Jul 23, 2015

Banish that boring lunch!

Banish that Boring Lunch!
The Success Story of Pittsburgh Po' Boy 

Client: Ben Dougherty

Company: Pittsburgh Po' Boy

County:  Allegheny

Industry: Food Service

Year Founded: 2015

SBDC Assistance: business plan, financial projections

Additional Partners: Local Lenders


Need a quick fix for every day's boring lunch? Think food truck! With Twitter and mobile feeds now telling you where your favorite food truck will be parked, the street food scene in Pittsburgh is alive and growing!

Ben Dougherty, recognizing this phenomenon, conceived his own take on street food with Pittsburgh Po' Boy specializing in Cajun/creole inspired food. Having spent some time in New Orleans, Ben wanted to bring southern inspired flavors to the Steel City. Focusing on fresh, high quality, local ingredients, together with wife, Kate, he would make traditional po' boy and muffaletta sandwiches as well as classics such as gumbo, jambalaya, and beignets. But, first he needed a truck...

Finding a truck posed a little problem; he found a used police truck. Retrofitting it as a food truck was another matter. The cost for a reputable renovation including commercial kitchen equipment, ventilation, and fire suppression system was costly. Ben realized that he needed outside financing. Intending to set up a crowd funding appeal, he knew he would need a loan and approached a local community development funder and was referred to the Duquesne University SBDC.

" You were such a fantastic resource! I tell folks all the time about your office and how much help you were." - Ben Dougherty

The SBDC really gave me the needed push to take the rish and get this studio going.”

One of the first things the counselor asked was about Ben's experience in the food industry. Having related experience is a key factor when working with any lender. Fortunately, Ben had over 15 years experience as a chef and restaurant manager. So they began discussing Ben's business plans. While reviewing Ben's draft plan, the counselor focused on two issues since Ben had not run a food truck before: convincing a lender that he had a market and developing reasonable estimates of sales and expenses.

Over the next four months and at the urging of his counselor, Ben refined his vending schedule demonstrating that he had established commitments for daily locations. He reached out to other truck vendors asking about daily sales and sales during inclement weather. He added this research to the plan and used the information to revise sales projections and to secure locations during the winter

Ben initiated his Kickstarter crowd funding campaign in May and successfully exceeded his financing goal by 6% within the next month. While this was encouraging, Ben was, unfortunately, turned down by the two lenders he approached. He also turned to a couple of investors. All of them told him that they liked his plan and projections, but wanted to see actual sales and then would reconsider his financing request. Armed with Kickstarter funds, Ben has taken the challenge and recently opened a booth at the Pittsburgh Public Market.

While he is not yet serving customer from his food truck, he's doing what many entrepreneurs do - sticking to Plan B in order to get to Plan A. Plan A - the truck - will happen next year. Was all the planning work for nothing? Not according to Ben. He told his counselor "all your help with the plan and figures. They helped me understand my business better, and know they'll come in handy at the right time."

Jan 9, 2015

The Next Chapter: Advice on How to Improve Your Small Business in 2015

Cynthia Laurash

Consulting Manager

Duquesne University SBDC

Learn Something New
Find the time to learn something new even if it's not related to your business. It's important to achieve a healthy balance between work and personal life. If you're looking to learn more about growing and succeeding in the small business world, take a look at some of our workshops coming up  in 2015

Shea Matthews
Marketing Coordinator
Duquesne University Center for Green Industries

Green Your Business

This Five Part Video Series on running a sustainable or green business from the Duquesne Center for Green Industries and Sustainable Business Growth educates entrepreneurs on the benefits of "going green" and how to start and maintain a green business. 

Autumn Edmiston

Edmiston Group
Create and Execute an Editorial Social Media Calendar
By using an editorial social media calendar, regular postings and fun days can be incorporated for overall engagement. Take a planning afternoon over the holidays and lay out your calendar for 2015. Incorporate wacky fun days, ask questions and provide relevant content. Only 20% of your efforts should be related to selling something. The other 80% should be engaging or informational. Find this step-by-step guide to setting up your calendar from Edmiston Group. 

Brent Rondon

GLOBAL Business Program Manager

Duquesne University SBDC

Engage and Participate in Travel Opportunities
In the last 35 years, U.S. exports increased from $224 billion to $2.3 trillion. The global marketplace is growing by an average of 5% per year. Take advantage of international opportunities and "Go Global." Duquesne SBDC offers resources and workshops on international business training. 

Linda D'Angelo


The Small Biz Shop

Set Yourself Apart and be a Voice of Expertise
Work on personal branding so people will easily recognize your name. In order to start, identify a LinkedIn group, an online magazine, a webinar series and/or a certification program related to your area of expertise. Commit to expanding your skills via these avenues. Share your new knowledge with a blog series and social media posts. Stand out and be daring! Learn about hands-on training for sharing your knowledge across social media platforms. 

Svitlana Mahoney


Duquesne University SBDC

Make Time For YOU
The all work and no play lifestyle is not healthy and may lead to physical and mental health problems. Make some time in your calendar to do something you like. Whether it's playing golf or knitting a scarf, you need a personal life to be successful in your work life. If you cannot seem to find free time, write it into your calendar. Have a meeting or conference call with yourself!