School of Business

VCU Blogs

Author: Megan Nash

Drawing on life lessons and stories of beating the odds; staying afloat where so many sink and growing where so many shrink, the “Side Hustle Community: Food Industry” entrepreneurship panel held on March 21 at VCU Business, served up the raw and uncut advice needed to build and grow a successful business.

Sponsored by VCU Business’ Office of Student Engagement (OSE) and supported by the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship and the VCU Business Mentoring Program, the ‘Side Hustle’ panel was the second installment of an entrepreneurship series, centered around themes of identity, support and well-being, inviting an informal and unfiltered experience for everyone involved.

Over a 40-minute conversation led by Nick Williams, assistant director of Student Engagement at VCU Business, panelists Chris Harrington, owner of All Dis Puddin’, Drew Goldy, owner of GhostWolf Pepper Co.and Carlos Ordaz-Nunez, chef-owner of TBT El Gallo, shared their thoughts on entrepreneurship, imposter syndrome and when they knew they were ready to take the leap of opening their own business.

The discussion was thought-provoking and insightful – and threw up a good crop of memorable quotes on various aspects of the grit and grind in the food industry.

We curated the best comments throughout the night, read on to see who said what.

On entrepreneurship

Carlos Ordaz-Nunez Favorite food: Street food, ceviche 
“I have something I say often – passion over consequence.

To me, entrepreneurship means freedom – it’s you versus someone else. I love the ‘I did that’ feeling at the end of day. In the end, it’s mine and nobody can take that away. At the end of the day it’s all heart, all hustle. It’s all on you.”

Chris Harrington Favorite food: Brisket
“Entrepreneurship is sacrifice – time, money, family, your favorite show. It’s on me to get it done, I have to stand on decisions that I make, and people will test your morals and values.”

On their origin story

Chris: “It was Juneteenth in 2020 and I was on Facebook. I went against the grain and had a cookout and asked my wife, ‘Should I make banana pudding?’ At the cookout people were saying they would pay [for pudding], they raved, and my wife said make it into a business. At a second cookout, I’m talking to friends, fixing to-go plates, and my best friend’s wife says, ‘Chris, I can’t eat all this pudding.” I turn to my friend and that was it – all this puddin’, but with a ‘D.’”

Carlos: “[TBT El Gallo] was born out of spite. I worked in corporate restaurants, moved around, continued being a chef, being insufferable and miserable. I went to a pop-up brewery and saw people making food. My friend said, ‘just do it.’ I took my last $250, went to Lowe’s, bought a grill and started cold calling breweries. I went in cocky and was quickly humbled. I sold like six tacos that day. I wasn’t being authentic to myself, so I went back to the drawing board and realized when I was working in restaurants, I was making other visions, I wasn’t ‘making myself.’ I went back out and I did some fun tacos. I did a rustic take on different cultures but with Mexican ingredients and I put stupid names on them, and it sold. A few risky decisions later, a lot of my business was trying to not lose my business. I started out with 500 sq. ft. of garage trying to make things happen and now I’m moving into a full-service restaurant in three months.”

Drew Goldy Favorite food: Tacos
“I lost my dog, Elder, in 2019 so I brought my two loves together – hot sauce and Elder’s legacy. The sauce speaks for itself. All my love is in the bottle. My business origin was from my love for him [Elder].”

On imposter syndrome

Chris: “I’m battling with it to this day. People call me a chef, but I don’t even touch heat, everything I touch is cold. Do I create things and give it life? Often, it’s about seeing something and feeling inspired. How I deal with imposter syndrome is realizing, coming to terms and accepting what comes your way. Don’t let people belittle what you’re bringing.”

Carlos: “I hate being called a chef. There’s no one that tells you you’re a chef. Chef is French for ‘manager.’ I like to refer to myself as a ‘hospitality professional,’ I’m making money doing what I love but at the same time, I’m not there yet. I struggle with this [imposter syndrome] everyday but I have to have that mentality that I’m going to roast everyone. The fear of failure is real. It motivates you. I’d rather fail doing something I love versus sitting in an office for 40 years. I’d rather go down swinging than not. Imposter syndrome … what sets apart you and your product is you.”

Drew: “Imposter syndrome is a drive. I’m doing something for me, and people will come to me, I’m going to let the hot sauce speak for itself.”

On knowing when to leap

Chris: “Dessert wars. We joined late, like a month before the competition and we were up against franchise dessert vendors. I started having thoughts of ‘I want to win’ and we did. We came in first for the People’s Choice Award, and that’s when I knew we had a good product. I realized I got something. We didn’t get any publicity, no money, but it gave me sound judgement.”

Carlos: “It’s important to set goals and dream passionately, vividly. We ranked in the Richmond Top 10 in Eater. That changed the game for us, that let the cat out of the bag. It’s wild how that changed for me and validated everything I sacrificed. When you have that moment, you realize your dreams can happen. It sounds cheesy, but when you have that validation, that respect, that motivation, that’s what drives me – making the best product and making people happy. At the end of the day, I get after it.”

Drew: “That moment hit when every batch I made sold out in a month. That’s validating. I’m already winning because I’m doing it.”

On caring and well-being

Carlos: “One of my favorite chef’s, Sean Brock, says, ‘find a hobby or passion that has nothing to do with your job.’ I love emo music and video games; I found my circle and I find other things I love to do, and I focus on the little things that make me happy.”

Chris: “Gym, anime, hanging out with my fraternity brothers, family and church.”

Drew: “It’s important to give yourself time. Rest is your right.”

The VCU Business OSE will host its next entrepreneur panel, “Real Talk: Being A Woman in Business,” on Thursday, March 28, focused on women in the workplace.

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