Interview with Gerben Bierbooms: CEO of GRLLR and BBQ enthusiast


Meet Gerben Bierbooms, the CEO and the mastermind behind GRLLR!

For this short interview, I sat down with him to talk about his passion for BBQing, how GRLLR started and where it is going. Tune in to find out more about GRLLR’s mission directly from its founder!

Hey Gerben, first of all, could you tell me a bit about yourself?

Yes, of course. I am 36 years old and I have been an entrepreneur for basically my entire life. I always had a trading and entrepreneurial spirit, so after my studies, I’ve put all the fun stuff aside. Then, I found an entrepreneur in Rotterdam with whom I started my first business. Back then, I launched a company in the event industry, which I sold later on. I made many mistakes as a young entrepreneur and I’ve seen it all: success and failure. Seven years ago I invested in BarrelQ, the oil barrel barbecue, which got me in this business. Now, I am busy developing my retail business and starting an entire new chapter with GRLLR.

When did your passion for BBQing start and how did it spark? Was it love at first sight?

When I invested in BarrelQ I was not a barbecue fanatic. I always liked relaxing with friends. I liked to be outside, drink a beer and make a fire, but not in a professional way. It was just for fun. That’s what barbecuing is for me – fun and enjoying. This all resonates with the Dutch word gezelligheid. It’s difficult to translate, but it basically means to have fun and have a cozy feeling. I never predicted to be professionally involved in the BBQ industry, so even though I am, the essence for me is still having fun, being with friends, being outside in the sun and making a fire. I like simple barbecues and not the complicated stuff.

How did you create GRLLR? Tell me a bit about the origins of it.

The reason to launch GRLLR was a change of strategy. In the past, we focused on distributing barbecues from other brands. The difficulty there was that we wanted influence on the products and I couldn’t find a brand that represented what I liked about BBQing, so… I launched it myself. GRLLR is a brand that entirely fits my idea of cooking outside and I can now implement my own concepts.

When did you have the idea to start a company aimed at BBQing?

My idea was to create a lifestyle brand to share the feeling of barbecuing. At first, I thought that the barbecue audience was willing to pay a lot of money for BBQ lifestyle products, but this turned out to be a mistake as only a niche part of the consumers would do that. This is when I realized that it needed to be more reachable for the consumer. Not too high end, but it must be very good and affordable quality and a positive vibe to it. This is when I changed it from a lifestyle brand, to a barbecue brand that sells barbecues.

How do you want to inspire your customers?

I want to show them that the products we sell are easy to use, high-quality and they provide an inspiration to have get-togethers with friends. I want people to be outside more. Why cook inside? There is always a reason to like barbecuing. It can be easy, on the table, but also more complex cooking – both are an opportunity to be outside and to enjoy the fire. In the past, barbecuing used to be a special and rare thing, you did it once in a few weeks and it was all planned ahead. It can be more spontaneous like “Hey, it’s nice weather today, let’s go outside and grill”.

What do you associate BBQ with? Friends, family or manhood?

Old-school bbqing was man oriented – the man stood at the barbecue, the woman was in the kitchen cutting vegetables, and the friends were waiting at the table. In my opinion, I associate it more with a shared effort. Table grills are the best representation of this. You do it on the table, everyone is working together, having fun and baking their own piece of meat. This is not like years ago when the man was cooking meat and he was alone and exhausted at the end. That’s not my idea of having a fun time together.

What are the biggest challenges you encountered?

My challenge was building a brand in a market that is already full of brands, and with little money. Also, explaining my brand idea to dealers who generally are reluctant to listen to new brands. I knew that I had to convince them with good-quality products and be creative about our branding. You have to be smart in how you promote a brand.

What do you aim to achieve within GRLLR? Tell me about your goals and mission for the next few years.

I want to become a top 3 barbecue brand. This will give me the confirmation that people understand the feeling we want to express with GRLLR. I want a fun and recognizable brand. We do not want to take our brand too seriously. We want to be a bit rebellious too. I’d like people to identify with the feeling of GRLLR, which is a positive feeling I want to share – like when the birds chirp in the spring or the smell of freshly cut grass. If I can achieve that with GRLLR, then I am happy.

Interview by Carmen-Gabriela Lupu, MA Art and Media Studies