We had the good fortune of connecting with Sara Sampson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sara, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
My background is in foodservice. I started in culinary school in 1998 and I have been in the industry every day since. I have always been very entrepreneurial and creative. I started “Fabulously Global Gourmet” back in 2010. The concept would re-emerge as the “Hello Fresh” delivered meals concept years later. I was running around delivering globally-inspired crockpot meals in Ziplock bags and cardboard boxes. I ran myself ragged and would wake up with panic attacks most nights thinking of all the shopping, cooking, creating the next month meal plans, updating my website, and so forth. I was about to lose it. Something had to give, but I was not ready to give up. My problem was that I had no idea how to scale a business and I was a one-woman show. I freaked out and pivoted. Corporate lunch catering. Brilliant. I offered globally inspired salads, soups, and sandwiches packaged up in a box lunch concept. The business was inconsistent, and I always had to have a restaurant job to supplement my income. What I missed back then, that I know now is the delivered dinner idea was niche and unique and thus was more popular. Corporate lunch catering was a saturated market and the competition was stiff. Now I know I should have gone with my first instincts and fought through the challenges of being overwhelmed. I was burned out, and I felt defeated. I was also going through a divorce so that didn’t help matters. I needed to get a job with benefits and a stable income.
I QUIT and I perceived it as a failure. After reflecting on that time years later, I realized how many new skills I picked up and refined while starting that business. I learned how to create a website, revisit food costing and food yields, health department requirements for opening up a catering business, how to set up and take credit card payments. I learned about credit card fees, LLCs and business licenses, insurance, social media, marketing, and that is the shortlist.
Fast forward to the 2020 pandemic. I was tired of cooking and I wanted a food truck to come to my neighborhood. I shared the thought with a friend, and she suggested I organize it. So, I did. I started a company called “Neighbor Trucks”, which is a premier food truck booking service for HOA, condominium communities, and large apartment complexes in Phoenix, Arizona with plans to build the service out to different cities in America. I managed to take all the skills I had learned from starting “Fabulously Global Gourmet” years earlier and insert them into Neighbor Trucks in addition to the skills I had picked up in my position I took during my divorce. I finally understood how important these skills are and how I could utilize what I perceived as a failure before, as a success driver moving forward. I was able to get up to speed starting “Neighbor Trucks fairly quickly because I did not need to begin from scratch learning how to start a business. I realized I needed a professional team of people to help me with my vision and that I alone could not do everything myself. Other valuable lessons learned from my perceived “failure”. I hired a professional website development team to help me bring my vision to life. Since launching “Neighbor Trucks”, I have started a second concept under the same umbrella called “Yummy Truck Finder”. This is an app and website for food truck vendors and people trying to find delicious street food in their city.
“The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. I say this every day and I have it written on my wall. This has never been truer than it is today. It is easy for humans to get discouraged, freak out, succumb to self-doubt and fear or what we perceive as failures. The simple path is to accept our challenges as failures and give up. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. It is not easy, and this journey is to be taken one step and one day at a time. I have realized I am going to fall. That is ok. I must consciously pick myself up, dust myself off, take a breath, reassess, pivot if necessary, find and ask for help and persevere. Now, there is no such thing as quitting.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
. I have been in food service in some capacity for over twenty years. I have worked in every position you can imagine from dishwasher to restaurant manager to catering company owner and everything in between. It is an industry that is full of long hours, weekends, and holidays, working on your feet day after day. It’s a fun industry that is fast-paced and continually changing. At the time of the start of the pandemic, I was working as a food service consultant for a food manufacturing company. Restaurants quickly had to close their doors or pivot to outdoor dining and take-out only. The music stopped in my company in October and I was left without a chair. I got laid off and had to decide what was next. What started out as a summer hustle, Neighbor Trucks quickly became my baby. Nothing is ever easy and if it is, you won’t appreciate it. Neighbor Trucks is no different. I continue to overcome challenges every day and anticipate nothing changing there. The three words I want the brand to stand for are convenience, reliability, and honesty. I want my Neighbor community partners to be able to have fun food truck events in their community, but a lot of people don’t know how to arrange them. Managing expectations between my neighbor partners and my vendor partners is crucial and honesty is the cornerstone of developing my relationships with both parties.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The week would be spent hiking, golfing, shopping, and eating. Hiking at Camelback Mountain and surrounding desert trails, golf at one of the hundreds of scenic golf courses around the area, eating in the culinary district of Gilbert. Restaurants not to be missed are Farmhouse, Joe’s Real BBQ, Zinburger, and Snooze for breakfast. Shopping and lunch would be had in Old Town Scottsdale and then bar hopping in the Arizona State area in Tempe.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to recognize Suman Thapa and team with Systha Tech. From listening to my vision, creating my logo, website, and app, listening to all of my challenges along the way, while providing me with solutions. He never told me, “no” when I asked him to change, re-do or add a new idea. to the website or app. We managed to bulldoze through each challenge to create multiple products that are more than I ever expected or would have dreamt up on my own. He anticipated every possible situation I could face and came up with innovative ideas for all of them. Suman and his team continue to support my business and I will have a relationship with him for as long as I own Neighbor Trucks. Thank you, Suman and Systha Tech team.