Teaching Kids to be Entrepreneurs: Jack’s Cosmic Hot Dogs

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cosmicHere’s a follow-up post to The Best Advice For A Teenager Looking For a Job. One of the podcasts I regularly listen to is the Alton Browncast (of “Good Eats” fame). Many topics are food-related but often it boils down to him talking with really interesting people. In one of his earlier episodes, he did an interview with Jack Hurley, who is the owner of Jack’s Cosmic Dogs near Charleston, South Carolina.

Jack Hurley has started 6 restaurants and a few other businesses. Early in the interview, he discusses the creation of his popular, retro hot dog stand. It turns out, Jack wanted to start a simple business so that he could give his kids a job and teach them how to run a restaurant. His two sons were a freshman and sophomores in high school at the time. Here’s my transcript of that part of the podcast:

…We had to make it simple for high school kids to do… I told my sons, now watch this, your mom and I are going to create this place in one month, we’re going to paint it, do the logo, do the recipes, in one month. I want you to understand, that if at some point in your life you are tired of working for The Man, that you have this creative gene in you. We’re going to do this so fast it’s going to shock you.

Obviously not every parent will have the means or ability to do this, but I thought it was a pretty cool idea (and their hot dogs look yummy). From what I can tell, Cosmic Dogs has been around now for over 10 years, so I wonder if his sons indeed took to the entrepreneurial path?

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  1. I hope they also don’t forget to incorporate other values in business besides making money. There are many very financially successful businesses that treat workers poorly, promote unhealthy food, animal cruelty, violate labor and non-discrimination laws, and cause excessive pollution. I’d hope Cosmic Dogs tried to be successful in other areas in addition to just financial profitability.

    • And it would be nice if they would split the profits 50/50 with the gay/lesbian/transgender community and PETA so that we know that it is going for a great cause, right Nick?

      • @Jack – I can understand you don’t agree with my comment but I don’t get why you can’t just earnestly discuss that instead of only posting a snarky retort. I know comment sections aren’t known for fostering stimulating civil dialogue – but I thought commenters here like MMM and I imagine he’d prefer it not to be full of the typical insults and people talking past each other.

        I like the LGBT community and I like PETA – so actually I would agree with your question! I’m guessing you think such a proposition is absurd. But perhaps Jack and his son like the outdoors and they want to donate 10% of profits to the Nature Conservancy – and maybe they would be like Chipotle that only buys meat from suppliers that have higher welfare standards for their animals. Maybe they pay workers a high starting wage like In-N-Out Burger or Costco. Or they commit to being carbon neutral like UPS.

        All the businesses I mentioned are very successfully financially, but they also see that money isn’t everything and they can act more ethically in business than others. I don’t think that’s such an absurd idea – but it sounds like you do.

        • brankar says

          Nick, I liked your post and agree business ethics are crucial. In business school we had a class on it but really it’s lost in what MBAs are taught: ROI. That’s it. That’s everything today.

          We’re here and we all play with stocks, ROTH, ETF, REITs, etc. This site is a great place to learn about all of that. And find ways to save.

          But when I look at the business landscape, yikes. Most large businesses today are run with a really short-sighted view of the future – show big returns to investors today. That means paying employees as little as possible. Cutting corners. Not investing in the future. Not investing in people and their development. No work/life balance. No ethics at all. Sadly.

          • While I respect the above posters’ opinions, I personally think that businesses see money as the only goal. Owners seem to have merely broadened their means to obtaining business by supporting personal values with their company that appeal to potential employees and customers.

            Donating to conservatory or buying meats from suppliers that treat animals nicely brings in more animal lovers, paying workers higher encourages loyalty and reduces turnover and training costs, being carbon neutral brings in the global warming supporters.

            In the end it is all about money and that’s not a bad thing. I will be the first to admit that I personally support companies that I consider to have values that I share.

          • I think you can find examples where businesses do altruistic things that don’t ultimately help their bottom line in the short-term or long-term. It’s not as if doing ethical things is a major boon otherwise you’d see every company lining up to do it. We’ve also seen this play out recently with religion – where a company will promote religion which gains some customers but alienates others.

        • Tim Hebb says

          My reaction to Jack’s comments was much like yours. He clearly intended his remarks as a putdown, but my thought was: “Why NOT share business profits with worthy causes”? He may not realize that most large corporations do – generously – from BofA to Target to General Electric to Johnson & Johnson. Why shouldn’t small businesses donate a portion of profits proportionately? Has he heard of Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, adopted by so many billionaire entrepreneurs including Bill Gates? I hope Jack’s narrow views of business goals are not representative of small business as a whole, and I doubt they are.

  2. brankar says

    Love this idea. Love the idea in general of people reaching out to make a business. Some friends did so a few years ago and recently sold off their software company. Very happy for them and the chance they took.

    Still wish we had a one payer healthcare system as that was an issue for the guys – healthcare for their families while branching out – and it’s a darn good reason many people avoid taking the leap. Medical bankruptcy is too common.

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