These food-truck founders lost out on $100,000 because of a stupid mistake

Three years ago, Shane Vidovic and Ted Dupaski bought an old truck for about $1,000 on Craigslist. They cleaned it up, installed a smoker, and with some serious trial and error, created The Proper Pig, Cleveland’s award-winning BBQ on wheels.

After a couple years of modest but steady success, the entrepreneurs decided it was time to take their rolling restaurant to a brick-and-mortar location.

And they hoped to do it with help from Kathy Futey, an investor on CNBC’s reality business show “Cleveland Hustles.”

The Proper Pig

The Proper Pig

The show focuses on revitalizing the economically challenged Gordon Square neighborhood of Cleveland. Vidovic and Dupaski were looking to secure a $100,000 investment from Futey in exchange for 25 percent equity in their restaurant.

The investment was particularly important to the family-focused men because they hoped it would create stability in their lives — especially for Vidovic, who is raising an 8-year-old daughter by himself after his wife died of cancer.

“One of the reasons I wanted to open The Proper Pig,” Vidovic said, “was to show my daughter that sometimes in life [you have to be] willing to take chances in order to be happy.”

To test The Proper Pig’s viability as a full-time restaurant and potential investment, Futey challenged the BBQ men to open a one-day pop-up shop with the goal of serving 200 customers and generating at least $1,500 in sales.

She also asked The Proper Pig to expand the business into breakfast — something Vidovic and Dupaski had never done before and weren’t sure where to begin.

To help them expand their menu into breakfast, they met with Jonathon Sawyer, a James Beard Award-winning chef and another investor on the show.

Sawyer explained that the previous night’s unsold leftovers should become the next day’s breakfast meat. He also showed them how they could use microwave eggs to create a simple dish that would complement their core business.

A James Beard award winning chef gives a lesson in microwave eggs.

A James Beard award winning chef gives a lesson in microwave eggs.

Using all of their available food and even seemingly simplistic cooking methods is all about the bottom line. “That revenue stream is important to The Proper Pig,” Sawyer said. “And I can teach them how to use it.”

But what he didn’t teach them was how to set up an actual restaurant. Instead of trying to impress with a well-thought-out eatery, they opted for a few tables covered with black cloth and some chairs.

“We want to let the food do all the talking for us,” Vidovic said.

Breakfast was a hit. And they even used inspiration from Sawyer to create a new BBQ sandwich using doughnuts from a local shop.

But the “Cleveland Hustles” team was far less impressed with what The Proper Pig founders did inside the shop.

The show’s host, Bonin Bough, said: “They were supposed to create a restaurant feeling here, and all they did was put up some picnic tables.”

In the end, The Proper Pig also fell short of its goals. Instead of 200 customers, 185 showed up, and the $1,300 in sales was $200 short of the target.

Futey ultimately decided not to invest in The Proper Pig, opting instead to invest in a yoga studio.

Futey explained her decision: “They didn’t properly prepare for the day. Their dining area lacked ambiance. Ultimately, I just think they need more time.”

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