Howdy folks, welcome to another hot dog vendor interview. I am here with Kate's Carts & Catering in Ohio. Let's dive into it…
Kate, thanks for doing this.
Obviously I know you from Vendors United and all your posts there and videos and your help that you give to others.
Could you tell me how you got into this?
Prior to this I was a regional training manager for a large small box retail company and I was working six, seven days a week, 60-70 hours a week.
I would drop my daughter off at 4.30 in the morning and not get to go pick her up until six, seven o'clock at night, later than that if somebody would call off of work or whatever.
Thankfully I ran a really awesome store and I didn't have a lot of employee problems, but I still didn't see my kid enough.
I was watching her grow up through Skype and stuff like that.
So that wasn't cool with me.
And then kindergarten was approaching quickly.
So I was like, you know, now I'm going to have to put her on the bus or somebody else will put her on the bus and stuff.
So that was why.
Then I have a friend in North Carolina who owns a hot dog cart or did at one point in time and like I saw he went from being homeless to buying a house and everything with his hot dog cart.
And I was like, hell yeah, I can do that!
Like I already run somebody else's company and I'll just run my own.
So that's where we are.
That's freaking awesome!
So you were like a salaried employee, unlimited amount of hours they could call you.
But I know a lot of people that do that and it's a horrible existence because you basically have no life.
And if you have children, you're a single mom, right?
Yeah. Basically her dad's in the picture.
But we're not married or anything.
But you were losing that time, that valuable time of raising your daughter cause it happens.
So your idea was one to replace the income but also have more time to do it.
Did you just jump right in?
I actually took out a loan on my 401k and bought my cart, got my business started up and everything, and I was just doing it on the weekends.
Father's day weekend one year ago was my first day out.
And then after that I was just doing it on the weekends and then I picked up a factory on Friday for their lunch shift.
So I would like go into work extra early to be able to put in my hours and then leave early so that I could do that lunch shift.
And then after doing it for six months or so, not even six months, we were finally like, we're just do this full time.
Like we're just gonna leave Dollar General, do this full time.
So that's what I did.
October 2nd was my last day with Dollar General.
I don't know if I'm allowed to say that.
Yeah, you can.
You can, it doesn't matter.
So yeah, I was working for Dollar General and that was the last day that I worked for them was October 2nd.
I was training to be a district manager and I was like, what am I thinking?
Like why would I want to put more time in here?
This is ridiculous.
So you've been vending full time since October, so almost a year.
What do you hate about it and what do you love about it?
I love it because I have fully replaced my Dollar General income.
And I only work like three hours, I think.
I don't even know, like on Fridays, I don't even leave the house until 10:30 and then I'm usually home by like one o'clock.
And that's what drive time and everything.
So Tuesday through Thursday, I only work from 11:30 until one.
So yeah, my kid's only gone from me for like four hours a day.
I did not anticipate how annoying a five year old can be when you spend so much time with them.
I didn't anticipate that whenever I stopped working so much.
So that's been an adjustment.
But I don't hate anything about it.
I really can't.
There's nothing that I hate about it.
If there like something that I had to hate about it, it would just be, you know, like you go out and you're expecting or should ideally perfect conditions of everything to make a couple hundred dollars and you walk away with 50.
And I mean, it's whatever it happens, you just brush it off and keep going.
That's a good attitude to have.
I like the fact that there's really nothing to hate, obviously.
It's still a job, but you've been used to running somebody else's company and now you have all kinds of free time.
So I like all that.
Do you care to show us real quickly around your cart and tell us about what you serve and maybe your prices and how you do it especially.
Kait, you do this completely by yourself pretty much, right?
Yeah, I'm a solo person out here.
Okay. I have the cash cow from your guys's store.
There's really nothing special.
Like I said on the Vendors United live that I did the other day.
Whenever I do these factory lunches because I know pretty much exactly how much I'm going to need and everything so I can fit all of it in my one steam table or, you know, turn it over quickly enough to be able to not have to dirty up an extra pan to be honest.
Cause I hate washing dishes.
That's one thing I hate.
I freaking hate dishes.
I make homemade hand squeeze lemonades in these big 32 ounce Mason jars and I do a recycle fee on them.
If they bring them back to me, they get a dollar off of their next lemonade or salad because I also do really awesome Mason jar salads.
Then I just have my wax here and my boat's over here, you know, my tongs, my knife because I cut my own bans.
The bakery will have them for me.
I know a lot of people have their bakeries cut them for them, but I don't, I think it's part of the show.
Oh, I love it.
Because when you're sourcing locally, you just mentioned that to a customer a minute ago.
What does that entail?
Yeah, so I am as locally sourced as possible.
I get all of my meat from a local butcher and I get my bans from the local bakery.
They are inside of the grocery store, but it's a local family owned grocery store, so that's fine with me.
And they'll cut them for me, but I ask them not to because like I said, I just think it's part of the show.
Like if you're walking up to a food scene and see them cutting fresh bread, like, come on, it's awesome.
I do self-serve on the condiments and stuff like that.
I have a condiment caddy that I put out on the table.
But I just haven't been using it lately because I had to buy a jar of relish for an event that I did that it was out by a really dusty track and I didn't want to have the condiments being opened up and getting stuff in them.
This is perfectly legal health department wise.
I know somebody's gonna watch this video and critique it, but this is perfectly legal health department wise because I'm only out here for a half hour.
It's literally on this table from 11:30 until noon and then it goes back in my cooler.
And in most States it's a two hour.
It's totally fine.
Obviously if I do bigger events, I have a separate cooler that I set on the ground right in front just for water.
Today I'm giving away free water because Ohio is under a heat advisory until Saturday, and these boys are working in these big factories and if it's 90 outside, is probably a good 110 inside these factories.
I had a heat stroke when I was younger, so I worry about people going through that.
So I just thought it would be good to give everybody free water today.
It's really cold.
That's freaking awesome.
I think it's a great idea!
I did have a menu professionally made by Keith from the Vendors United group and it was beautiful.
Then I went through a rebrand and changed my name and I was going to have him make me another one.
But I think I'm going to stick with the dry erase board or the chalkboard just because I change my menu so frequently.
To be honest, I'm always doing different specials and I don't always have my nachos and I don't always have Italian sausage and stuff like that.
But at the top is my combo.
It's my two, all natural, all these skinless dogs with chips and a drink.
I charged $7 for that.
Italian sausage with peppers and onions is five.
A crowd dog, I just charged the $3, which I do for a naked dog, which I just realized isn't even on there.
But a naked dog and a crowd dog, I do for $3.
I was doing the crowd dog at $3.50, but I'm tired of carry in orders.
And I can't morally charge somebody a dollar for sauerkraut.
Chili cheese dog on the other hand is $4.
My nachos are $7, but they're awesome.
I wish I had one to show you guys.
They're so good.
I use organic blue corn chips with hint of lime, nachos also.
And then top them with chili cheese, black beans, fresh made Pico De Gallo guacamole and sour cream.
$7 at an event.
I could probably get time out of them to be honest, because I've seen some of these people selling nachos for $7, which is cheese on them.
And then my chips, I charge a dollar.
Then for Kielbasa with sauerkraut is I'm $5.
That also used to be $5.50.
But same thing.
I just got tired of quarters.
It started off at six, but I don't think that I'm in the market for $6 sausage, which is fine because I wouldn't pay $6 for a sausage.
You have to cater to your market, what your market can handle.
But I can sell them $5 all day, so it's fine.
And then my water and soda, I also charge a dollar for.
So, this is the setup.
This is basically every Friday except next week, vacation week.
Where else do you event?
This is actually what it looks like Tuesday through Friday.
Except Tuesday through Thursday I am inside, so I don't usually use umbrella inside.
Tuesday through Thursday I set up inside of a greenhouse factory.
It's a factory in terms of how they run it, but it's a greenhouse in terms of that's what they do is grow plants and stuff.
So today with it being like 95 with probably a million percentage of humidity, it's actually not as bad as it is Tuesday through Thursday inside the greenhouse.
And then I do events on the weekends, if I feel like it kind of thing.
I get asked to go out to the racetrack a lot.
Don't get tricked into that because you have to make sure that the race tracks are worth it.
A lot of them let them bring in their own food and drinks and coolers and stuff, and then they overstock on food vendors and that's just highway robberies.
So unless I know I'm going to go out and make $1,000 over there, I don't even do it.
And then I do like drop-off catering.
Tomorrow I'm going back to back.
I have a taco bar drop-off at four-five o'clock and I have a train ride event for five o'clock.
So my master plan is to load up one vehicle with my taco bar and go drop it off at four and then get back to the house and switch over to my hot dog vehicle and get down the road to the train thing.
That's a busy, that's gonna be tight.
We'll see how that goes.
I wouldn't do the train thing at all except for they paid me a very pretty penny to just come up and sell my food.
So they paid me to come and sell my food.
I contacted them yesterday to see what the head count was so far and they told me that they only sold 25 tickets for the train.
I'm not disappointed, because I already made more than enough, so it's fine.
I'll just go off and save face.
That is smart!
And you never know what's going to happen there with your sales.
So it's a win win already from the get go.
I'm doing it because it's right on the edge of my hometown where I live and they're not mobile friendly at all.
I haven't taken on that fight because honestly I make enough money elsewhere that I really don't care to.
It'd be just a waste of my time.
But I did recently took on that event because it's in town and it's gonna put me in front of them.
The other place I took on is tractor supply, which is also right on the corporation line for the town.
So like they can't say anything to me because I'm not technically in their corporation limits, but I'm in town enough to aggravate them about it.
So I did that to ruffle some feathers and I've just gotten more business from it.
And I actually got what will be my biggest catering gig so far from setting up there.
Somebody saw me out there and contacted me about doing a breakfast catering in August for the Lorain County fair.
It's the second largest fair in Ohio.
So they anticipate 150 people.
Nice. 150,000 people?
No, just for the breakfast, it's 150 people.
Oh, I'm sure I couldn't even put a number on how many people go to the fair.
That thing is packed Monday through whatever day.
They shut it down.
You can barely walk through there.
It's so packed.
Oh, I'd imagine so.
That's why when you said 150 people, I was like, well that's like a…
No, no, that's just their breakfast.
They hold an opening breakfast for like the fair board members and their family members and stuff like that.
And then they sell tickets to the public.
And they do about 150 people a year.
So I'm doing all kinds of stuff for that.
Bacon, sausage, gravy, biscuits. Pancakes, muffins.
It's going to be ridiculous.
I don't know what I got myself into, but we'll make it work.
So, Kait, what would you do differently if you were starting out again?
I would have quit my job sooner.
When I quit, I'll be honest I wasn't really in a position to be quitting.
Like I said, October 2nd…
No, no, no. It might've been, I think it was November 2nd.
Actually, November 2nd I think was my last day and that was scary to be quitting in the middle of winter in Ohio.
It's really frigid out here these last couple of winters.
It doesn't snow a lot, but it's ridiculously cold and I have pretty severe asthma, so it makes it hard to breathe.
So that was a risk.
It was scary, but I knew that I could do it.
I don't have an option to fail, you know, so like I wasn't worried about failing because I knew that I wasn't going to.
But I wish I would've quit June 15th of last year whenever I went out my first day.
That way I could've spent the whole freaking summer building my business, instead of trying to build it for winter time.
But I mean, building it over winter time was fine because now summertime is just nothing to me.
You know, like I went out at negative eight degrees to go feed people at the one factory.
Thankfully they let me set up inside cause they like me.
But there was a couple of days where I was outside at some places and it was cold.
It was really cold, but it just made summertime a breeze.
Like everybody's out here complaining about 95 and I'm like, yeah, it's hot.
But I mean I set up a negative eight so this is fine.
Alright, well thank you so much!
I hope you have a fantastic day.
Are you going anywhere?
Yeah, we're staying in French town.
It's our house.
It's on one of the like outlets for the Chesapeake Bay.
We're gonna go see the wild pony Roundup and Assateague Island.
I'm going to take daughter to ride the Ferris wheel in ocean city and I'm going to take her to the zoo and to a little dairy that's known for the best ice cream on the East coast.
And I will just tell you that I was with Dollar General for five years and was never ever able to take my daughter on a week long vacation.
So I'm stoked!
Oh, and I'm going to go crabbing.
I've never been crabbing before, but I'm going to go crabbing and I'm feeding 13 people some crabs that I catch out of the Chesapeake Bay and I cannot wait.
That is excellent!
Thank you so much and I wish you tons of success, Kaitlin!
And that's all folks, I hope you loved this hot dog vendor interview… more coming!