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Saturday, May 30, 2009

We leave on Tuesday.....

We are leaving for Chicago on Tuesday. I cannot wait to get away for a few days. Things have been a little stressful and I need a break. I am behind on getting my business setup and found out today that our town's 4th of July celebration will happen on the 3rd, not the 4th. I need this vacation to re-focus my efforts on getting everything done.

We lost one of our floral coolers this week (my wife owns a floral shop). It went from 35 degrees to 80 degrees in a matter of 5 days. We have no idea what is wrong with it. I had someone look at it, but he didn't really seem interested in troubleshooting it and thought it might be a bad compressor. Spoke to a retired refrigeration guy and he is going to hook us up and try to fix it on Monday. That will be a life saver because a new cooler is $3500 and a new compressor is around $800 before paying someone to put it in.

We will be at Hot Dog University on Thursday and Friday. I will try to post some pictures and possibly video of maybe the factory tour and some of the class. I was nervous to go and do this, but realized that it is the most important investment I can make. I can buy any old cart but getting a great education on running my business is pretty much priceless.

I'm still working on getting my website fixed up and getting a logo. I need to get the latest version of iLife (iLife 09) for my Macbook because it has a newer version of iWeb and I can use it to build the site. Problem is that I don't really have the $79 to buy it. Trying to find someone who bought a family edition and see if they will let me install it for a small fee. I would pay someone to create the site, but I know how and can save some money by doing it on the Macbook.

Still looking to get a Kodak Zi6 video camera before our trip. Not sure that it is going to happen, but maybe I can find something to sell so I can buy it. I found it for $139 at Walmart, but again that is more money than I currently have. I still have a couple of days so maybe I can come up with something.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chicago trip is on....sort of.

We are headed to Chicago for sure. We bought the tickets and hotel room last night. I used Priceline and named my own price.....and boy did I ever. I had waited too long to book and the airline tickets went up $150 each. I used the Priceline system last night and got the airline tickets cheaper that they would have been originally. I also used it to get a 4 star hotel room for cheaper than staying in a bed and breakfast. We are talking about getting a $300 a night room for $64 a night at a Hyatt. Yeah, that is VERY cheap. The only problem is that now we don't have the money to attend the classes....oops! A financial screw up on my part caused that, but will hopefully be fixing it this weekend (selling crap on Craigslist and Ebay).

Still working on my list of items that I will have to get before I can open. I think the top of my list is Money! I am going to try and do some computer work to gain the extra funds needed, but not sure how that is going to work out. If all else fails, I will try to swing a loan...but didn't want to be that much in debt for this business. It doesn't seem like you would need that much, but I think that having a months worth of food items would be the normal in this situation and that costs money. I also still have to get new pans and fix the sinks on my cart. It is still a go, but just getting a little more difficult.

I do have something else I am working on that is taking some of my time. I can't talk about it yet because nothing is set in stone so far. Not sure that it will benefit either of our businesses, but hoping that it gives us some exposure that will bring customers in. I will speak more about it when the deal is signed and they allow me to openly talk about it.....don't want to jinx it before it actually happens! Just saying that it is exciting and something I never thought we would be able to do and hope that it happens! Pretty vague? That's the point! Just trying to get it off my chest without giving it away.

Nothing else really going on for now. Found out I have some competition that is already open, but reports are that their location is horrible and no one is eating there. It is an indoor spot that only has 2 outdoor tables and cooks the hot dogs in slow cookers. I had thought about doing that before the cart, but decided that the cart is part of the appeal. I did happen to see that my baker is advertising for this other business. Will have to figure out what is going on and might have to change to another vendor. I don't think it would be right to have them choose between the two of us or advertise for both of us. I wish my competition luck and hope that we can share the wealth!

I did get an offer to take over a prime space in Austin, but the person wanted me to buy everything from them. I don't have the funds to buy their cart, but really want the space. It is on the strip, right across from the UT campus and they have a second bar spot near the campus. I could make some serious money in either of those spots, but will have to hope that they let the spots go and I can get them next year.

I am also working on getting a small video camera so I can do some video blogs while in Chicago. I want to get one of those Kodak hand held cameras so that I can just plug it into the Mac and upload the videos. Anyone know where I can get a good deal on one? Walmart has them for $129, but that is $129 that I just don't have right now. Might have to just use my old Blackberry to take the videos. We will see.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Suppliers and supplies and whatever

Going to the new Restaurant Depot tomorrow to get my membership setup and to look around. I'm hoping that this place has everything that I need. Haven't ever been to one, but was told it is like Costco but for restaurants only. I have looked at some of their specials and it seems like they are cheaper than most of the foodservice companies in this area.

I did check out Mission Restaurant Supply and they have tons of cool stuff, including a pickle picker. It looks just like an ink pen, but has a 4 prong hook inside of it. It looks like a parts picker that you use for small screws. I thought about buying one, but will wait until we go to buy all of the stuff. They also had my pans for $16 each and $4 for the lids...but the wife wants me to buy the hinged lid pans. Not sure if I want to go that route because if the pan gets damaged then I have to chunk the whole thing.

I got a catalog in the mail and it has tons of cool stuff also. If I had tons of money I would buy it all and really set myself up, but we have to make due with what we have.

I do have some decorations for my little inside area and will be looking for more. Mostly, I want to put up old hot dog vendor signs and old vinyl albums. I have a neon guitar wall clock to put up that the wife gave me years ago. Guess I finally found a really good place to hang it.

Working on some t-shirts and other stuff and an online store to buy them from. We have a couple of funny ones that are mild humor and a few racy ones. Not sure how the racy ones will go over in our little town, but they will be a hit in Austin. The problem I face now is that we still need to get a logo made and need to get the shirts designed. I used to be really good at Photoshop, but haven't used it in a couple of years.

Found an ice maker, but I am going to wait and probably buy a little bigger one so that I can bag the excess ice. I found a 25lb a day maker for $380, but I'm not sure if it will be big enough. I did find a 55lb a day for $700. Might be a better deal since they will come hook it up and it comes with a warranty.

Having a garage sale this weekend. We need the money to pay bills and to pay for our trip. I think we have the money to go, but no money to eat or have fun with. We are actually going to spend from Monday to Friday in Chicago when we go in June. We were going to go Tuesday thru Saturday, but my grandmother's birthday party is on Saturday and I really want to go. This trip will not only be a "working" vacation, but also a honeymoon for us after 4 years of marriage. I've never taken the wife on a honeymoon, so this will have to count.....for now. Can't wait to go. Getting more excited everyday!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

So tired.......

I sit here a write this after just dealing with Mother's Day. My wife owns a flower shop and I just spent the last 4 days delivering flowers. I am beat and never want to see another flower....ever.

Not much on the hot dog front. Found an indoor cart that I REALLY want to buy. I need an indoor cart for rainy days (I know.....what are those?) and for days when I need to take my cart to a catering job....plus I could use it for indoor catering events. The guy is asking $800 and it is perfect. It has everything I need and runs off of electricity. Problem now is, I have the money that we are using on our Chicago trip, but we need to go and also need to invest in an ice machine. Decisions...Decisions.....

This week will be spent getting my kitchen area worked on and hopefully getting stuff sold so we have more indoor dining space. Found 4 really bad ass kitchen table chairs that look like they are from the 50's. Got the chairs for free. They were in the trash. They are very heavy metal bases and real wood seats and backs. The sparkle vinyl coverings are shot to hell....but we can re-cover them with leather material I have in the garage. Gotta find a table that will work with them, but that shouldn't be a problem.

We are still planning on going to Chicago in June. I could use the "gift" money for my ice machine and indoor cart, but attending these classes will be very beneficial. Maybe I should just have a really big garage sale to benefit my trip and then I can use my other money to buy those needed items. Anyone interested in an old Mickey Mouse doll ,several vintage neck ties, or some antique furniture?

**Forgot to tell all my other news...damn I am really tired from driving 400+ miles in the last 4 days! **

Spoke to my buddy who was running for city council (sucks that you lost....you need to run for mayor next year!) and he is a salesman for a wine company. He said that a buddy of his might DONATE (had to put it in big letters) beer for me to give away during my grand opening. I was stunned. Very stunned. He is one of my biggest supporters and has been giving me tons of advise. I hope we do get the beer because that will really help me put the word out about my cart. We are going to give the beer away since I can't sell it...no license. That should make the bars mad, but they can get over it! We are also going to give out those glow necklaces to kids for them to wear that night. Since we are across the street from a big parking lot where you can watch the fireworks, we might stay open really late that day. I think that my grand opening might be a big success....or at least one hell of a party!

Spoke to our business neighbor and told him about my cart. He had seen it but we hadn't had a chance to talk about it. We share that private sidewalk so I made sure he was cool with my plan. We own our part but it is always good to be nice to your neighbors....doesn't hurt that they are great guys and we really enjoy spending time with them! Anyways....he was in front of our building speaking to 2 of the out going (term limits) city council men and had seen my cart. He told them of my plan and showed them the cart thru the window. They both thought it was a great idea and could benefit our downtown area. This excites me. Those people are "old school" in the fact they have been here forever and it means a lot that they like the idea. The more people on my side, the better things will be.

Still getting tons of feedback on the business. Told most of the people to expect me in June. I thought they would be disappointed, but that actually made them more excited. I'm going to keep putting the word out and see if the "word of mouth" can generate me some business.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fate

Good things do happen from time to time. I think that karma is what makes those good things happen, but I also think that fate is a deciding factor in our lives.....and fate is what has decided that I need to sell hot dogs. I make this case because everything has fallen into place. When I feel like something is going to be impossible, it just happens and with no ill effects.

Here are some examples to get my point across:

1. My brother in law gave me a chili / cheese machine. That sparked the "joke" about selling hot dogs for a living.
2. Started doing research and realized that we have the perfect spot for a cart. We own the building and actually own the sidewalk.
3. Ran into a snag with the city and their permits for street vendors. Spoke with a county official (they do the health inspections) and decided to open as a restaurant and that way the city can't say a word.
4. Found a bakery that will make fresh buns for me for the same price as frozen ones.
5. Went to Lowes and bought a chest freezer for around $75 off the normal price.
6. Needed money to buy a cart and supplies. Spoke to ACC (where I am still taking computer classes) and was able to get some of my money back and drop my last 3 classes.
7. Found a $5k cart that is just now a year old (manufacture date is 05/2008) and paid $1500 for it. Thanks to David for that!
8. Found out about Hot Dog University and spoke to the professor. He really wants me to go, but I don't have the money. Found a "boarding house" that is 1.5 miles south of the university and there are dates free in June. They only charge $85 a night and you have full access to their house. Found that flights are $219 a person round trip from Austin.
9. Found out that Austin is getting a Restaurant Depot store. This is great news because I can buy all my stuff there. They are like Costco, but cater to restaurants and are cheaper.
10. Came home on Tuesday and found that a member of the family gave me a check to cover the cost of my cart...which means we have the money to attend Hot Dog U!

So, can you see where fate is telling me that selling hot dogs is what I am meant to do. All the signs point to this and I would be stupid to ignore them. When I got into the computer business, it wasn't fate but a desire to do something I liked.....not saying that I don't like hot dogs..in fact, I love hot dogs! I just never thought in a millions years that selling hot dogs would be my career...but I guess fate knew the plan all along.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

One step closer

Spent some of last night and most of today sitting at my computer and going thru the Food Manager Certification class. They say it is 10 hours for the class and 90 minutes for the test. It only took me around 5 hours for the class and 30 minutes for the test. Normally you would only need to get a Food Handler permit but since I am the owner, they require this other certification. I just took the test and got an 85. Not bad. I could have done better, but this was my first time to learn a lot of the things you have to know in order to run a commercial kitchen. At least I passed!

After this coming week, I have tons of work to do. It nearly seems like an impossible task, but little by little we are getting things done. I was thinking about how nice it will be when all this work is done, but I forgot that this is only the beginning. I am ready for it. Bring it on!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Making decisions about my products

I'm still trying to work out all of the ins and outs of this business. The best advice that I was given was to carry the best hot dogs and name brand chips/drinks. The other advice was to make sure my cart is always clean and shiny....people won't buy from a dirty cart!

Finding the best hot dog has not been easy, but I think we found a winner......



This comes from the advice of a friend that was selling them at 5th and Congress in Downtown Austin. He was making good money on the weekends, but alas found a really good job and isn't vending anymore. His suggestion is to sell Chicago style hot dogs. There are a couple of places in Austin doing that now, but most just serve a regular mustard and onion dog. His other suggestion is to go "full service" for the hot dogs.....which if you sell Chicago style, you pretty much have to. How many of people do you know can make a Chicago Style dog?

Another item that "makes" your hot dogs are the buns. I can order frozen buns and then steam them or buy fresh. I am choosing to buy them fresh from:



I spoke to the owner and he is going to custom make the buns to match my hot dogs. The hard choice is what kind to make. I know we have to make poppy seed buns for the Chicago dogs, but still figuring out what to have for the bratwurst.

Another suggestion was to carry name brand drinks. I am planning on carrying Coke, Diet Coke, Dr Pepper, Sprite, Root Beer, and Orange soda. We are also thinking of carrying homemade lemonade and "sun" tea. I think that should cover pretty much all tastes.....I hope.

The other items are still being considered. I still have to pick out chips, pickles, and condiments. I think we have our mustard picked out, but everything else is pretty much up in the air.

The only thing I don't have to pick at this point is my cart......I bought one from my new friend David. He has decided to become a tattoo artist because Killeen is pretty much wrapped up by the same hot dog vending company. I got a really good deal on it and David was VERY excited to pass on his cart and knowledge. I owe a huge thanks to him for helping me kick start my business.

We are still hoping to be up and running by the second week in June. I have more work than I thought, but we should be full steam ahead after Mother's Day.....still have to deliver flowers for my wife's shop ( www.yourmainflorist.com). If you need flowers, let us know.