Alum’s new food cart satisfies hunger on South Campus
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 23:09
Twice a week, without fail, senior Cooper Asay comes to class late and hungry. For the average student, 15 minutes is ample time between classes, but for Asay, who has back-to-back classes in Wolf Hall and Worrilow Hall, this is barely enough time to make the trek, let alone grab food.
“I am basically five to 10 minutes late to every class on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Asay says.
For those like Asay who make the daily trip to South Campus, Sept. 29 will mark a change in their food sources. That Saturday, alum Leigh Ann Tona will open her entrepreneurial food cart, “I Don’t Give a Fork,” in the Delaware Tire Center parking lot at 616 S. College Ave.
South Campus is located more than a mile and a half from the center of university activity and more importantly, viable dining options, Tona says. Tona developed the idea for the cart as a senior in 2011, when she wrote a hypothetical business plan for a class assignments. The cart was a practical way to address the lack of food sources on South Campus, Tona says.
“I felt like a food cart was within the realm of possibility and it’s definitely a trending thing,” Tona says. “My roommates and I would joke around, trying to come up with a good idea for a food cart. One we came up with was ‘I Don’t Give a Fork.’”
Her idea for a utensil-free food cart was met with praise from students and professors alike. In November, Tona won $1,000 through the Entrepreneurial Studies Program’s Business Idea Pitch Competition.
Tona worked at the UDairy Creamery and says she and her colleagues often had to order takeout because there were no nearby food establishments.
“Something I learned in my business classes was that when you start a business, you want to solve a need rather than a want,” Tona says.
In May 2012, Tona’s business was mentioned in President Patrick Harker’s commencement remarks. This inspired Tona to create a blog, found at idontgiveafork.com, detailing her experiences as an entrepreneur in sandwich-making. Tona’s blog had an even greater purpose in that it would be the business’ first endeavor in social marketing, the use of social media as a means of advertising and promotion.
This was the perfect way to engage college students, says business administration expert Lee Mikles, who follows “I Don’t Give a Fork” on Facebook and Twitter.
“Social marketing is very important because that’s where the college student audience is living,” Mikles says. “You’ve got to find a way to be invited into their world. What I like is that she is taking everyone on the journey with her and is getting a following even before she opens her doors.”
By April, Tona purchased a food cart and finalized her menu. Tona says she is working on spreading the word about her subs and finalizing the details of the cart’s opening.
The menu will include breakfast subs, like scrambled eggs, ham and cheese on a six-inch hoagie roll. Lunch subs feature items like turkey, bacon and tomato with Parmesan peppercorn mayo on a six-inch hoagie roll. An “I Don’t Give a Fork” specialty is the “Mac and Cheese-Steak,” a Philly cheese steak with grilled onions smothered in macaroni and cheese.
“I Don’t Give a Fork” employee senior Alex Liberatore says he is impressed with Tona’s initiative.
“I wanted to be a part of it,” Liberatore says. “Everyone always talks about opening their own business, but she actually took a risk and went for it, and I think that’s really admirable.”