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Manuel Luis Duarte Jr





Sutter Creek, CA


Member Of:

- Western Fairs Association

- Amador County Chamber Of Commerce

- Ione Business & Community Association

The History and Future:

THE START! (1998-2019)

Back in 1998, I made a move from California to Oregon, to begin my high school education and starting a journey that would take me through various states and career paths. After high school, I headed to Arizona in 2002 and enrolled in a trade school in Phoenix, where I trained to be an auto & diesel technician. I held onto that career from 2003 until 2015, moving back to Oregon in 2004, and then making my way back down to California in 2008, right in the midst of the great recession. Those were tough times, especially with finding work, but I started from the bottom and worked my way up in the auto & diesel technician field again.

In 2015, my life took a significant turn. I accidentally met the woman who would become my wife, and we immediately hit it off. She opened my eyes to the possibilities beyond my current career. She encouraged me to use my skills and expertise in whatever I desired. So, I took a leap of faith and switched careers to become a radio engineer/DJ, a job I had always dreamed of since high school. We got married in 2018, marking another beautiful chapter in my life.

However, 2019 brought a profound and unexpected change. I lost my father to heart complications in March. His words always stayed with me - he believed I was too smart to be just a mechanic and that I should use my head to work smarter, not harder. He was convinced that I was meant to run my own business. This loss and his belief in me spurred me to take action.

Inspired by my father's words, and with the encouragement of a colleague from my radio job, I began to plan a hot wing business. We both loved hot wings and hated the fact that we had to travel over an hour to get a good one, as there were none in our county. So, we spent countless hours working on the name, menu, recipes, and finances, driven by the desire to solve this issue for ourselves and our community. This was the start of my journey into the world of entrepreneurship, fueled by passion, a love for hot wings, and the desire to fulfill a dream that my father believed I could achieve.

THE LAUNCH! (September 2019)

In September 2019, we embarked on an exciting culinary venture by opening our Hot Wing business in Jackson, California, Wing It On 49. This initiative was fueled by our personal savings and additional funds raised from selling some of our vehicles and other valuable items. The start was promising, with a rapidly growing customer base that quickly recognized us as a top destination for hot wings in Amador County. We didn't just stop there; we obtained our alcohol license and added sports broadcasts on TVs, enhancing the overall customer experience. Our business strategy paid off, as we witnessed a consistent growth in revenue each month, with no signs of decline.

THE PANDEMIC! (September 2020)

A year later, in 2020, our thriving business faced an unprecedented challenge due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic's impact was severe: we lost all our employees and witnessed a drastic 90% drop in our customer base. Sales plummeted, reducing to a mere fraction of what we were accustomed to. The situation strained our cash flow significantly. With heavy hearts and after much deliberation, we made the difficult decision to close the doors of our brick-and-mortar restaurant Wing It On 49, which had once been a bustling hub of activity.

THE PIVOT! (January 2021)

In January 2021, with resilience and adaptability, we pivoted our business model to a mobile Hot Wing operation, Wing It On Wheels. This strategic move was driven by the desire to be prepared for any future uncertainties, including the possibility of another pandemic. We invested the remainder of our savings into a well-equipped concession trailer, taking our cherished recipes and culinary expertise on the road. This transition was a significant gamble, but we were determined to recapture the success and customer love we enjoyed with our original brick-and-mortar establishment.

THE TRAILER! (August 2021)

In August 2021, a significant milestone was achieved with the arrival of our custom-ordered concession trailer, marking a new chapter for Wing It On Wheels. We wasted no time in getting everything in order for this new venture. The process involved obtaining the necessary permits, paying the relevant fees, and undergoing inspections. This phase was both time-consuming and costly, taking over a month and several thousand dollars to complete. However, our diligence paid off, and we were fully prepared for our first event as a mobile concession business. The initial phase of operating our mobile concession business was challenging. Transitioning from a brick-and-mortar restaurant to a mobile operation required significant adjustments. The learning curve was steep, and we started off slowly, familiarizing ourselves with the nuances of this new business format. However, our persistence and adaptability began to show results over the following months. We gradually found our groove, adapting our business practices to fit the mobile model. By the time we had started to pick up momentum, it was the middle of winter – traditionally the slow season for most restaurants. We took this opportunity to get all our "ducks in a row," fine-tuning our operations and preparing for the 2022 season. This period of relative downtime was crucial for us to strategize and plan for the upcoming busy months, setting the stage for what we hoped would be a successful year in our new mobile Hot Wing business.

THE FAIRS! (May 2022)

Throughout 2022, Wing It On Wheels steadily built its presence in the local community. We participated in farmers markets and small local events, which served as excellent platforms to reintroduce ourselves and regain our popularity in the community where our journey began. This period was also an opportunity for networking, as we met other food concessionaires and learned from their experiences. While the business was progressing positively, the growth was gradual. The turning point came when we received an invitation to participate in a local county fair. This event was a game-changer for us. The response was overwhelming; we became the most popular food vendor at the fair. The experience was intense, and we learned valuable lessons in handling large crowds and high-demand situations. Most importantly, the fair brought us our highest sales ever recorded in just a few days, far surpassing any previous events. After our success at the local county fair, it became clear that county fairs were our niche – where our business truly thrived. However, by then, we were halfway through the summer, which limited our opportunities to participate in other fairs that season. Nonetheless, we managed to secure a spot in one more fair before the season ended. This time, we were better prepared and experienced remarkable success, outperforming our previous achievements. With these successes and lessons under our belt, we shifted our focus entirely towards county fairs. Our plan for 2023 was clear: participate in as many county fairs as possible. This strategy was based on our newfound understanding of where Wing It On Wheels had the greatest potential to flourish. We were now fully committed to this path, eager to explore the opportunities and growth it promised for the future.

THE FOCUS! (July 2023)

As we reached the middle of the 2023 fair season, our journey with Wing It On Wheels had been a mix of highs and lows. By the time we wrapped up our sixth county fair, it was clear that, although sales fluctuated, they were significantly higher than the best months we ever had at our brick-and-mortar restaurant. This was a promising sign, indicating that our decision to pivot to mobile operations was paying off. The seventh fair of the year marked a remarkable milestone for us. It turned out to be our most successful event yet, with sales doubling our previous best. This achievement was a testament to the hard work we had put in and the lessons we had learned along the way. The year so far had been a learning experience, filled with both successes and mistakes. One of the unexpected challenges we faced was the high cost of travel and accommodations. These expenses, combined with the usual costs of food, labor, fair fees, and taxes, added a significant burden to our operations. We realized that managing these additional costs was crucial for the sustainability of our business. Looking ahead, we had five more fairs to attend and learn from. The nature of these events meant that some were highly successful ('hits'), while others were less so ('busts'). This variability was part of the learning curve we were navigating. Despite the challenges, we were growing and adapting, which was crucial for our ongoing success. An unexpected and valuable aspect of our journey was the relationships we built with other concessionaires. Along the way, we made numerous friends in the industry, each offering unique insights and advice. This network became an invaluable resource, providing us with support, knowledge, and camaraderie as we navigated the complexities of the fair circuit. As we moved through the 2023 fair season, our focus remained on learning from each experience, managing costs effectively, and leveraging the relationships we had built to continue growing and improving Wing It On Wheels.

THE FUTURE! (December 2023)

As the year 2023 comes to a close, a thorough financial review of Wing It On Wheels reveals insightful trends and areas for strategic improvement.

Revenue growth and 2021's unique challenge remarkably, we have managed to almost double our revenue each year since our inception in 2019. The only exception was in 2021, a year marked by the transition to a mobile operation and the construction of our concession trailer. During this period, our participation in events was limited, impacting our revenue growth. However, the subsequent years, particularly 2022 and 2023, saw us entering the six-figure revenue bracket, a significant milestone for the business.

Despite the impressive revenue growth, the net income for 2023 wasn't as high as anticipated. This was primarily due to several unexpected and unaccounted expenses that we encountered, especially related to travel and accommodations. These costs significantly impacted our profitability.

Looking forward to 2024, we have devised a more robust and focused business strategy. The plan includes:

  1. Doubling Our Presence at County Fairs: We aim to participate in over 25 county fairs. This increase in frequency is based on our proven success and popularity at these events.

  2. Diversifying into Music Festivals and Large Street Fairs: Expanding our event portfolio to include music festivals and major street fairs will allow us to tap into new customer segments and increase revenue opportunities.

  3. Geographic Expansion: Venturing into neighboring states like Oregon and Nevada will broaden our market reach, potentially unlocking new revenue streams.

  4. Investing in Additional Equipment: Purchasing another truck and an RV trailer will be a strategic move. The RV trailer will significantly reduce accommodation costs, which have been a major expense item. The additional truck will enhance our operational capacity, allowing us to cover more events and keep accommodation costs down.

  5. Streamlining Operations to Reduce Expenses: A key focus will be on minimizing unexpected costs. This will involve better planning, more efficient operations, and leveraging our past experiences to foresee and mitigate potential financial pitfalls.

By implementing these strategies, we anticipate not just a continuation of our revenue growth but also a substantial increase in our net income by the end of 2024. The lessons learned in 2023 have been invaluable in shaping a more effective and efficient business model for the upcoming year.

THE GROWTH! (April 2024)

So far this year we have made significant strides in enhancing our operational efficiency and expanding our reach. With the acquisition of an RV trailer and substantial upgrades to our concession trailer, we've optimized each station for faster service and smoother operations. We've removed outdated equipment, opening up the floor plan for more efficient movement and interaction among staff. Furthermore, we streamlined our ordering process by implementing a single monitor per station, eliminating confusion and speeding up order preparation.

For this year, we successfully booked over 18 fairs and about 7 other multi-day events across Oregon, Nevada, and California. This broadens our exposure and operational footprint significantly. We also switched to a new product supplier that offers better pricing, allowing us to cut down on supply costs substantially. These strategic changes and eliminations of unnecessary expenses have positioned us well for financial improvement.

We've met nearly all our set goals for the year and just getting started, with the exception of purchasing an additional pickup truck, which is planned post our 5th event. With these advancements, Wing It On Wheels is on track to potentially double our sales from the previous year, marking a pivotal year of growth and efficiency in our journey.

THE YEAR! (October 2024)

Coming Soon........

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