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Alabama Small Business Development Center Network

Mobile Bay Firewood

From Firefighter’s Side Gig to Kiln-Dried Firewood Empire

Colleen & Jason Smith
In the heart of Alabama, where the landscape is rich with woods and the spirit of entrepreneurship thrives, Jason and Colleen Smith embarked on a journey that would reshape the firewood industry on the Gulf Coast. Their company, Mobile Bay Firewood LLC, located at 639 Diaz Street, Prichard, Alabama, is a testament to resilience, innovation, and the transformative power of a community that supports its entrepreneurs. With five years of dedication and hard work, this husband-and-wife team has not only grown their business but also significantly impacted their community.

logo Mobile Bay Firewood

The Smiths’ journey with the SBA and SBDC began in May 2021 at an event hosted by the Innovation Portal in Mobile, where Colleen Smith had the chance to meet Mel Washington. This encounter marked the inception of a transformative relationship. Mel, renowned for his expertise, proved to be a pivotal figure who opened doors to a world of possibilities. He not only urged them to develop a comprehensive business plan and introduced them to the intricacies of financial forecasting but also recognized their need for a business line of credit. In addition, Mel facilitated introductions to other businesses that could provide essential guidance, such as creating an employee handbook and a policies and procedures manual.

Through Mel, the Smiths were also introduced to the Real Advisor Mentoring Program (RAMP) at the University of South Alabama. This program continues to offer invaluable support through direct mentorship from a team of accomplished business professionals within the community. The SBA’s assistance didn’t end with mentorship though. Mobile Bay Firewood LLC received an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) through the SBA, which proved essential during the turbulent times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Birth of Mobile Bay Firewood
Jason’s journey to firewood entrepreneurship traces back to his childhood in rural southern Alabama. He remembers chopping wood for family and friends to earn some extra money, so when he and Colleen married in December 2009 and built a log cabin on 31 acres of wooded land, it only made sense that he turn those trees into firewood again. Jason, a full-time firefighter for the City of Mobile Fire Department, was looking for ways to make use of his land while providing additional income for his family.

Fast forward to 2018, Jason and Colleen, now with two children, set out on a path that would change their lives. A hunting trip to Michigan exposed Jason to a large-scale firewood operation, igniting his curiosity about the industry. Extensive market research revealed a significant gap in the Gulf Coast’s firewood market, and the Smiths knew they had a unique opportunity. Their secret to success was the kiln-drying process, which enabled them to reduce wood moisture content to under 20% in just 48 hours, eliminating the year-long wait and the risk of pests.


A Journey of Growth and Resilience
Mobile Bay Firewood LLC officially formed as an LLC in October 2018 and made its first sale in June 2019. The initial year was challenging as they came out the gate charging more than double what people were used to paying. However, their focus on quality and unparalleled customer service quickly gained them recognition. The company experienced year-over-year revenue doubling since its inception. Their ambitious goal for 2023 is to double their success for a fifth consecutive year. Afterward, they intend to focus on internal efficiencies to boost profit margins. The company’s growth is evident in its expanded equipment, the addition of staff, and its significant role as a provider for Rouse’s markets across the Southeast.

Their path to success was not without hurdles. Jason and Colleen both worked full-time jobs while nurturing their business, often relying on personal assets, loans from banks, friends, and family and even credit cards to keep the venture afloat. They faced issues with used equipment, frequent breakdowns, and challenges with rapid growth. Notably, a significant theft posed a major setback. Despite these trials, they continued to persevere.

Mobile Bay Firewood’s impact extends to its community. Located in a Historically Under-utilized Business Zone (HUBZone) per the SBA, the company actively provides jobs to the area. They are actively involved in meeting with other businesses in the area in working towards a shared goal of maintaining safety and improving the area where they work. They have also gotten involved with the “Love Your Community” program, where they pick up litter, showcasing their commitment to leaving their community better than they found it. Mobile Bay Firewood’s growth journey is far from over. Their future plans include further expansion and improving internal processes to ensure the continued success of the business. For Colleen and Jason Smith, The SBDC and especially Mel Washington, have been integral in their success.

Mobile Bay Firewood’s inspiring journey is a testament to the power of innovation, resilience, and community engagement in the world of small businesses. Their commitment to quality and their impact on their local community make them a beacon of success in the Gulf Coast’s firewood industry.

Website: Mobile Bay Firewood LLC –


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