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Paving the Road for Food Truck Entrepreneurs | Ross Resnick

In this episode we highlight Ross Resnick, CEO of Roaming Hunger. Ross shares his lessons learned from working in two startups out of college and turning his passion project into a private-equity-backed business. Ross talks about his vision for continuing to scale Roaming Hunger to support other entrepreneurs and his first 100 days of partnership with Shore.

Transcript

Introduction

Michael Burcham: Welcome to Microcap Moments, a podcast from Shore Capital Partners that highlights the stories of founders, investors, and leaders who have taken on the challenge of transforming ideas and small companies into high growth organizations. The journey of building and scaling a business takes one down many unexpected pathways.

It's a journey where we learn from our mistakes, fall down often, but have the entrepreneurial grit to pick ourselves up and persevere. Within this series, we will share these stories of success and failure, of the challenges and the rewards faced by those who dare to dream big. And through their lessons learned, we hope to inspire others who are on a similar journey of becoming, growing and leading.

In this episode, we will be visiting with Ross Resnick, the founder of Roaming Hunger. What began is a passion project for Ross, became a business. His own entrepreneurial journey was inspired by the thousands of small entrepreneurs with food trucks and food carts. And in 2009, Ross took his life savings about $3,000 and created a website to feature and track these culinary entrepreneurs.

His website quickly became the go-to source to find out about this growing movement, but he had to figure out how to turn his passion project into a thriving business. Prior to founding Roaming Hunger, Ross served in marketing at Amp'd Mobile and Honest Tea respectively, after finishing his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business in 2006. Ross also completed his MBA at UCLA's Anderson School of Management.

As you listen to this podcast, you'll discover that Ross is a passionate leader with a creative mind, as well as some serious entrepreneurial grit. I know you'll enjoy this interview between Anderson Williams of Shore Capital, and also my podcasting partner, and Ross Resnick, the Big Burrito as he calls himself at Roaming Hunger.

Anderson Williams: Ross, will you just introduce yourself and say a little bit about Roaming Hunger?

Ross Resnick: Yes, of course. Hi, I'm Ross Resnick, and I'm the Founder and Big Burrito of Roaming Hunger. And at Roaming Hunger, our mission is to create opportunities for anyone, anywhere. And for me, that was in 2009, seeing a whole movement of people rolling out food trucks, food carts, suitcases, bicycles.

Sharing their culture, their history, their cuisine with the world. And so I was very inspired by that and I was very inspired by the spirit of entrepreneurship. And so I created Roaming Hunger in 2009 as a very simple website to help people find out about this incredible movement of entrepreneurs and operators that were popping up all over the country.

And so today, Roaming Hunger focuses on a couple of areas related to mobility and related to food trucks. Primarily, we're a catering marketplace, so we help connect vendors into opportunities where they can sell food to groups of people, or they can do vending and sell food on site. And we also have created an agency called the RMNG, which takes that concept and brings in a branded layer that sits on top of that.

So working with clients who want to be out in the world, sharing their story, sharing their brand, and leveraging that network of 20,000 local vendors that we've built since 2009 to be able to execute anywhere in the country.

Early Entrepreneur

Anderson Williams: What was it about those early entrepreneurs, the people you saw and looked around and said, 'I can do something better here, or I can do something to help these folks.'

When you go back to that nexus, what was it that you saw as the market opportunity for those businesses, but also for you?

Ross Resnick: It really, for me was more of a passion project than a business. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and I always knew that I was going to start a business and I wasn't a hundred percent sure what that would be.

And I think for me, the hardest thing was 'How do you start a business when you need to pay rent?' 'How do you start a business when you need the money to kind of just live your life from your job?' And so I wasn't a hundred percent sure how to make that transition, but what I saw was people who were taking the leap and they were taking their life savings and they were investing it in equipment, food trucks or carts, or even some folks made homemade operations and started rolling them out in the streets.

And for me, that was very inspiring in my entrepreneurship journey. So when I saw that, I thought, 'Hey, there should be a voice for these individuals.' There should be a place where anyone can come to find out about this incredible thing that's happening.

And for me on the business side, I wasn't sure. I just trusted that if I did the right thing and I put together something that people liked, then I would figure out the business model as I went.

Anderson Williams: And what was it for you about being an entrepreneur that you knew that's what you wanted to do, even before you knew what you wanted to do with it?

Ross Resnick: You know, I didn't have a choice. I feel like I was compelled from a very early age and I was always interested in selling things and even kind of finding, when I was a kid, my dad, he brought home one time, he got these little whistles, they're carved outta stone from work, so I don't know how he came across them.

He came home with a box of them and I took him to school the next day and I sold all of them. So from an early age, I just had this passion for, 'Okay, how do I make a business?' How do I think about, you know, selling things or even, for me in high school, my job was tutor and, I was an okay tutor, but I was pretty good at marketing myself and putting myself out there, making flyers and getting customers.

So my parents, they really wanted me to be a lawyer. And I took a class in undergrad at USC that was Writing 340 for law students. And first of all, I'll phrase it in this way, I totally appreciate what attorneys are able to do in their job, but I knew that I was not built for that career.

And so from there I kind of said, 'Okay, how do I pursue an entrepreneurial journey if I don't really have a way to get started right away?' I didn't really know how to jump right into it. So what I did after college is I went and I jumped right into an entrepreneurial company and I went to work for two companies.

Both were very entrepreneurial. The first was Amp'd Mobile. Amp'd Mobile was started by the gentleman who started Boost Mobile in Australia. He brought it to the United States and he had a very successful exit with Boost, and he did it again with Amp'd. And it was through a connection, a former dorm mate of mine.

He showed me a phone that had live video and apps on it before the iPhone. I said, 'Oh, that looks like the future. How do I work there?' And so I went to work at Amp'd Mobile and I kind of saw front row, what that entrepreneurial journey looked like from an entry level standpoint, and then later with Honest Tea, kind of the same thing going through and passively experiencing that entrepreneurial journey.

And I think both of those experiences geared me up to be able to take that leap and go forward on my own.

Lessons Learned

Michael Burcham: In the following segment, Ross shares with Anderson some of his own lessons learned through his experience with two entrepreneurial ventures, where he was part of the early stage team: Amp'd Mobile and Honest Tea.

You'll enjoy how he applied those lessons learned as the founder of Roaming Hunger and throughout his growth over the past 14 years.

Anderson Williams: What is it that you've learned or the biggest lessons you've learned as a founder that you could have never learned being in that we'll just say less lonely, entrepreneurial environment?

Ross Resnick: Well, I think for me, what was interesting was I had two very different experiences in those companies. Amp'd Mobile, raised a lot of venture capital money and went out of business. We had to turn in our laptops to get our final paycheck.

The company went outta business. And it was a high flying, really fun first job outta college. We sponsored every event we did everything. Stayed at nice hotels.

And when I went over to Honest Tea, our hotel budget was $90 a night and we were expected to share a room. And so it was two glimpses into how to build a company. I saw through discipline and through hard work and the values of hard work that Honest Tea was successful ultimately through an acquisition by Coca-Cola.

And so having a front row seat to both of those, I think kind of helped me understand. All right. The entrepreneurial journey is about, you know, making checklists and knocking things off of a checklist and having the discipline, not just on the spending side, but just on the, how do we get there side.

Anderson Williams: One of the things that's interesting, and what I enjoy about talking with founders is that entrepreneurship and not to pick on either of the companies, but can be loud and big and noisy and sexy like it probably was with Amped, or it can be thoughtful, methodical, disciplined and successful as it was with Honest Tea.

And there's just some misperceptions about the rigor and the difficulty of starting your own thing, and that's something you've obviously successfully done.

Ross Resnick: There's so many different ways to be an entrepreneur. You can be an influencer and be an entrepreneur, but even just starting a website. If you look back, Roaming Hunger, right?

It was a huge leap to start a website and I had to take my whole life savings and give it to somebody to make a website. I just saw a thing today, it's like a AI website builder where you just type in a company name and you type in a prompt and it builds you a website. So the stakes are a lot lower for entrepreneurship, but the commitment hasn't changed, right?

And I think that the passion and wanting to wake up every single day, and for me it's been 14 years and I still get excited every single day to wake up and go to work. And it's because of what I'm working on. And I think that that to me, it can't be, 'Oh hey, I have a great idea to make money.'

And I think that's kind of the blessing of the way that this started, and this started out of a passion for what I was doing. It made it harder to ramp up the business, and it took a little bit longer, but there's a lot of people I talk to, they go, 'Oh, this is a great business idea, right? This is a really easy way to make money.'

The question is, well, how long can you do that for? How long does that last for you? It's more like a marriage. You're marrying an idea and you have to be committed, and you have to be steadfast in that commitment in order for it to work. So I think for me, the biggest lesson and anything that I can think of is you're going to do something.

If you're going to pick something, you better love it or it's not going to work.

Anderson Williams: Absolutely. And love it enough to survive the highs and lows and to be willing to be disciplined as you were describing, even when that's not the fun choice.

Your Marketing Voice

Michael Burcham: In this next segment, Ross shares his insights as a marketer in the creation of Roaming Hunger. He also describes how being a good communicator has built trust, both with his team and with his customers.

Anderson Williams: I'm curious, Ross, even reading your LinkedIn description and your role as the Founder and Big Burrito for Roaming Hunger and how you described not only the food truck experience, but the kind of culture around being in a food truck and those environments where you're eating from a food truck and the people around you.

I wanted to go do that from reading your LinkedIn page.

I'm curious where your marketing voice and how you think about your marketing voice, meeting your founder voice, and how you think about the connection between your skill as a communicator and a marketer and your ability to build this business.

Ross Resnick: Great question. I think to me that they're one and the same. I mean, my job is mostly communication and I look at what I do on a daily basis as a operator, as we got a boat. People are either going to get in the boat or they're not going to get in the boat, and they're either going to row with you or they're going to row against you.

And the more people you can get in the boat rowing in the same direction, everything's going to be a lot better. And so to me, the best way to get everybody, number one, to sign up, to get in the boat, and then a row in the same direction is a hundred percent communication. And there has to be trust.

And trust comes, from communication. Trust comes from conversations and authenticity and connection and making sure that people, they have to want to be in the boat. You can't make somebody want to be in the boat. You can't make somebody want to row. You have to help them find out if this is the right boat for them to be in, and if they should be rowing or not, and you gotta listen.

And in order to listen, you have to be an excellent communicator. I think marketing is the same thing to me. Marketing is about listening to the customer. Marketing is about hearing what people need and then just saying it back to them. Really effective marketing to me is just saying back what people asked for.

So running a business and finding people to work with who are great. And finding customers, or in our case, you know, as a two-sided marketplace, vendors as well, we have to be incredible listeners because our business relies on us doing a good job with both sides of that marketplace and with our internal stakeholders.

And so when we think about our values and who we are and the community that we're building, we consider ourselves a community serving other communities. And when we look at the stakeholders in our ecosystem, if we don't listen to one side and we only listen to ourselves, or we only listen to the customer, or we only listen to the vendor, nobody wins.

And so to me, they're absolutely one and the same. And being a good listener probably is what that ultimately boils down to.

Enabling Mobility

Michael Burcham: In the following segment, Ross describes how Roaming Hunger has evolved by being responsive to the customer. Becoming a booking marketplace for catering and vending, as well as the creation of an experiential marketing agency.

This growth and expansion came from really listening to its customer base and delivering exactly what they asked for.

Anderson Williams: So, Ross, you've been at this for 14 years. You've obviously built a successful business. Help me understand exactly what your business does. Just in total layman's terms, what does Roaming Hunger do?

Ross Resnick: So Roaming Hunger enables mobility. And when we think about the idea of mobility, we think about small business owners who can provide services where those services don't exist. So the way that manifests and the way what the business looks like is really in two different categories.

One, we'll talk about Roaming Hunger, which is a booking marketplace for catering and vending.

So folks come to us. It could be anything from a birthday party to a large corporate event, and they're looking to feed a group of people. It could be daily food service, it could be a one-off event, it could be a wedding. And what we do is we work with that usually amateur event planner to connect them into 20,000 different small businesses that have the opportunity to bid on that event.

And those vendors then log into the Roaming Hunger platform. They can see everything that's coming up in their area, and they can select whether or not they want to be considered for a catering by putting together a bid, which has an offering of what they could provide for food service. Or they could just for the vending once, say, 'Hey, I'm willing to do it, and here's my menu.' And that's one side of the business.

On the other side of the business, we've created a brand called RMNG, which is roaming. And what we do is really, it's an experiential marketing agency where we take the same concept of mobility and providing services, but we layer in a branded truck or maybe a little putt putt course that lives in front of a truck, or even, it could be a standalone experience for people could walk through.

But the core idea of mobility is the same. And what we think about at Roaming Hunger overall is how do we provide these types of services, depending on what the customer wants. And a lot of this came from going back to just putting up the Roaming Hunger website. People would ride in and say, 'Hey, I have this event. Can you feed everybody here?'

And we say, oh yeah, we can do that. We have relationships with the vendors and from day one, our mission has been to support them. So if that's what customers wanted, we knew that would be best for the vendors. So we built the whole booking marketplace because we knew that solved the vendor's number one problem, which is, 'I got this food truck, now, where do I go?'

On day one, you did everything you gotta do to start a restaurant, but then the question remains, okay, where do I take it? Where do I go? And then additionally, we received messages in that said, 'Hey, I kind of want to do a catering, but actually I want to brand the whole truck on the outside.'

And so we did it. We said, 'Okay, we can do that too.'

And my background was in marketing and events, so we knew we could take that format and then apply a layer of branding on it around it and bring the experience somewhere. And all that kind of sits under that same umbrella of mobility and getting into what I would say hard to reach places.

The Right Partner

Michael Burcham: In this next segment, Ross talks about his decision to bring on an investment partner and his decision to partner with Shore Capital to grow his business.

Anderson Williams: You've built this for 14 years, and I'm curious, after that time and after the obvious success, what made you consider taking on an investment partner?

As you looked at your business, as you looked at opportunities in the market, as you looked at the ability to impact the market, what were your thoughts as you considered taking on investment partners?

Ross Resnick: I always knew that this could be a much bigger than where we got it to. And I, after 14 years of just grinding, I see today that we are just getting started.

And so for me, finding a partner who could help us in pursuing that higher vision and mission was something that I really wanted one day. And we serendipitously came and we met Shore and my primary focus is how do I achieve more with the business and how do we realize the best and highest vision of what this business could be?

And for me, that was the consideration that opened the door to say, 'Okay, I think that private equity, specifically, I think that Shore could be a good fit for what we're doing.'

Anderson Williams: And maybe add a little to that distinction there, Ross, because I think a lot of people here, private equity and have bias or a negative sense to even hearing those words.

As a founder and as a small business and a small business that supports small businesses, that seems out of sync with most of our notions of private equity. Can you talk about that sort of specifically that you mentioned of it wasn't just private equity, it was finding Shore.

Ross Resnick: Yeah, I, my feeling when meeting Jeff and Richard and Justin and the Shore team was that they cared about what we were doing and they wanted to invest in us, and invest in our mission, and saw with us what this could be and what this could look like.

And I know there was a lot of different flavors of private equity. But when meeting with Shore, I knew that how they succeed is by growing companies a lot. And that's what I wanted to do too. So to me that was a pretty natural fit, that they're growth investors and they have discipline and experience around doing that.

And that's what I desire for Roaming Hunger, for me, for our people, for our vendors, for all of us, is just how do we just make this bigger and better for everyone who's involved, for all the communities who are involved.

Anderson Williams: And what were, as the founder, as the person who's put 14 years of work into this and the Big Burrito, as you considered investment, what were your fears? What were hesitations that you had to work through during the process of defining a partnership with Shore?

Ross Resnick: I think in any kind of new business relationship, trust needs to be built from the ground up. And for me, the biggest question that you have as a operator is, 'Is this going to be the best for the business? And is this partnership going to be the best for the business?'

And what I felt and what I continue to feel is that the folks at Shore are exactly who they said they would be throughout the way. There was never a time that we shied away from having a difficult conversation or an upfront and honest conversation.

And to me, that spirit of transparency and that value of open, going back to communication, having communication and being real about what's going on, that was true from the first introductory phone call all the way to right this moment. So the idea that somebody wanted to support that Shore wanted to support our mission to really help this group of small business owners.

And I spoke to Justin about it and he talked about his experience and how passionate he was about that mission. I knew that Shore was really serious about it, and they were going to take that seriously because there's a lot of ways to go about this business. We can do things, we can shortcut, we can do things that don't help the operators, that don't help the small business owners, and that's going to be a short run strategy.

This business does not exist without the small business owners who are providing local food service and, Shore seemed to get that from day one and internalize that and say, okay, cool, 'That's what we're signing up for.' And that felt authentic all the way through.

Early Phase Partnership

Michael Burcham: Ross is still in the early phase of his partnership with Shore Capital, but there are already important changes and lessons learned, helping Roaming Hunger to grow.

Let's listen, as he and Anderson discuss where he is in his partnership journey and some of his early insights.

Anderson Williams: Will you just described a little bit about where you are in that partnership journey, so if anybody listens, has a little bit of context about where that's gone since you made the decision to partner with Shore?

Ross Resnick: Yeah, absolutely. We're kind of rounding the corner on our a hundred days. And have been talking for a lot longer than that and working together for a lot longer than that. But since we completed the partnership, we're about a hundred days in.

Anderson Williams: And what have been the things you expected, things you were surprised by? Any insights on that a hundred day post partnership after this being sort of a solo venture for all this time? That's bound to be quite a bit of change.

Ross Resnick: Yeah, absolutely. We're blessed that we have a wonderful team and we have folks who are, you know, they not just built the business, but they invented the business models. They've been a part of this from the earliest days.

And so for me, before this experience, we could talk and we could share our opinions, but after working in the business for so long, for, you know, decade plus, it's hard to get an outside perspective. And what we've experienced so far is just some of the discipline around reporting and question asking and discussing that I feel is invaluable in building a business and putting together dashboards so we can get better visibility into the things that matter most.

But overall, just having that perspective from Shore and from a board is totally different for us than what we're used to. And for me, it's a totally different job.

Before, as a kind of solo founder, entrepreneur, I have a responsibility to my team and to our communities. But a lot of times I go, 'Oh yeah, hey, let's just do this.' And everyone's like, 'Yeah, let's do it.' And now we gotta go, well, 'Hey, why are we doing that?' And we gotta take a moment and we have to answer questions.

And that's good. That's a healthy thing. And so that's a different way of operating. And so far, that's been very enjoyable for me to go through that growth and learning experience, and I look forward to continuing that on that path.

Advice For Founders

Michael Burcham: In this final segment, Ross shares his advice to early stage founders who are considering bringing on a financial partner to help grow their business. He also shares how he approached this decision with his team.

Anderson Williams: What advice would you give at this point in your journey to a founder like yourself? Who's built a thing? Who's invested everything into a thing? Who's considered taking on an investor, a partner like a Shore Capital?

Ross Resnick: I think ultimately it comes down to what sort of life experience does that person want to have?

Because there's a world where the operator continues in a lifestyle business or you know, whatever they were doing, and they keep doing that. And for me, I'm a person who, I love to challenge myself. I love new experiences. I want to grow, I want to learn. I want to fall short sometimes. And it was actually hard to have that experience before.

And so, my advice to someone considering it is just take a step back and kind of take a big picture, look and say, 'Hey, where could the business go?' And on the personal side, how can I be better? What can I learn? Where can I take my career and my abilities? And I think for me, that was in my teams too, and that was a huge consideration for me going through this process was, 'What opportunities am I going to be able to provide to those folks?'

We are all in this boat. We're all rowing super hard. What opportunities am I for sure going to be able to provide them in the default versus in this new world? What sorts of opportunities open up for people who want more? And that was a big driving force for me to say, 'Okay, I believe this deal, this partnership will be great for everyone.'

We are all going to learn, we're all going to be bad at some stuff and we're going to learn. And as long as the team, as long as your team has the mindset of, it's okay if I'm bad at stuff. Because I don't know right now what I'm bad at. Right where I need to improve and I'm open to that feedback and I want to grow.

To me, that's the best possible position you can be in as a CEO is to say, 'Hey guys, we got some new opportunities. Let's get after it. Let's learn together.' Let's get next to you, and with some really smart and seasoned, experienced people, and they're going to be in our boat now.

Anderson Williams: You bring up. It's a really important point that I know so many of our founders and really most founders are thinking about their team and the impact of this kind of decision.

It's not just about you as the founder, and so can you say a little bit about any of the concerns your team had or excitement your team had either way, but what were their thoughts, concerns, questions that you needed to answer before you made this decision?

Ross Resnick: Yeah, I think change is always hard, right?

Change management is difficult and what it comes down to to me is I didn't profess that I had all the answers or that, I didn't say, oh, everything is going to be perfect, everything is going to be great. I just described to them what I felt like what was going to happen next.

We'd have access to more resources and we were going to attempt to change the trajectory of the company with some folks that had experience doing so, and in that we'd get access to more resources and we'd have super smart and talented people who'd be working with us.

So to me, being honest and saying, 'Hey look, what kind of experience should we have as a team?' We want to do this for another 14 years in the same way. Or do we want to, you know, push the button, right? What happens?

Anderson Williams: Find the big red button and push it, right?

Ross Resnick: Find the red, push it, man. Let's see what happens. And you believe and you say, 'Hey, let's take this leap of faith together.'

And that's true. I think on the partnership side and on Shore's side is there is some leap of faith that you do have to take that, 'Hey, I'm getting into something that is going to be different and it's going to be okay and it's going to be better than okay.' Because you don't know when you're in it before you don't know.

Anderson Williams: So as you look out a longer time horizon, if I said you and I were having a conversation five years from now and looking back. We were talking about what a successful partnership it had been. What are the key things that need to happen in that hindsight for you to feel like this was absolutely what I hoped it would be?

Ross Resnick: For me, it's about opportunity creation and expansion, and I think that's for everyone who's involved. I mean, number one, we want to build a hell of a business and hell of a platform, and we want to do it in the best possible way. We want to be best in class. When we look back, we should say, 'Hey, we did it and we did it right, but we also did it right for everyone who's involved.'

We've empowered our vendors. We've enabled them not just to enhance their businesses, but we've enabled thousands of new entrepreneurs to come in and to participate in something because we've built such a great platform where all they gotta do is take the leap and we can support them. If they have the desire and they want to participate, we can support their business as well.

For our team that we've created wonderful opportunities for our team, the team that's in place today to learn, to succeed, to expand, to become better in every way, and to make sure that we're able to better service our customers as well. And if we look at all of those communities, we look at our internal community, our vendor community, and our customer community, and we look back and say, 'Hey, we did really well by all three,' then I believe then we will have done a great job looking back.

Michael Burcham: This podcast was produced by Shore Capital Partners with story and narration by Michael Burcham. Recording and editing by Andrew Malone. Editing by Reel Audiobooks. Sound design, mixing and mastering by Mark Gallup of Reel Audiobooks.

Special thanks to Ross Resnick and Anderson Williams for such an inspiring interview.

This podcast is the Property of Shore Capital Partners, LLC. None of the content herein is an investment advice, an offer of investment advisory services, nor a recommendation or offer relating to any security. See the terms of use page on the Shore Capital website for other important information.

Advice For Founders
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