Megan’s Atomic Dogs: A 14-Year-Old’s Recipe for Success
Last updated on July 6th, 2023 at 10:25 am
At 14 years of age, while many ponder their uncertain future, Megan Wilburn-Biggs has embarked on a business journey that would leave a delicious mark on her community.
That business is called Megan’s Atomic Dogs, where Megan serves up various hot dog creations, pulled pork sliders and even pretzel bites.
Megan, an upcoming freshman from the Toledo area, and her father, Shawn Biggs, are no newbies to the mobile food scene, both working on a local food truck together before she realized it was time for a change.
The Beginning of Megan’s Atomic Dogs
“I started working on Pepperoni Tony’s food truck when I was 10 with my dad for about a year and a half. I had made a lot of money on it and decided I didn’t really want to work for my dad anymore,” said Megan.
Wanting to stay in the industry, she weighed out her options and a hot dog cart seemed like the best solution. “The hotdog cart just kind of seemed simple.
I knew it would be easier for someone my age. So, I bought it, and when I was 12, I did my first private event at Pavlov’s Brewing Company and have been doing it ever since,” said Megan.
Shawn owns his own catering business and introduced Megan to Burkett Restaurant Equipment & Supplies when he noticed she was using and misplacing some of his pans.
Megan said, “he told me you need to get your own stuff and get organized. So, he told me about Burkett. They have helped me out and the prices are good. They basically stocked my cart with supplies because I got most of my stuff from them.”
Building On a Strong Foundation
Networking from her first Pavlov’s event and posting on her Facebook page have led to others in the area reaching out to have Megan’s Atomic Dogs on location for special events. Aside from events at Pavlov’s, she has also done private events for Oncore Brewing in Swanton and the Glass City Mashers Homebrew Club.
She was also invited to do a demonstration for her Home Economics course in seventh grade after her teacher heard about her business.
“She’s getting a little notoriety. We’re really limited during the school year though. We limit how many events she can do to a maximum of one a month. During the summer, she’s available a little more and we’re looking at bigger things in the future,” said Shawn.
With the summer season in full swing, Megan also tries to find balance. “I like doing it but obviously it’s summer, so I still want to have time to hang out with my friends and get the childhood summer experience. When it’s not summer, I have school, I have to study and get good grades. I feel like I’ve been handling it pretty good. And I’ve been able to keep a good balance,” she said.
Understanding the Business of Business
On the business finance side, Megan is exceling in areas you may not think a 14-year-old would, choosing events based on her profits. “She had an offer from a brewery to do an event for them on a Saturday as an early shift. She said she didn’t want to do it and I said why? She asked, ‘don’t you remember last time I was there? After I paid my cost, I only averaged $25 an hour. It’s really not worth it to me.’ At 14,” said Shawn.
Megan’s father has let her know that you have to take the good with the bad when it comes to business.
“I remember I did an event in December around Christmas time and I didn’t do that good. My dad and his friend Brian were like ‘yeah, sometimes around the holidays, you just aren’t going to do that good.’ Brian also gave me some really good advice about how if I mark things down, I can track how my events are doing from year to year.” said Megan.
Food and Family
Shawn started working in a golf course kitchen when he was 17. He has bounced between construction and foodservice since but has worked in many restaurants around the state and helped develop quite a few menus over the years.
While he’s working on his own food business, he still tries to be there for Megan while also letting her learn. “I transport the cart and try to stay out of her way. I’m kind of hands off. They are always her bookings. The people will contact me, but I turn them over to her so that she can set her own dates. I’m not forcing her or making her do this. It’s her decision. I just help as much as I can,” said Shawn.
A stubborn but confident Megan said, “sometimes I just don’t want to accept help because I have it in my brain that, ‘oh, I have to do this for myself.’”
However, with the cart, support and knowledge to be successful, she has grown her business and expanded like many food trucks in the area. “There are a lot of good food trucks in the area. I haven’t tried all of them yet, but I hope to try more of them because supporting small businesses and the concept of the food truck is honestly just kind of cool,” said Megan.
A Unique Opportunity
Deet’s Barbeque, Glaze’Em Gourmet Funnel Cakes, Off the Rails Food Trolley, The Saucy Slamwich and The Naughty Lobstah all top her local favorite list when it comes to food trucks, but Megan has one big advantage over the others.
“She has zero overhead where they’re driving trucks around with equipment and generators. You have people that are charging $12 for a hot dog and not everyone’s going to pay that. She’s able to keep her costs much lower by her menu and her small design of business,” said Shawn.
The other advantage could be her creative twists on a hot dog. Starting with just a plain hot dog, chili dog and her ‘Atomic Dog’, she has also added the ‘Dilly Girl’, ‘Taco Dog’, ‘Bubba Dog’ and ‘Da Brat’.
Megan tasted around 100 hot dogs before settling on the brand she wanted to serve and feels her creativity is also what sets her apart in the market.
While Toledo and Cincinnati have very different styles when it comes to chili dogs, Megan’s might be something you have never experienced.
“When she got the cart, Megan said she wanted my chili recipe. I’m like, ‘if this is going to be yours, it’s yours.’ We moved back to the Toledo area from Cincinnati, and she liked aspects of Cincinnati chili. I’m spoiled from Toledo, with Tony Packos and I’m like, ‘this is real hotdog chili,’ and she came up with kind of a combination for her recipe,” said Shawn.
While Megan did not give away her secret recipe, she did let us know it is not sweet but balanced out. In her words, “not to be biased, but it’s pretty good!”
While Megan plans to get her driver’s permit next year, a food truck will probably be a few years down the road.
Shawn is currently designing one that allows them to do father/daughter setups together, having her cart to roll onto the back of his truck in transport. “I’m just proud of her because she interacts with people on a level that not everybody can. She has the gift to deal with the public like that and she’s always done well with it,” said Shawn.
Advice for future entrepreneurs?
Megan says, “you can’t always think that you’re going to get a perfect event and that you’re going to make money every time. You have to get used to losing money, which sometimes it just happens and it’s just kind of a reality. You can’t let it get you down because there are also times you’ll do really good.”
She has also learned how to be more efficient with larger crowds, serving faster and also getting better with budgeting and cost analysis.
“Take it slow at first. I feel like when you start something like this, it could be really stressful. If you’re trying to throw everything you have at it, this might really drain you where you might get a little bitter towards it. But if you start slow and kind of ease yourself into it, it’ll be good,” said Megan.
We appreciate customers like Megan’s Atomic Dogs and are always glad to have her support. “Obviously, I’m going to keep going to Burkett to get supplies in case I misplace some of my own lids, and to get bigger and better equipment as I grow,” said Megan.
Food Truck Fridays at Burkett!
If you’re hoping to get a taste of Megan’s Atomic Dogs, she will also be at our location on July 7, 2023 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. as our vendor for #FoodTruckFridays, an event started this year to feature one of our customers every Friday. While she is currently is going through the process to get officially licensed, this will be a donation only event to help fund her future food truck and all her equipment needs. You can also follow her at https://www.facebook.com/megansatomicdogs or catch her at Taco Wars in Toledo this September.