We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Carissa Gould a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Alright, Carissa thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. We’d love to have you retell us the story behind how you came up with the idea for your business, I think our audience would really enjoy hearing the backstory.
I wanted a hot dog cart for many years before I actually bought one. I know that might sound crazy, but you wouldn’t believe how many people have stopped me and told me they always wanted one too. After pondering the idea for many years, being in a position where I needed to be self employed, and having the funds to start my business it all came into alignment in May of 2012. Strolling through my central Phoenix neighborhood at the time with my 1 year old twins and toddler in tow, I popped into a hot dog cart manufacturers storefront that just so happened to be down the street from my house at the time. I stopped right in there, looked at the different styles, picked out the one I wanted, and told them that I’d be back the next day with cash! I did exactly that and Mama’s Dogs was born!!! Now, you must be thinking exactly what was I thinking…..now what!!?? I was given a little guideline from the hot dog manufacturer on where to go for product, types of brands to carry, insurance, health department info etc, and that was that!!! I really had no idea what I was going to do. I knew that I wanted my cart to be cute, inviting, my own little country kitchen, and of course serve a great product. I proposed setting my cart up at an antique store that was near my home at the time. They had a large following and offered no food. I called them up, they asked for a picture of my cute cart, and said ok, you’re in. It was a great starting point for me. I made a lot of connections there that led to other events. I also made appearances at farmers markets when I was first starting out. The markets were a great place to network and have people try your product. I’ve never paid for advertising. All of my business has been either word of mouth or referrals. I always say the best way to advertise is to actually show people what you do. There’s a gazillion hot dog cart vendors, but there’s only 1 Mama’s Dogs!! It ain’t about the weenie at Mama’s Dogs, it’s the whole package!!! I serve Vienna Beef hot dogs and polish dogs along with kettle cooked chips and a variety of drinks. I also, make amazing homemade cookies (4 flavors), gourmet hot cocoa with edible toppings,fresh squeezed lemonade, and now tacos and nachos too!! All of my tortilla chips and hard shells are homemade as well as all of my yummy sauces to top your taco! I added Mexican food to my menu during the pandemic. I was home with my 4 sons who were online learning at the time so I thought why not experiment with my sauces and perfect my sloppy taco!!! Dang y’all this is good stuff! I’m just a girl originally from the sticks in Nebraska that loves her tacos and nachos!!! Find out what everyone is talking about and order some for your next catering!! The experience at Mama’s Dogs is like no other! I pride myself on top notch customer service, quality food, friendliness, and being somewhat of a mind reader!!! I know what you’re thinking before you can spit it out!!! My hot dog cart has definitely gotten cuter as the years have gone by. When I look at some of my 1st photos from 10 years ago I think gee…this was cute, but holy cow…it’s become so much better!! I’m a sign girl. I find quirky funny signs wherever I go, and I love flowers….lots of them. Bright sunny happy flowers…colors that pop!! The florals are attention grabbers, but they also make the space so inviting…kind of like going to grandma’s house. Mama’s Dogs is a place where you’ll feel right at home. It’s a judgement free zone, we laugh, we love…..I want you walking away with full bellies and full hearts. I also make all of my aprons. I’ve sewn over 300 aprons at this point. I like the get into theme for a party. I’ll switch out my decor and dress the part to fit right in. Holiday themes, weddings, birthdays, etc….I’ve got ya covered!! Trust me…..people will be talking about your party for years to come if I’m part of it!!! I want to thank all of my amazing customers and fans for their continued support over the last 10 years!!! Holy cow…..it’s been a fun wild ride with far too many laughs, giggles, weenie eating, memories, and friendships. My deepest gratitude. Love you guys!! I’ve also run my business for the past 9 years at Barrett Jackson and to think that I almost told them no when they called and asked me to be part of the show!!! I wondered how I was going to be able to handle that type of volume as a 1 woman show!!! They said, “we don’t call people and ask them to be part of the show, and people don’t tell us no!” Well…..9 years later it was one of the best YES’s that I ever gave!!! My little business had been quite the staple there!!! It’s not just about the delicious food, it’s the service, ambience, and of course Mama herself that set my business apart from anyone else and it keeps people talking!!! I am so grateful to have a good crew by my side during those 9 days!!! Hardworking people are invaluable. This show and all of the patrons have become a little family to me. I always shed a few tears at the end knowing that I won’t see some of you for a whole year!!! Seriously….you guys touch my Mama heart, and I am so thankful for you!!! I want to extend a huge thank you to my 4 sons. They were my inspiration behind Mama’s Dogs. As a struggling single mom when I first started my business, they were always my “why” and my “reason” to forge ahead and to never give up!!! Many of my vendors and customers have watched my boys grow up throughout the years!!! My oldest son is now taller than me at 14 years old, my twins just turned 11, and my baby is already 7!!! Crazy how fast the time has gone by. Guess I’m having too much fun!!! My sons have been amazing helpers and they are great at going with the flow and dealing with my crazy work schedule certain times of the year! I’m a blessed happy Mama. Time flies when you’re having this much fun!!! I can’t think of anything else that I’d rather be doing right now!!! I’m here today doing what I love because of the best most loyal loving fans and customers around!!! I love you guys!!
Carissa, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
Growing up in a small town in south central Nebraska, it was instilled in me at a very young age to be a hardworker. I come from a place where people are honest, they show up no matter what, they get the job done, they don’t complain, and you recognize what people need. People around you never have to ask for things because of your keen since of situational awareness. I’m thankful for my humble beginnings and the values that I was raised on. I left Nebraska in 1998 with my packed Honda Accord, a crown royal bag full of quarters, my favorite cd’s and clothes with absolutely no idea what I would do. I lived in Phoenix for 2 years before moving to Keene, New Hampshire for 2 years where I traveled to NYC frequently for work along with many other New England adventures! After 2 years, I packed up my things and headed back out to the wild wild west!!! I love my sunshine and warm weather!! Upon returning to the Valley, I took a job as a commercial flight attendant for a few years until I had multiple offers to fly on private jets as a corporate flight attendant. What would you choose…an Airbus full of passengers or a G5!!?? I was a corporate flight attendant prior to my first son’s birth. Then, came twins….then came the hot dog cart…then came another son….and here I still am!!! I’ve always had jobs that revolved around customer service and so many jobs in the food industry. I like people, and I find joy in making others happy. That’s what sets me apart from others. I have a positive attitude and give service with a smile. I’m not here to say that every day is a great day, but it’s all in our reaction to things, and our positive mindset. We can make a bad day better with a more positive mindset. Trust me….I’ve gone through a lot of horrible things in life, but I never let any of it beat me down. That’s what makes me so relatable to people too. I’m down to earth, honest, and well rounded. I can relate to anyone anywhere because I have seen and done a variety of things in life. Those experiences have helped shape me as a business owner, mom, and friend. I’m always thinking outside of the box, and I’m grateful for life’s experiences…the good, the bad, and the ugly.
How’d you build such a strong reputation within your market?
My reputation speaks for itself. I am 100% committed to my business, my clients, and my fans. I will go above and beyond to make sure my clients are satisfied and happy. I’m a woman of her word. I say what I mean and mean what I say. I instill these values into my sons as well. There is always actions behind my words. Some people talk to the talk, but I also walk the walk. I am grateful for my clients that refer me. They know that I will always follow through with my word. In business, you are your best asset!! Building customer rapport and satisfaction is number 1 on my list.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
2020 had a lot of unknowns in store for so many of us. My industry was one of the hardest hit. Suddenly, I had 4 little boys at home online learning, all upcoming events canceled, and I’m wondering how in the world is someone like me that primarily runs her business based on caterings going to survive??? I took a few weeks to stay home with my boys and navigate online learning with them, and then, it was back to business! During that time, I perfected my Mexican food. I now make crunchy green chili shredded pork sloppy tacos and bomb ass loaded nachos. I couldn’t stay home forever so after a few weeks, I started popping up on a side street a few times/week. Originally, I was going to sell my tacos only on Tuesdays, but they became such a hit that I sell them every time I set up my cart for a random pop up. 2020 was challenging for all of us, but it gave me extra time with my boys and extra time in the kitchen! Had that not happened, who knows when I would’ve found the time to experiment with my sloppy tacos and make them the best ever!! Now, I cater weenie parties and/or taco parties!! Seriously…..this is some yummy food!! You’ve got to try it!! Give me a call at 602.321.1265 for your next event!!!
- Website: www.mamasdogs.com
- Instagram: mamasdogs
- Facebook: Mama’s Dogs LLC
- Other: 602.321.1265
Photos by me on self timer