Former Co-Owner of Saddleback
Owner of “Year Of The Opposite”
— Letter from Matt Gillett —
In July of 2014, I went through the process of founding Saddleback Barbecue. Early spring of 2015, I brought on Travis Stoliker as my business partner and we opened one the best restaurants in the Lansing Area, Saddleback Barbecue. I am mixed with emotion to bring the news that as of 12/27/2023, I will be Sole owner of Saddleback Barbecue and Slice by Saddleback.
Travis has taught me so much and supported me through this journey and for that I can never thank him enough. Together we have started four restaurants, two concession stands at the Breslin Center and Spartan Stadium, have a successful retail product line, and one of the best catering companies in the area. Our web presence is unmatched and because of it we have grown to be a household brand in the Lansing Area. Both of which I would credit Travis. Words such as, systems, processes, scale and communication are constantly brought up at Saddleback. Travis is the one who really showed the importance of those in a small business.
As we move forward Saddleback will continue to focus on being a leader in the industry. Our Mission is to strive for culinary excellence by embracing hard work, teamwork and a relentless commitment to improve. We want to push the boundaries of food and service where others won't. I am very excited for this next step and can't wait to show everyone what is to come.
I want to thank Travis for all of his time, dedication and hard work that he has shown Saddleback. I don't think there is a piece of the company that he has not impacted positively in some way.
From all present and past Saddleback personnel, Thank You Travis! Saddleback wouldn't be what it is today without you.