BGSU student 'hatches' taco idea
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Saturday, 20 April 2013 08:32
Scott Hodges is an unlikely culinary ambassador for taco truck dining in Bowling Green.
|BGSU student Scott Hodges was awarded $40,000 from “The Hatch” competition last week to start his taco food truck business. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
After all, the California native, who came to Bowling Green State University to play football, needs a special food truck to accommodate his 6-foot 7-inch, 300-pound frame.
But that is part of his sales pitch.
"I am the definition of food market research," Hodges said.
Hodges, who graduates in May, was the top money winner in "The Hatch" competition at BGSU. It is modeled after the television show "Shark Tank." The contest gave budding entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their products to potential investors. After serving up his tacos and sharing his dream with investors, Hodges walked away with a promise for $40,000.
Hodges plans to use the funding to buy a step van to convert into a mobile food business, named "Bueno!!"
He convinced "The Hatch" judges to back his business idea by serving them his perfected street tacos. In fact, his mom traveled from California to help her son serve the investors.
Hodges was confident in his recipe since he had made hundreds of practice tacos, resulting in "lots of clean plates."
He is planning to take his taco truck to the parking lots of local manufacturers to hit the lunch break and shift change crowds, to festivals and fairs, and in downtown Bowling Green on busy Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
His pitch promised something different from standard fast food.
"That fun night you have out," Hodges said. "I'm the cherry on the top."
Hodges grew up loving Latino food, particularly food served out of food trucks in California. He realizes the food truck concept is something different for Ohioans.
"I hope to completely change the way people look at food in Bowling Green," he said. "Bowling Green is a little 'old school.' A lot of cities have changed their laws."
Hodges came to BGSU to play offensive tackle on the Falcon football team, which he credited for giving him his strong work ethic. He originally majored in sports management and wanted to coach football. But he then had a "mid-life crisis" when as a junior he took an entrepreneurship course. His interest was piqued further when he got involved in a 10-week business incubation program. He was assigned a mentor, a former CEO of Libbey Glass.
Hodges was inspired to merge his long-time passion for food with his new-found passion for business.
Hodges has what it takes to succeed, according to Kirk Kern, director of the Dallas-Hamilton Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at BGSU.
"He has planning. He has personality. And he has drive," Kern said. Hodges also has competitive drive - and a great street taco recipe.
"It's delightful," Kern said.
Hodges' signature item will be his West Coast style street taco, which "puts an emphasis on the meat." He plans to use local meat from Frobose meat market, combined with red cabbage, green chili, sour cream, lettuce and a fresh shell.
He plans to partner with 149 North, in Bowling Green, to use their prep kitchen. In addition to traditional burritos and quesadillas, he plans to sell vegetarian options and some more unusual items like grilled asparagus in lettuce cups with a citrus glaze.
Hodges still needs to secure two licenses to operate, but is confident he will have those in time to be selling tacos this summer. He also hopes to cater events. "A food truck at a graduation party isn't too crazy," he said.
He has already contacted some local manufacturers so he can set up in their parking lots. He plans to set up a system to take workers' orders ahead of time, so he can come prepared. "They only get a half hour for lunch, which I think is criminal."
Hodges' goal goes beyond making money.
"My business is to serve the community food that I'm proud of serving," he said.
And that means a lot of satisfied stomachs.
"I try to judge it on what is left on their plates," he said.