When Lisa Wong stepped foot into the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center in 2011, her dream of starting a food truck in Denver was just that – a dream. Wong envisioned herself running a business that would marry her love for vegetarian food with her passion for building community. Two years later, her dream became a reality.
But Wong’s dream didn’t come to life without hard work. In the fall of 2012, she enrolled in the NxLeveL for Creatives program and buckled down to write a business plan for her food truck. Her plan was reviewed by bankers from Wells Fargo and accountants from EKS&H and Wong was awarded first place in the Denver Metro SBDC’s NxLeveL for Creatives business plan competition.
After the NxLeveL course ended, Wong kept on trucking. She continued to visit the SBDC for routine consulting appointments to get assistance in a variety of areas from marketing to business-related legal advice. “Whether I have new ideas, feel stuck, or need a push in the right direction, the consultants offer knowledgeable advice with genuine concern to better my business. And the fact that all of the consultants have small business ties of their own gives me comfort and confidence in the advice they were giving,” says Wong.
Wong’s dedication and hard work did not go unnoticed among SBDC consultants, and she was referred to a banker who provided her with a small loan to get her business started. While Wong did not get the full $50,000 she originally asked for, she was granted a $13,000 SBA loan.
But she stayed optimistic about her dream. “If it wasn't for the SBDC consulting and completing the NxLeveL program, I would have never been given the opportunity to connect with the lender and present my plan,” said Wong. And in July of 2013, she sold her first sandwich from her new food truck, WongWayVeg.
Providing original vegetarian cuisine, WongWayVeg is proud of its Colorado roots, showcasing a variety of produce from local farmers and vendors. “WongWayVeg brings a healthier, more compassionate alternative to the streets of Denver,” says Wong. “I am inspired by building community, educating others and seeing people smile when they eat my food.”
WongWayVeg has set up shop at some of the hippest spots in Denver – including Nooch Vegan Market, River North Brewery, the Park Hill Home Tour and Street Fair, and Sunday on the Streets, to name a few. Wong also showcased her new business at the Denver Metro SBDC’s 2013 Main Street Mentors Walk in August, where early-stage entrepreneurs were matched with seasoned business owners. Walkers were inspired by her story and delighted by her healthy breakfast and lunch options.
While Wong is still in her first year of business, she has already developed a private label featuring prepackaged foods and selling in small local markets. Wong projects steady sales from her food truck and plans to have enough cash flow to expand into a fully-functional kitchen.
Wong’s story shows that a dedicated entrepreneur can accomplish their goals even when there are roadblocks. “I've had to rework a few things, start up with a fraction of the projected cost and face some industry hurdles. Through everything, I was helped and encouraged by the SBDC. WongWayVeg is proof that you can achieve your dreams by starting with a little, making good connections, and being educated and motivated.”