Former Senate staffers ring NASDAQ bell

Many Capitol Hill staffers hope to make money as lobbyists when they leave Congress, but two former GOP Senate aides have chosen a different route. And it’s starting to pay off big time.

Heath Hall and Brett Thompson, one-time colleagues in former Sen. Jim Talent’s (R-Mo.) office, are the co-founders of Pork Barrel Barbeque, and on Tuesday they rang the closing bell of the NASDAQ stock exchange 200 miles and a world away from Capitol Hill.

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The partners were joined in the bell-ringing ceremony by venture-capital investors from the hit ABC show “Shark Tank,” where Hall and Thompson appeared this fall and secured capital investment into their company.

The idea for founding Pork Barrel Barbeque came to the staffers during a late-night budget debate about pork-barrel spending, where Thompson and Hall, who both hail from Missouri, were talking about barbecue. When Talent lost reelection in 2006 to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), it seemed like the perfect time to launch a company. After appearing on ABC’s show, Hall told ITK that Pork Barrel Barbeque has inked an initial partnership with big-box giant Costco, starting this spring.

The two founders maintain day jobs in Washington, Hall for the Heritage Foundation and Thompson for IGR Group, and plan to open a restaurant in Alexandria.

They got a taste of what cooking for crowds is like this winter when they catered Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer’s (R-Mo.) office holiday party. “We got reports back that the congressman had really liked [the barbecue],” Hall said.

Hall credits their time in politics with aiding them in the start-up market: “Running a company is a lot like running a campaign,” he said. “You’ve got your candidate/product, your voters/customers and your fundraising/investor pitches.”

While the duo may make their fortune in pork, they’re looking forward to staying involved in politics.

“In fact,” joked Hall, “Brett is considering a run for the White House in 2016. Better watch out.”