Mr. Faulkner's big year
By Kenzie O'Keefe Editor | Additional reporting by Daija Triplett Intern | Photos by David Pierini Contributor
A year ago, Jaequan Faulkner, 13, was your average pre-teen, going to school at Sojourner Truth Academy, and, in his own words, "getting into trouble."
Then, he decided to spend his summer selling hot dogs outside his Penn Ave. home and became the focus of international news coverage.
It all started when his business boomed due to a viral Facebook post. Admidst all the attention, someone reported him to the Minneapolis Health Department for serving food without a license, and he had to shut down. But, city officials didn’t want to see the young man's entrepreneurship stifled, and they pitched in time and dollars to get him the support, training, and license he needed to get cooking again.
Media outlets picked up the feel-good story, and Faulkner has spent the second half of this year balancing hot dog sales with responding to all the media attention. “This year is only the beginning,” said his uncle Jerome Faulkner, who Jaequan lives with.
This month, North News talked with Jaequan about being a local celebrity and his future in the food business.
This has been a big year for you. Tell us about some of the highlights. It has. Highlights have been when I made it in the newspaper, and when I made it to the news because I was able to show my uncle who lives in California.
What was going on in your life this time last year? I was just a 12 year old, going to school. I was getting in trouble for doing things I shouldn’t have been doing. I was trying to stop that. My auntie and uncle motivated me. They told me what they had gone through and that was rough.
How did you come up with the idea for your business? I started doing hot dogs two years ago. My uncle had a roller. He wouldn’t let me use it. When he finally did, I lost focus. But he gave me another chance and [it turned into this business]. First, I called it Jaequan’s Hot Dogs, but then I [changed it to] Mr. Faulkner’s so it could be a family business. My uncle said hot dogs were old; I came up with “Old Fashioned!” It’s Mr. Faulkner’s Old Fashioned Hot Dogs.
Did you imagine you’d end up here? No, not really. I thought I would just be a boy outside doing something, like a lemonade stand. I saw that people actually appreciated it and liked it because of my age.
Has anyone given you any advice about having a business? NEON. The Northside Economic Opportunity Network. They are on Broadway. They actually had helped me get my license, get set up, and showed me everything I needed so I wouldn’t have problems. They gave me advice: they said that if somebody tells me I can’t do something or that I can’t go somewhere, do the things to make it that way. I’m going to keep working with them to get a permanent location this spring.
Where would you like your permanent location to be? We were thinking in front of the house but since it’s not a commercial spot, we can’t have it here. Right across the street on Golden Valley could work. I imagine it being a shop, but if I don’t make it I have a stand. Either way I’ll still be grateful. I started selling turkey and beef but the turkey wasn’t selling as fast so I stopped. I don’t want to spend a lot of money to add something in case it doesn’t do well. I have a Facebook account and people have asked for veggie dogs. I will be trying that. If I had a shop, people won’t have to ask where I’ll be.
Do you still sell hot dogs during the school year? I did three times, but it’s too cold [now] so I’ll be shutting down till it gets a little warmer.
What do you like about living in North Minneapolis and being a business owner here? When most people hear about North Minneapolis, they’re like, "I’m not going over there: crime, too many shootings.” People mainly come in cars. You don’t see a lot of walking. When you see a kid with a stand, it makes you want to come. That’s what I want to do: make the Northside not a bad side anymore.
Who do you look up to? My Uncle Shaultbody who lives in California. He has a business. He has his own shirts, and he writes his own books. He grew up with a little but now he’s big. He’s one of my uncles who actually made it. He was the reason I started this. He did it, and I wanted to show him I could do it too.
You were a guest on the Steve Harvey Show this year. What was that like? I’m a big fan of Steve Harvey. …me actually going to meet him was like, “I made it.” My Uncle Shaultbody was like, “you've made it further than me!”
How can the community support you? They’ve been supporting me a lot. They send me money, and they send me chips, pop, water that I can sell. [They shouldn't send me hot dogs because] I can't sell [them.] ...I want the community to know how thankful I am.
How have you speant your earnings? I don’t like Jordans; I buy Nikes or Filas shoes. I bought my own school uniform. I’m going to a non-uniform high school so I’ll have to buy clothes for that.
Police have been very supportive of you and your stand. What have those relationships been like for you? To me that was a really positive experience. Growing up, my parents and police didn’t get along. But seeing a young man and police actually bonding, doing something great, the whole community comes together. I hope that for the Northside community: that we come together and that there won’t be so many shootings.
Where do you hope to be a year from now? Ten years from now? A year from now, I hope to be somewhere on Broadway or somewhere where a lot of famous restaurants are at. Somewhere big. Ten years from now, I want to be in California having businesses there because when I was on the Steve Harvey show there, people wanted to support me. My uncle is there too and he would help me.