Penn State

Penn State sophomore, food truck owner finalist for small business competition

Dante Labricciosa, a Penn State sophomore, started The Hedgehog Grill food truck in 2015 with a high school classmate. He is a finalist for the 2017 SuretyBonds.com Small Business Scholarship.
Dante Labricciosa, a Penn State sophomore, started The Hedgehog Grill food truck in 2015 with a high school classmate. He is a finalist for the 2017 SuretyBonds.com Small Business Scholarship. Photo provided

They were back at it over the weekend. Grilling cheesesteaks and serving pulled pork sandwiches, the staples of the Hedgehog Grill, their blue-and-green food truck they started as high school students. Friday was boys’ lacrosse. Saturday was the girls’ tournament. They had pictured themselves here two years ago, when the truck was still an idea and the SATs were still fresh in their minds.

For Dante Labricciosa and Paul Salamy, it was another successful weekend as young business owners, and another step toward becoming what they hope to be, the next moguls in the restaurant industry.

“Our end goal was to go to college to get a business degree and start a restaurant afterward,” Labricciosa, 19, said. “But we thought, ‘Why not start a food business now when we bet we can do it?’ ”

They’ve done it. Named for a friend’s pet, the Hedgehog Grill has taken off much like Sonic, the cartoon hedgehog known for his blazing speed.

Since the pair of former classmates started the truck, they’ve served their fare at local farmers’ markets, graduation parties and sporting events around King of Prussia, their hometown. They had been to several lacrosse tournaments while growing up, but for the self-described “die-hard foodies,” they had an eye on more than just playing.

The pair worked odd jobs to save up to buy the truck. Salamy worked for a catering business, while Labricciosa worked for Chick-fil-A and then at Pizza Hut.

“It’s something we thought we could do and we did it,” Labricciosa said.

Labricciosa, a sophomore business major at Penn State, is one of 10 finalists for the SuretyBonds.com 2017 Small Business Scholarship, which is in its fifth year. Hundreds of students across the country submitted essays about their entrepreneurial efforts in hopes of receiving one of three $1,500 scholarships. The winner is announced after public voting ends on May 31.

In his essay, Labricciosa shared how the Hedgehog Grill has done fundraisers for his school besides other charitable activities. For his senior project, he raised $1,000 for his church and more than 500 canned goods for a local pantry through the food truck.

Labricciosa said the experience has taught him more about business than merely being a student. Compared to many of his peers, he thinks about keeping inspections updated, balancing costs and dealing with customers.

“You can’t solve the problems you face in real life in a classroom,” he said. “You have to figure out how to handle the situation, instead of having a textbook say do this or do that.”

For the young entrepreneur, it’s one dream down. The big one, a diner, he says, is still in his sights.

“It’s surreal, I love it,” he said. “I love having the ambition to do more.”

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