When 13-year-old Jaequan Faulkner first started selling hot dogs in front of his North Minneapolis home, he just wanted to earn some extra spending money. But after two years of running his hot dog stand, he received a call this summer from the Minneapolis Health Department, letting him know that someone had complained about his stand not being sanctioned by the city. But the city didn't shut down this black teen's hot dog stand; instead, health department officials helped him meet necessary standards.
According to CNN, the Minneapolis Health Department didn't want to be another "Permit Patty" — referring to a woman who reportedly threatened to call the police on an 8-year-old black girl who was selling water bottles in San Francisco last month. Instead, the department taught Faulkner all about proper food handling, made sure he had the necessary equipment to operate as a city-sanctioned business, and paid for the $87 special event food permit that enabled him to reopen his stand.
"When I realized what it was, I said, 'No, we're not going to just go and shut him down' like we would an unlicensed vendor," Minneapolis Environmental Health Director Dan Huff told CNN. "We can help him get the permit. Let's make this a positive thing and help him become a business owner."
And that's exactly what the city did. As of Monday, Mr. Faulkner's Old Fashioned Hot Dogs was no longer an unofficial stand run by a local teenager; it became a business that Faulkner hopes to expand. According to the Star Tribune, Faulkner ultimately wants to move his enterprise — which involves selling an arrangement of hot dogs, sausages, chips, and drinks — into a food truck. In the meantime, he hopes to take his food stand all around Minneapolis' North Side this summer, and he regularly updates his Facebook page with the stops he makes.
Monday marked Faulkner's first day running his business with an official license, and he serves an average of 20 customers per day. And while Faulkner has now ensured that he will earn some extra spending money, he told the Star Tribune that his hot dog business is about a lot more than that.
"I like having my own business," he told the newspaper. "I like letting people know just because I'm young doesn't mean I can't do anything."
Faulkner also said that the hot dog stand is his way of fostering a positive image of black youth — an image that isn't very widespread. Moreover, he hopes to grow his business enough so that starting next year, he can donate 25 cents from every hot dog sale to raising awareness about depression and suicide.
Faulkner has quickly adapted to running an official business. Speaking to KARE 11, Faulkner said that he not only pays tax on his hot dog stand, but he also pays his uncle and cousin — who work alongside him — as well as himself. Faulkner also admitted to KARE 11 that he had not expected the city to help him.
"Surprisingly, I'm like, dang the city's not the bad guys in this situation," Faulkner said. "They're actually the ones who are helping me. It makes me feel kind of — not kind of — really proud that people know what I'm doing."
For Ann Fix, program manager of the Northside Economic Opportunity Network's food business incubator, Faulkner is a source of inspiration.
"It's not just about the hot dogs, it's about everything in the community," Fix told the Star Tribune, explaining that Faulkner's passion for his business went beyond the money. "Every day I've been going home thinking, 'This young man is the brightness of my day.'"