Andrew Levin (President) and Daniel Perkins (Chief Operations Officer) of Turkey To Go, based in Minneapolis, have been named the Minnesota Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The Young Entrepreneur of the Year is selected annually based on success as measured by sales and profits, increased employment opportunities created by the business, development and/or utilization of innovative or creative business methods, and demonstrated entrepreneurial potential necessary for long-term business success and economic growth. If this wasn’t enough, all of these accomplishments are done before the Young Entrepreneur reaches the age of thirty (30). Michael Ryan, Director of the Twin Cities Small Business Development Center at the University of St. Thomas, nominated Drew and Dan for this award.
Turkey To Go is an exciting quick service restaurant that has its roots at the Minnesota State Fair for over 50 years. Turkey To Go serves giant turkey sandwiches and slow-roasted turkey drumsticks. The sandwiches are similar to a pulled-pork sandwich, with turkey that is roasted and pulled. You may not know it, but Minnesota is the leading turkey producer in the United States, and Dan and Drew have an exclusive partnership with the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.
Dan and Drew have operated Turkey To Go since acquiring it in 2009. Under their management, Turkey To Go has gone from a little known food booth at the Minnesota state Fair to a brand that is well-known throughout the state of Minnesota. They have grown Turkey To Go into one of the top five grossing food booths at the Minnesota State Fair, and in 2012, were awarded the People’s Choice Award for “Best Food at the Fair.”
But Dan and Drew have not rested on their State Fair laurels; they continue to grow rapidly. In 2010, they successfully worked with the Minneapolis City Council to pass a local ordinance allowing mobile food trucks in downtown Minneapolis and now have their own food trucks on Nicollet Mall and South 8th Streets. In 2011, Turkey To Go opened two concessions at Target Field, the home of the Minnesota Twins.
To offset the seasonality of the State Fair, Food Truck and Baseball season food business, in 2012, Dan and Drew opened two year-round locations in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul skyway systems.
Their sales and employment numbers have also grown impressively with each year. Before they began operating Turkey To Go in 2009, the State Fair business had sales of $362,000. Today Turkey To Go’s sales have surpassed $1 million and they employ eight people at the four new locations.
But Turkey To Go is not their first entrepreneurial venture. Dan and Drew met as freshmen at the University of Florida in 2001, and immediately connected through their drive to succeed and respect for the hard work needed to achieve their goals. In 2004, they raised capital for an online social entertainment network called Yfly.com. Unfortunately, the technology platform was unable to support the millions of users coming to the website and it failed in 2006.
Building on their experience from Yfly.com, Dan and Drew identified a market opportunity created by the collapse of the U.S. housing market, and in 2007, formed D&D Real Estate Holdings LLC. They first acquired several residential properties near the University of Minnesota. Today they currently own and manage over 40 residential properties in the Twin Cities.
As a result of this success, in 2012, they inked a deal to film a new television series for Home & Garden TV (HGTV) following them as they purchase, remodel and rent properties. The series is scheduled to air in the summer of 2013.
With respect to community involvement, both Dan and Drew are committed to charitable causes. Dan participates in the Big Brother program and has employed a family member of his “little brother.” Drew is a founding member of the Alzheimer’s Association Young Champions group and Turkey To Go has underwritten the food for the Alzheimer’s Association Young Champions Gala for the past three years, and will again do so for the upcoming gala.
Dan and Drew participated in SBA’s Emerging Leaders program in 2011. The goal of the SBA Emerging Leader initiative is to target inner-city businesses across the country that show a high potential for growth—and to provide them the network, resources and motivation required to build a sustainable business of size and scale.
SBA is increasing outreach to areas historically challenged by high levels of unemployment and poverty. Bolstering entrepreneurial success in these areas will generate new jobs, attract investment, and provide a more sustainable economic base in distressed areas. The program enables participating small businesses to engage in an intensive curriculum focused on developing a winning, expansion strategy for their business, including options for capital access and contracting. Participants have the opportunity to work with experienced mentors, attend workshops and develop connections with their peers, city leaders, and financial community.
Dan and Drew will be honored at the Minnesota Small Business Week Awards program on May 6, 2013, at the Depot Minneapolis.
Juan Ramirez is founder and president of Minneapolis-based Grupo Avance, a business that helps companies expand sales into Mexico, Latin America and U.S. Hispanic markets. A native of Mexico, Ramirez studied business and marketing at the Universidad Vercruzana in Mexico and at Miami University and the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. Prior to starting Grupo Avance, he worked at IBM, GE and other technology consulting firms as a sales and marketing executive.
Grupo Avance works with companies that want to export to Mexico and Latin America, but are unsure of the rules and regulations they may encounter in the target market country. The firm helps clients overcome language barriers and cultural issues, and can identify Mexican and Latin America suppliers. Market analysis, and customization of products and services to meet the specific needs and preferences of Mexican and Latin American markets are additional services offered.
The market potential for selling to Mexico and Latin America is huge. Mexico is the United States' second largest global trading partner. Since 1993, the value of two-way trade with Mexico has almost tripled from $81 billion to $232 billion.
Grupo Avance also helps companies market to the growing Hispanic population in the United States. Hispanics are the largest minority group in the country. There are more than 35 million persons of Hispanic descent representing 13 percent of the population. Hispanics in the U.S. have a buying power of more than $500 billion annually. One in 10 businesses in the U.S. will be Hispanic-owned by 2007. Between 1993 and 2001, the Hispanic teen population grew by 30 percent. Currently, one of five teens in the U.S. is of Hispanic descent.
It is no wonder that companies large and small have taken a keen interest in reaching these markets. Grupo Avance helps clients analyze the domestic Hispanic market and then develop strategies to reach that customer base that include legal and cultural considerations. Grupo Avance also provides translation services.
Recently, Juan Ramirez received assistance to help finance a client project through SBA's Export Express Loan Program. Ramirez was working with Ryan Kanne of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Commercial Services. Ramirez was in the process of contracting with DOC for a market feasibility study of a product his client was considering marketing in Mexico. The DOC Commercial Services provides a variety of assistance through its Embassies worldwide, including feasibility and market studies. Ramirez needed working capital to help finance the market research study.
Nancy Libersky, SBA's Minnesota District Director (formerly the International Trade Specialist at the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Minneapolis) provided Ramirez a list of lenders who might be able to help him with an SBA Export Express Loan. Ramirez contacted Kim Storey of Highland Bank who approved his loan request. The study was completed and delivered to the client.
SBA's Export Express loans help small business exporters participate in foreign trade shows, translate brochures or catalogs, purchase equipment to be used in production of export orders, and provide general lines of credit for export purposes. Lenders use their own loan analyses, loan procedures and loan documentation to process loan applications. The maximum loan amount is $250,000. Juan Ramirez is a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Minnesota, the Minnesota Entrepreneurs and the Minnesota Minority Supplier Development Council. He teaches International Business and Corporate Strategies at Northwestern College in St. Paul.