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."