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Brand It Like It’s Hot! | Phyllis Williams-Strawder (CKO Creator) | DH103

Phyllis Williams-Strawder of CKO Creator on the Digital Hospitality podcast

Phyllis Williams-Strawder knows hot brands always leave a mark. That’s why the creator of CKO Creator wants you to Brand It Like It’s Hot!

Check out this Digital Hospitality podcast interview with Phyllis Williams-Strawder to learn about her insightful journey from barbecue to branding, becoming an entrepreneur, communicating online, using Clubhouse, and many more stories and lessons from a tremendous thought leader.

One look at the LinkedIn profile for Phyllis Williams-Strawder and you’ll find she’s a brand coach, an author and a CFO.

One conversation with Phyllis and you’ll quickly find she’s not a bullshitter.

“I’m not trying to be mean,” Phyllis quickly asserts on the Digital Hospitality podcast. “I’m trying to get you to the place where you want to be. And so, you’re going to get some tough love and we’re going to get this thing done.”

Pulling no punches, Phyllis’s real talk and down to business demeanor is uncensored and unexpected. In a world of newly coined coaches and corporate speak, it may be more important than ever.

See, Phyllis’s “Ghetto Country Brand Strategy” work is exactly the kick in the ass almost everyone living in the ‘fake it until you make it’ fantasy world really needs.

After a decade of running Bigmista’s Barbecue in Long Beach with her husband, Phyllis learned the ins and outs of the hospitality industry and also the role she best plays in it.

“This industry is broken from the inside out,” notes Phyllis. “There are a lot of people within the industry that love hospitality. They’re all about serving people and they want to do that. They just don’t want to do it for you.” 

Phyllis believes people want to work and they want to serve. What Phyllis realizes is that hospitality isn’t just about being nice, it’s about being honest.

This honesty, service and loyalty does not stop with your customers either, it has to be felt and experienced by your staff just as much.

Be True to Yourself:

Phyllis Williams-Strawder talking with Shawn Walchef on Digital HospitalityThe starting point for this fluid flow of honesty and hospitality? Being true to yourself and knowing who you are. This means leaning into your quirks and letting the world love them because you do, too.

“Let’s roll out all your crazy and find out what works within your restaurant,” Phyllis advises. “When I talk about people’s crazy it’s about leaning into that. This is true especially in the restaurant.”


In a world where everyone is so consumed with being perfect and polished they forget who they are and neglect who they’re serving. On the contrary, Phyllis sees the ‘crazy’ within an individual as the basis of their brand.

Owning that human aspect may be scary in public or in the workplace, but it’s what builds loyalty, love and relationship with your customers and your staff.

“It takes a level of vulnerability and transparency in order to make sure that you’re making that relationship when people come in and they actually come for you,” shares Phyllis.

During her decade running Bigmista Barbecue with her husband, Phyllis owned her crazy even if she was still learning what her true strengths were. This could mean anything from arguing over Twitter with her better half to asking employees to handle certain tasks to ensure their marriage lasted another day.

Still happily married and still thriving, Phyllis eventually learned that while she was good in the kitchen, she was great at the administrative side.

“I do know how to cook, but my husband is so much better at it,” Phyllis says. “The more I started networking and getting in contact with people, I became the go-between with him and our staff because my husband is a barbecue diva [laughs].”

From BBQ to Branding:

Phyllis Williams-Strawder talking on the Digital Hospitality podcast in July 2021

Eventually closing the brick and mortar BBQ joint to spread her wings into business coaching, Phyllis has learned lessons from the heat of the kitchen and the ever-evolving brand building space to tell it like it is to those looking to better operate their empire.

This occasionally makes for some tough questions…

“How is it that you can be more entertaining with your thumbs than you can with your actual mouth?” Phyllis asks.

“You can’t even get your staff to be loyal, what do you think those people sitting in the seats out in front of the house are thinking about you?”

For Phyllis Williams Strawder, hospitality is all about being who you are to the core and expressing that to your staff and customers. Simplified realness goes a lot further than faking for mass appeal.

“Learn what your love is and make sure that you do it,” says Phyllis. “Show up with it consistently and make sure your staff is showing up with it. Find that one thing you’re good at and let’s ride that son of a gun all the way to the bank.”

Making your strength relatable is how good brands are built. It’s also how good brands are retained.

Keeping the same energy online, in person and behind closed doors is what keeps the lights on and the new talent coming through because it’s easier to live your truth than try to remember a lie.

Just ask Phyllis, because trust us, she’ll tell you what it is.


— Feature Article by Ian Stonebrook. Follow Ian Stonebrook on social media @ianstonebrook.


With the help of Phyllis Williams-Strawder (@CKOCreator) you can get Branded AF! 

Learn More at: or by searching for “CKO Creator” online. 


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More Digital Hospitality Episodes —

The Cal Ripken Jr. of the Clubhouse App | Guy Clarke (Restaurant Marketing Consultant)

Truth + Transparency Creates Compelling Content | Josh House (Pickles & Bones Barbecue)

Turn Yourself into a Digital Media Machine | Drew Glick (Max & Louie’s New York Diner



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