I had done a couple trial runs with friends and family. I had done two blind taste tests with about 6 types of hot dogs all in preparation for my first day as a hot dog vendor. It wasn't until about 8AM the morning of the big day that it HIT ME.
Holy Moly Roly Poly… what have I done?
I was as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
I was as ready as I thought I needed to be but I had no course, no blog, no video training. I was winging it.
Flying by the seat of my pants.
Nervous is probably an understatement. Not only was I in hyperdrive hoping I wouldn't screw up, I was embarrassed too. Just months earlier, I was a wealthy furniture store owner. You can hear that part right here…
We secured a spot in front of a used tire shop right in between the gravel parking lot of the tire shop and the busy two-lane highway out front. Across the street, a big landscaping company which also saw lots of visitors daily.
I was already keen on advertising and had gotten some bandit type signs. When I say “got” I mean I made some signs and put on those “H” frame sign holders. I think we had 3 signs and one small banner a friend made for me. The banner simple was a 3 x 8 vinyl banner I posted up between two “t” posts. It said, “HOT DOGS”.
Ever Seen A Chicken With His Head Cut Off?
My mamaw would take a chicken she'd select for dinner and with a small hatchet, she'd lay the chicken on a block stump and chop the head off. That chicken would run around for about 30 seconds, flipping and hopping. I don't think I could stomach the sight nowadays but back then I was farm raised and we lived off the land. Today I prefer my chickens from the grocery store.
Well today, I felt like that chicken looked. There was no rhyme or reason for my actions and no method to my madness as I tried to get set up. My wife was patiently trying to help me but my mind was racing, did I bring this, did I forget that, what if I drop a hot dog, what if I get an order wrong, what if a big line forms, what if, what if, what if? I was boiling, should I be steaming? Oh my God! [see below for the top 40 first day vendor questions]
The First Customer
Although I really wanted this to work so we could get off food stamps and back on our feet, in the back of my mind I was hoping no one would stop. Honestly I couldn't tell you what he looked like, he could have been naked and I wouldn't have noticed. I do remember what he said though…
“Hey thar, whatchagot thar?”
Apparently that big 3 x 8 yellow with bright red letter sign saying “HOT DOGS” could have just as well been camouflaged. He said he'd try one and it all began. Minutes later two more people pulled up. I had showed up a bit late to what I teach now. I figured 11am to 1pm would be perfect to catch the lunch traffic, problem is, I didn't factor my “chicken with his head cut off” setup time.
Stock! What Stock?
I borrowed money just to get supplies and some hot dogs. I believe we started off with two packs of hot dogs. The 8-hot dog packs. So at the most I had 16 hot dogs and buns, well you know, they never have the same quantity of hot dogs to a pack as they do buns.
I was offering a “value meal deal”, 2 hot dogs, a can of soda and a bag of chips for $5.00. Twelve meal deals later my wife was driving 3 miles down the road to get more hot dogs. This make some money, buy more stock went on like that for 3 or 4 days.
We literally couldn't afford to stock up enough for even one full day. And as the days got better and better, we had to make more trips to the grocery store those first few days.
We didn't have chili at the time, we didn't have really anything other than hot dogs, mustard, ketchup, onions, drinks and chips.
How I Did My First Day As A Hot Dog Vendor
That day we did $93 if memory serves me right. Now keep in mind, I was only out there actually serving for about 1.5 hours. Not too shabby for my first day as a hot dog vendor. Each day afterwards it got better. Over the weeks following, I learned and I learned fast. It was a trial by fire.
I was so relieved when that first day was over. No one had laughed, no one made fun of the x-rich furniture store owner who now was slinging weenies on the side of the highway. The next day I woke up early, I packed up, double checked my supplies and headed out excited to tackle the new day!
The first day jitters had come and gone and now I felt like a million bucks. Finally I had a clear path to freedom, finally I had a clear path to get off food stamps and become self-sufficient again. Sure, I made more mistakes than the average vendor but I kept going and going. I was the hillbilly version of that battery bunny rabbit.
That first year I'd go on to make over $100,000 and have over 20 carts operating. I haven't looked back.
I started making youtube videos to help just those who kept coming up to the cart asking questions about getting started. From there I created a course book called “hot dogs saved my life” and every day I help vendors all over the world. Since then, just the “known” vendors who've gotten the course is over 30,000.
I learned how to start with little to no money, in fact, I recently helped Cheryl and Chef Jose start with no more than a crockpot and a sign (legally). Cheryl got a used cart 3 weeks later and Chef Jose is currently building his own hot dog cart.
Recently I created a course called 7 ways to make a full-time income while working part-time. I put it up for free to help anyone looking for help.
What I Learned From My First Day As A Hot Dog Vendor
- to put my signs further down the road when you're trying to stop traffic on a busy highway
- to always keep some water boiling in case you get bombarded with customers at one time
- to not fear making a mistake – 99.99% of the time, the customer won't even notice
- to have extra tongs, cloths and stuff
- to have a check list so I don't forget anything
- to not ever get rushed and enjoy it
- to start simple, small menu and then build up as you see fit
- to keep good records – not like an accountant but the basics
- that my cart was a piece of nostalgia and people would stop just to see it (then buy a hot dog)
Top 40 First Day Hot Dog Vendor Questions
Over the years I've collected questions from first day hot dog cart business owners. I compiled the top 40 and I since then I've only needed to update once. If you have first day vendor questions, you can check it out here.
You can avoid the pitfalls I found, you can literally start off, first day as a hot dog vendor with years of experience in your noggin. You can do better than I did my first year and you can avoid all my mistakes.
Start your path to freedom today.
To your freedom!
https://goo.gl/5gNBsw – Ben's free mini course to start you off.