Greg and Finn Hopkins are a father and son team that created Finn’s Wurst Sausage. Finn came up with the idea to sell authentic German bratwurst from a New York City styled hot dog cart during a brainstorming session with his dad. The purpose of the business is to advance Finn from employee to owner. Finn is autistic. His experience in the food service industry has been as a dishwasher, prep cook and busser. He already obtained a food safety handlers certificate through a Manna’s Soup Kitchen program. Finn decided upon bratwurst as a means to express his pride in his German heritage. In addition to a grilled brat on a roll, Finn chose to include potato salad and sauerkraut.
Greg does most of the work behind the scene. Once the idea was selected, Greg’s friends told him about a free and local resource for entrepreneurs, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Fort Lewis College. He first met SBDC’s office manager, Hannah Birdsong, when he went into their office to ask about their services. Hannah made him an appointment with Mary Shepherd, SBDC’s deputy director. Greg stated, “I went out of sheer panic and necessity.” Most of his start-up business knowledge was self-directed through online research. “When I sat down with Mary, she laid out all the things on how to run a fast food cart and business. She explained everything about costs, figuring out prices and overhead. Greg built upon Mary’s direction and attended the SBDC sponsored ‘Start Your Own Business Workshop.’ “My impression of the workshop was it was strictly beneficial. Eighty percent was brand new information and the remainder was a good refresher.” Greg especially connected with the insurance segment of the program.
Armed with ideas and a checklist from Mary, Greg went on to acquire a business license from the City of Durango, complete a food management class and met with the public health department to learn what was needed to pass an inspection. Finn had saved enough money to buy a food cart outright, and he and Greg had money put aside to cover the first two months of business. To find the best brat, the Hopkin’s connected a sixth-generation family ranch family that produced USDA certified meat. A commissary kitchen was rented to prepare the potato salad and sauerkraut. Greg said the logistics for food preparation is a challenge because renting a kitchen is expensive and there are strict requirements for food preparation.
Finn’s Wurst Sausage opened May 11th, 2019 at the Durango’s Farmer’s Market. Some aspects of ownership and operation were overwhelming for Finn. The initial work schedule Finn and Greg had planned for had been scaled back. Greg decided the food cart would be open on limited days; such as holidays, races and special events. In time, their goal is to have their cart operating outside of Home Depot during the week and Finn becomes comfortable with operations and ownership.
Greg said SBDC would be an excellent first stop for anyone new to running a business. “Mary has great experience and is tapped in to local resources. SBDC is a no brainer. Those with business experience from other areas can benefit using them. I would have fumbled through and got frustrated without SBDC’s support. They are a resource that doesn’t cost anything and they are so dialed in to the Four Corner’s area, I would recommend them to anyone.”