What happens when your best-selling product runs out? On September 18The tenthIn 1885, Charles and Frank Menshes were faced with this very question. Hiram Hopkins and the rest of the Board of Directors of the Erie County Agricultural Association agreed to allow the Ohio brothers to operate a franchise stand for food at the annual Erie County Fair (also known as the “Hamburg Fair”) precisely because they offered nothing that another food vendor did not offer: meat pie sandwiches pig sausage.
Faced with a painful reality and in a classic way, the Minch brothers immediately turned because they had no other choice. By doing so, they changed history forever and created a trillion dollar industry. Complete their Final “P” as Side Hustle MVP. You can see the “P” in all of these entrepreneurs’ business, from opening and closing circuses and similar shows to selling their innovative, successful food businesses, and then investing those profits in cinema at a time when the industry was about to explode. What can their story teach you about earning your “P” and becoming the best side Hustle player?
And so, on that Friday morning, on the final day of the event, which saw record-breaking crowds the day before, the Menches brothers found they had no pork anymore. When Frank rode his bike to the nearby village butcher, Andrew Stein refused to sell his barely ten pound pork tenderloin. “Very hot,” said the butcher. “I will not slaughter an entire pig just for you.”1
Frank faced a dilemma.
The gallery didn’t want any wood-fired grills spewing hot ash onto their new wooden amphitheater. Thus, the Minch Brothers and their innovative gas-powered grill earned a privileged position next to this runway. With the big show, the last race, and all those people hours away, the boys needed nothing more than a little candy to sell. Frank needed to make a decision. Will his older brother Charles agree? With no pork available, Stein convinced Frank to take five pounds of ground beef.
As you might expect, carnies are a resilient breed. A cross between pioneering adventurers and self-reliant frontiersmen, they’re the type to have a knack for finding practical solutions with nothing more than chicken wire and duct tape. The Menches brothers, who had worked in the carnival food franchise business for over a year, knew exactly what they had to do.
Using their pork sausage pie as a model, they replicated their efforts with the ground beef that Frank brought back. The first attempt failed. It was raw in the middle. They cooked it more and produced what can best be described as a hockey puck. In the end, with the help of coffee, brown sugar, and a few other ingredients, the smoothie piece sold out quickly.
When a satisfied customer asked the name of this delicious dessert, Frank had no idea what it could be called. With the sweat from the wet day and the hot stove running down his cheek, I peered at a sign announcing the event. He said, “Hamburg Fair.” Frank turned to the customer and said, “It’s a Hamburg sandwich.”
From that day September 18thThe tenth1885, "Birth of a Burger Day" Until today (with apologies to Ronald) "billions and billions" of burgers have been sold.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Some of the greatest breakthroughs happen by chance. Whether it was Columbus discovering America or Alexander Fleming's accidental discovery of penicillin, you have seen how these serendipitous events can change the world.
Most often, you find these events initially described as "failures". For example, in 1943, to the delight of children everywhere, James Wright failed in his attempt to create less expensive synthetic rubber for tank handles, boots, and everything else important to the war effort. Within a few years, kids were wearing this silly wall putty.
The gist of all these stories is this: you start in one direction, hit an obstacle, then spin in another direction ending up in a pot of gold. The Minch brothers certainly benefited from their pivot. It wasn't until they nearly walked out of the franchise fair business in the 1920s, however, that the first White Castle appeared and the real fast food profits began. Sure, the boys left money on the table for others to collect, but they did well for themselves.
But this is not the success story of the hamburger business. If anything, it's a template based on what might be called a "hamburger success business" model.
What triggers the axle?
All good plans go awry in the heat of battle. This can happen at any point in your work life or a side hustle. It is a sudden and dramatic change (Covid is the latest notable example) that undoes all your great strategies and tactics. Throw a lot in the towel. Real entrepreneurs are looking for ways to turn lemons into lemonade.
This is known as the 'axis'.
Danielle Langton is a business strategist based in Austin, Texas. It specializes in helping founders focus and invest heavily in their businesses at the start of the year. It even hired a business strategist in hopes of making 2022 a banner year.
Then everything hit the fan.
"In February 2022, I found out I was pregnant with our first child," says Langton. “My initial feelings were: to be completely overwhelmed and 'this is not the time', mixed with joy and excitement and 'Oh my God, how does one run a business and have a baby? ' and 'What would my clients think?' I felt defeated, as if my entire plan for this year was going to be scrapped."
In fact, she became her own client. When I realized this, things started moving quickly and insistently.
"I needed to immediately prioritize my time and energy and focus on what moved the needle in my current job," says Langton. "I changed new programs and launches that weren't quite right given the timing and really veered into a slow summer focusing on my existing clients, my mental health, and the human growing inside of me."
Not that it was all sunshine and roses. Getting through this transformation process has had its challenges.
"Axle or 'slow down' wasn't easy at first," Langton says. I felt like I was failing and not doing enough. But then I realized that this time it really allowed me to clarify what is important to me and how I want to lead in this season and next season with a child. I was able to determine what my ideal team should look like. You left out team members who didn't fit the new vision or level of support and hired new members. I've gotten tougher with my offerings, including one high-touch program and one passive program. I even realized I could host a personal foundation retreat at 35 weeks pregnant, just as I promised my clients! And I've hired support for my existing clients while I'm on vacation this fall."
As of September, with the baby due in October, she says she is "on track to exceed my 2022 business goal." Langton now understands. She says, "What started as a hectic 'failed' year has actually turned into what I've always dreamed of: a business that not only allows me to work from anywhere, but anytime, with a more supportive team and clients, and allows me to be fully present with my family as needed" .
Langton is looking forward to the birth of her child like any mother. Meanwhile, she is confident in her ability to support her business as any successful entrepreneur would.
Ironically, on that steamy September 18, 1885 day, in Hamburg, New York, Charles and Frank Minch probably had no idea the impact the birth of the burger would have on their careers, let alone the fast food economy. But, like so many others before them, their hub was a truly world-changing hub.
Their lives as entrepreneurs have produced many lessons that we can still learn from today. But perhaps this particular person stands above the rest.
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1This was the reason according to John C. Konzog's 1920 interview in California with Frank Menches. Research points to another (and better) reason. By the fall of 1885, a swine epidemic known as swine cholera had wiped out nearly two-thirds of the pig population in western New York. To put it simply, Stein may have refused to risk slaughtering a whole pig for such a small sale and without a buyer's guarantee of the rest of the meat.