Sumter's 1st food truck owner is 1 of 8 accepted to entrepreneur program

BY KAYLA ROBINS kayla@theitem.com
Posted 10/18/18

Those who attend almost any festival, fair, family fun day or outdoor public activity are able to buy food, beverages and desserts from an ever-growing row of food trucks, largely because of one woman.

That woman who brought the food truck trend …

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Sumter's 1st food truck owner is 1 of 8 accepted to entrepreneur program

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Those who attend almost any festival, fair, family fun day or outdoor public activity are able to buy food, beverages and desserts from an ever-growing row of food trucks, largely because of one woman.

That woman who brought the food truck trend to Sumter brands herself as a social entrepreneur with a big-picture goal for the area in terms of healthy, natural eating, and she was recently accepted into a program to continue increasing access to healthy food.

Sandra Metzdorf, founder and owner of With These Hands Natural Gourmet Foods Co., is one of eight in South Carolina to be accepted into Feeding Innovation Anderson, a business development program from the S.C. Community Loan Fund and Clemson Agricultural Extension that helps entrepreneurs invested in developing or expanding healthy food businesses in "food deserts or under-served areas of the state."

"The mission of With These Hands is to nourish the community one bite at a time. Tapping into the state's bountiful agriculture industry, we work through the power of real food by serving delicious and nutritious foods from surrounding farms," Metzdorf said.

She brings her truck to the Sumter Farmers Market on Fridays and to events, festivals, USC Sumter, Central Carolina Technical College, Shaw Air Force Base and in support of other local industries as requested.

Since her food truck rolled into Sumter almost a year ago, others have followed. Trucks from out of town come for events, and Kona Ice of Sumter and at least two barbecue trucks have opened their Sumter-based truck doors.

Metzdorf wants more than to run a food truck.

She said while she has a "mighty tribe" of mentors who came from "humble beginnings like myself" in Sumter, the U.S. Army veteran, military spouse, mother of three and first-generation American from Colombia has not found an organization "locally dedicated to micro-entrepreneurship, which results in poor management of good business ideas, lack of financial readiness to sustain the research and development, start-up and operational stages of a business, and, more important to me, the loss of hope experienced by small business owners who pour our heart into what we do."

"The reality is that no matter how good your product or service is, if you don't know how to operate your business, how to create and balance a profit and loss statement sheet, how to market to different customers, how to price your product so it's fair and profitable, you will fail," she said. "I don't want that. I don't want it for myself or for anyone around me with a good product or service to offer our community."

To combat that possibility, she is using the Feeding Innovation program to develop a business plan to train others.

The program will involve an eight-week course, mentoring on developing the skills and knowledge to successfully operate a healthy food business, tapping into a network of aspiring entrepreneurs and developing an actionable business plan with steps for starting or expanding.

At the end of the program in December, Metzdorf will go before a panel of judges - think ABC's "Shark Tank" - to pitch her business plan for a chance to win $12,500 in seed capital.

She said she has also applied for two other grant programs that run at the same time and one that starts at the beginning of 2019 with a $25,000 possible grant.

"Convenience over quality and minimal efforts over challenging feats can't be our default. Sumter may not be where I was born, but we chose to make it home now," she said. "And it is our opportunity to drive that change that we want to see for our future and the future of our families.

"There are many great people in Sumter excited about progress. And it feels great to not only seek the training that I need to help me lead that, but also be a unifying force that empowers a community of change."