No ‘bones’ about it: Alums driving food truck to student career success

The DogHouse logoThree Northern Illinois University alumni plan to bring The DogHouse to campus to provide convenient meals while giving students an opportunity to work and learn on the job.

Co-founders Jordan Delegal, Keith Otis and Elliot Echols of Hungry Huskies Inc. are working with the university to roll out the first food truck business on campus.

All three are recent graduates.

Otis and Delegal graduated with bachelor’s degrees in 2011 and met at NIU on the football team. Otis played right tackle and Delegal was an outside linebacker.

Echols was president of the NIU Student Association for a year and served on the NIU Board of Trustees as the student member for two years. He completed a master’s degree in education in 2014 and is now a staffing manager at SNI Companies in Chicago.

“It’s definitely going to be one of a kind because we’ve never had anything like this on campus before,” said Delegal, the CEO of Hungry Huskies and a freelance marketer.

Jordan Delegal
Jordan Delegal

Besides using the food truck as a source of income, the owners see it as a vehicle for demonstrating student career success and teaching students how to create their own business.

The DogHouse will be a student-involved project, Echols said, where engineering students design the truck, finance students help with the budget and honors students are involved with planning.

From planning to marketing, students will help determine the direction of the business, said Otis, who works as assistant dean at Catalyst Maria, a charter high school in Chicago. “It isn’t purely about making money. It’s about helping the students and helping pay it forward to the next wave of students.”

“Our niche is that we are Huskies providing jobs and opportunities for Huskies,” Delegal said.

They plan to initially hire three students to run The DogHouse and more will be hired as the business grows.

At NIU’s 108th homecoming Saturday, Oct. 11, The DogHouse will be introduced to the community and be part of the food choices at The Yard at Huskie Stadium. The DogHouse will specialize in gourmet grilled cheese meals for $4 to $7.

“We wanted to start with a concept that grabs people’s attention,” Otis said. “Grilled cheese is something different.”

They plan to launch a crowdfunding campaign at Kickstarter.com Monday, Oct. 13, in the hope of raising $25,000 to $30,000 to purchase the food truck.

Elliot Echols and Keith Otis
Elliot Echols and Keith Otis

The owners proposed a plan for The DogHouse to NIU administration in the summer. They are still negotiating with NIU about giving a portion of their profits to the school and want to create some form of a student scholarship.

Dennis Barsema and Jeffrey Yordon, who are major NIU donors and long-time NIU Foundation board members, and NIU management instructor Eric Wasowicz have been advising the owners since the business was formed.

The truck is just the beginning of many events that Hungry Huskies plans to bring to NIU, Delegal said, adding that it’s too soon to talk about other plans that they have for campus.

“We want to be an alumni-owned, student-run business,” he said, “and we want to cater directly to students, faculty and everyone who is on campus.”

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