It all started with a determined young man with Down syndrome and his desire to be a chef. At age 21, Austin Underwood attended a vocational program at Eastern New Mexico University designed for people with limited abilities. Because Austin had never learned to read, he was not a good candidate for a chef job, but he quickly learned skills to be an excellent prep chef in the university’s cafeteria. His love of food had him yearning to own his own restaurant. Some 16 years later, Austin is taking his show on the road in Fort Worth, Texas, selling “Underdawg Hot Dogs” in his Traveling Dawgmobile!
Understanding the needs of people with limited abilities, Austin knows how important it is to help his fellow man. For this reason, Austin’s Underdawgs has developed a fundraising source event in addition to operating his for profit business.
What is the name of your fundraising partner?
Down Syndrome Partnership of North Texas. We benefit from each other in joint support from public promotion, joint fundraisers and our constant quest to raise awareness for people with DS and other disabilities and their families.
What gave you the idea to start your own food truck business?
Austin’s Mom, Jan, says: Austin always wanted to be a chef. Reading never happened for him, making his dream challenging. As a mom, you want your children to realize their dreams, and a food truck selling a product Austin could make was the inspiration.
Please tell us about your biggest obstacle so far running your own mobile restaurant.
I don’t drive or read, so I have to have a good team to do that for me. My mom had to buy all the hot dogs, buns, ice and stuff, but I have my own card and go with her … every day we have a party!
Is there any advice you would give to others who are thinking about starting their own business?
Live your dream when you are an adult—you should work, live on your own, take care of yourself as much as you can.
At the end of the day, what is your main goal that you hope to achieve with Austin’s Underdawgs?
Make money, help others and show people with disabilities they can do more than sometimes people think. I like the kids’ smiles when I give them their hot dogs, and they are really good!