Will Hodgskiss isn’t afraid to talk about global domination.
The owner of Napanee-based hotdog cart maker and distributor Willy Dog—already North America’s largest hotdog cart supplier—is on the verge of bringing his products en mass to the rest of the world.
“If we can be this successful here just through aggressive and responsive marketing, imagine what we could do with an office in Miami where there’s a bigger population living within a 100-mile radius than we have in our whole country,” says Hodgskiss.
Indeed, Hodgskiss already ships 20 different types of hotdog carts made in his Napanee factory all over the world. He also has an office in Indiana and—as of this article’s writing—was about to open a new operation in the international port city of Miami, Florida, where he expects to reach out big-time to Latin American and European markets.
“We will increase our sales by half and as much again nearly overnight with the new Miami office,” he says.
Hodgskiss’ remarkable story is one of riches to rags and back to riches again.
A real estate millionaire at the age of 30, he lost everything in the 1980s to dubious investments and a housing market crash.
In 1989, Hodgskiss bought a $6,800 hotdog cart, learned the nuances of selling street food, and started to build Willy Dog into a global hotdog franchise chain and hotdog cart supplier.
He sold hundreds of Willy Dog franchises internationally but found that many franchisees didn’t want to run their operations the Willy Dog way, so he began aggressively marketing his cart supplier business.
The business grew and in September 2010, Willy Dog moved to a 32,000sq.ft. former furniture factory in Napanee that Hodgskiss has converted to commercial rental units and office, factory, and warehousing space.
Hodgskiss now employs 20 people and expects to hire four more people in Napanee once the Miami office is up to full speed.
“Willy Dog is a manufacturing good news story and Lennox and Addington is proud to be their home,” says Stephen Paul, the county’s Manager of Economic Development. “Our community provides them with the skilled labour, business support and low cost structure to help them be a North American leader.”