Mark McGee always knew every dog has its day. He just never guessed his day would air on national television.
As the winner of the 2014 Food Network's Food Court Wars,
McGee and his wife Krysta were awarded a year of rent-free space to expand their mobile hot dog cart operation to a fully-equipped restaurant in the Lansing Mall.
While many people learned of the success of Mark's Gourmet Dogs
through the reality TV show, McGee says his path was charted years before when he took his first business class at Lansing Community College.
"I started at LCC with the idea of starting a hot dog cart," says McGee who had struggled through layoffs and diminished job prospects during the Great Recession. "LCC gave me the knowledge I needed to start a business. It was awesome. And it worked."
In 2009, McGee applied his classroom learning to setting up a food cart and bringing culinary flair to hot dogs and brats in Eaton Rapids. And when his son was born and his business took off, he and his wife started thinking about taking things to the next level.
"They'd already been talking about Food Court Wars
when they came in," says Laurie Lonsdorf, Senior Business Consultant, Michigan Small Business Development Center at LCC.
"But it was really iffy at that point, and they wanted to grow regardless of whether they made it or not. Ultimately, they knew they wanted an indoor location."
Lonsdorf began working with the McGees to identify locations and explore financing. She laid out checklists, provided suggestions on his business plan, and offered no-cost, confidential consulting about how the McGees could grow their startup venture.
"There's no way I could've done it without them," says McGee. "We needed their help no matter what happened, and when we found out we were on the show, things started rolling really fast. It's been quite a ride, but LCC and SBDC have been a great team."
When Mark's Gourmet Dogs took top prize and opened in the mall food court on May 30, Lonsdorf was there. She says LCC's SBDC will be to support and consult with the McGees on small business strategy as they hire four or more staff and enter the next phase of their business.
"Here's the funny thing though," says Lonsdorf. "While I couldn't wait to try Mark's food, I'm a vegetarian. I had the mac-and-cheese, coleslaw and Krysta's salted caramel ball. It was all great."
Source: Laurie Lonsdorf, Senior Business Consultant, Michigan Small Business Development Center at Lansing Community College
Mark McGee, Owner, Mark's Gourmet Dogs
Writer: Ann Kammerer, Development News Editor