The Shark Tank Meets The Millionaire

“The email read ‘If you had a million dollars to take your corner of the ministry to the next level, what would you do?’ My first thought was A Food Truck!” -Liz Galloway

[00:00:00] Tommy Thomas: Our guests today are Burt Rosen and Liz Galloway. Burt’s the former CEO of the Knox Area Rescue Ministries, or KARM as it’s known in the area.

[00:00:09] Tommy Thomas: And Liz is the Senior Director of Food Services. Burt was a guest, gosh, back in year one at Thanksgiving, I think, probably around episode 10 or 15. I have used this Shark Tank question a lot in my questions of people. And a few episodes back, we highlighted some of the responses and he called back and said, we actually did a Shark Tank thing at KARM.

[00:00:35] Tommy Thomas: And I thought now that it would be great to have something that was real-time on the podcast. Burt and Liz, welcome to NextGen Nonprofit Leadership.

[00:00:44] Burt Rosen: Thank you, Tommy. Good to be here.

[00:00:46] Liz Galloway: Thank you.

[00:00:47] Tommy Thomas: So Burt or Liz, I’m going to turn it over to y’all, but how did this thing get started?

[00:00:53] Burt Rosen: Let me take the lead there Tommy, and then Liz will chime in where it makes sense. So let me take a step back. Before coming to KARM, I spent 17 years with Prison Fellowship Ministries. And when I joined KARM, I brought with me this desire to always want to innovate.

[00:01:14] Burt Rosen: Always looking for new ideas. And one of the things I learned, not so much from prison fellowship, but from my time in the nonprofit arena in general, particularly in ministries, which is yes, it’s a nonprofit, but it seems to be a little bit of a different animal was that there was a reluctance to spend money on innovation.

[00:01:34] Burt Rosen: And a reluctance to spend money on employee training and development. Those always seem to be the things that would go to the back seat. And so, in my early years at KARM, we had more than our share of financial challenges digging out of a hole that the ministry had managed to get itself into. And so, once we got there, fast forward a few years later, we found ourselves in a wonderful position.

[00:02:01] Burt Rosen: God had blessed the work immensely. And so we were now in a position of not only being in the black and staying in the black but having a few extra dollars to look at how we best spend to advance the ministry. And so our board chair, Dan Hurst, you referenced in fact, he and I did that podcast call way back when.

[00:02:23] Burt Rosen: We talked about wouldn’t it be great to use some of this money to further enhance ministry opportunities. And that’s all Dan needed to say. And now I’ll admit that I did a ready-fire aim here. I didn’t go back and talk to the senior team and say, hey, wouldn’t this be a great idea? I was just off and running.

[00:02:44] Burt Rosen: And so, I remembered that first, I was a Shark Tank fan. Always have been for as long as I’ve been watching it. I also remembered those days as a kid when I watched the TV show The Millionaire and, I forget his name, the actor. He would come on and he’d say, my name is Michael Anthony.

[00:03:00] Burt Rosen: I represent the late John Beresford Tipton and he goes through his spiel of giving away a million dollars. And I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could marry The Millionaire and Shark Tank and put out to our staff an opportunity to come up with KARM’s next million-dollar idea? And we set aside the funds to be able to fund whatever ideas might come up.

[00:03:28] Burt Rosen: And we’ll come to that a little bit later on. But with that, we sent that video out to employees and invited them to participate in something that would go across the ministry because I knew that people like Liz had these great dreams, these great ideas of things they’d love to see happen, but often didn’t get the opportunity.

[00:03:50] Burt Rosen: This Shark Tank idea provided that opportunity. And so we put it out and Liz, you can certainly respond because you were on the receiving end of that, that first initial invitation. And then I’ll pick it back up Tommy after Liz shares a little bit about what it was like to be on her end during that time.

[00:04:10] Liz Galloway: Yeah, thank you, Burt. You just go through your day-to-day routine when you get into work and you’re checking emails and, I remember very clearly that day when, the email came up and it said, KARM’s next big idea and it’s from Burt, so we open it and we’re like, okay what is the next big idea?

[00:04:32] Liz Galloway: So we go through this email and we’re reading and it’s just, for starters, it’s just amazing to have a leadership in place that allows you to dream big dreams outside of the box and got deeper into the email and realize this is real. This is something that Carl and Burt are giving us an opportunity to take our part, our department of the ministry, and take it to the next level.

[00:05:01] Liz Galloway: It was the phrase. So, if you had a million dollars to take your corner of the ministry to the next level, what would you do? And, of course, my first instinct, my first thought was a food truck, right? We feed close to a thousand meals a day here on the corners of 418 North Broadway.

[00:05:22] Liz Galloway: And what can we do to take our ministry into the streets and get into the communities where people might not know? What we offer at KARM and so that’s what got the whole food truck idea started just reading that email and just thinking, oh, my gosh, either Burt has lost his mind or this is serious.

[00:05:44] Liz Galloway: It was just a huge blessing to be able to dream that dream. And then as Burt said, through the process find it come to fruition.

[00:05:54] Tommy Thomas: So, you’d been thinking about this food truck on your own?

[00:05:58] Liz Galloway: I have been in the food service industry for a long time Tommy and, food trucks at that time were just becoming such a hot commodity.

[00:06:09] Liz Galloway: They really were. And I love visiting food truck parks. I love seeing, the next big idea, what people are doing, what’s fresh, and what’s new. And then you think, okay I work for a nonprofit, right? I work in the ministry world. That’s not what we do, right?

[00:06:26] Liz Galloway: We’re feeding those here at the ministry, those in need. And I won’t say I put it on the back burner, it’s one of those things that you think about, and it just wasn’t a good fit for the time. And so, when that email came through, that was just my first, that knee-jerk reaction, that first, punching the guy, you’re like, oh, my gosh, what a great idea.

[00:06:49] Liz Galloway: And so, it was not only just a food truck when you think food truck, obviously, you think for profit, right? You have to make the money to turn the key. But then what are some other opportunities, right? The idea that Burt sent out was how can it further your corner of the ministry?

[00:07:08] Liz Galloway: And how does that tie into the ministry for a nonprofit? And in doing some research through this process that we were allowed to do Shark Tank style. I came to find out that there are other ministries throughout the country that do a similar ministry, but not quite to the extent that I was going to take it.

[00:07:31] Liz Galloway: For profit. Yes. Outreach opportunities as well as culinary training opportunities for our guests here at KARM. It was a truck with three different folds into it.

[00:07:41] Burt Rosen: Tommy, with that it wasn’t just lives. So, we put this out and you don’t really know what kind of a response you’re going to get.

[00:07:50] Burt Rosen: But the response that you just heard from Liz was very similar to the response from other employees as well. Oh, yeah. We’re setting aside, money for the next million-dollar idea, the next big idea. And so, it took just a little bit of internal selling. To get this done. And once we put it out there, the ideas that came from other employees, including Liz, were just amazing.

[00:08:18] Burt Rosen: And so in this process, Liz had a very limited time. So we put this all out in October as the year was ending, and they had to be ready. So we had to do our homework and whittle 42 ideas down to the top six and that was very difficult. So we recruited a handful of board members, all whom were very astute and successful business people in their own right.

[00:08:43] Burt Rosen: They were going to be the judges. And so each person, including Liz gave a brief summary of their idea. Not the how, but the what. Here’s the idea in a nutshell. Those board members saw the ideas depersonalized. They were randomly numbered so that the board members would look through them. And so, if you could imagine this funneling effect of getting from 42 ideas down to the top six.

[00:09:13] Burt Rosen: Now, what happened was. Every time each person had a two week. I’m sorry. We gave them two weeks to get it on paper and get it in. So we wanted to create this sense of urgency, things moving quickly and not let it fall behind as things can often do. Then we found the next thing that created some buzz. As soon as someone submitted an idea.

[00:09:35] Burt Rosen: They got a nice little thank you with a 50 Amazon gift card just for participating. And for those who decided to collaborate with someone else, because we set no rules. Those who decided to buddy up with another employee got an extra 50 gift card. So, here’s your reward just for submitting an idea and being a partner in the ministry.

[00:09:59] Burt Rosen: And now you’ve collaborated. So that was the next thing that we wanted to do. And Liz would have been the recipient of one of those Amazon gift cards. And Liz, perhaps you can talk a little bit about what was going on and then what you were hearing for other employees who were on the receiving end of those as well.

[00:10:18] Liz Galloway: It definitely caused a buzz throughout the ministry. Like Burt said, there were so many incredible ideas that were submitted over this time, and, as the field started to get shaved down a little bit. It’s in each step of the process. We were given a new challenge, right?

[00:10:42] Liz Galloway: We had to budget our idea, right? We had to do a budget for our idea. We had to do letters of intent. For our idea. We’re starting a new, a new business, a new venture. And we had to go through each one of those steps as a process throughout this whole time. And it was really fun.

[00:11:04] Liz Galloway: It was fun. It was nerve-wracking as well, but it was a lot of fun to hear the buzz around the ministry and, who’s doing what, and just our smaller groups just getting together and collaborating with each other. And it just really became a good feel around the ministry with the competition that we had going on, but we were all cheering for one another for sure.

[00:11:27] Burt Rosen: Yeah, it was so awesome to see that. And a couple of byproducts from all of this. One, each person, including Liz, was assigned a mentor. Now, the people in the ministry who were submitting ideas had different levels of experience. Some have never done a grant in their life, and have never done any fundraising in their life.

[00:11:47] Burt Rosen: And so, each of them was paired up with an internal mentor that they could choose to use at their discretion. So, we were getting some training in the process. We were getting cross-pollination of ideas in the process. And then, as that process made its way forward, the finalists were then told, okay, you’re going to have until March 12th.

[00:12:11] Burt Rosen: This would have been March 12th of 2000 and 21. You’ve got to do the feasibility study. But we also said, okay, set aside an escrow account for each of those people. So each individual was told you will have $3500 to spend at your discretion. So long as it’s not illegal, immoral, or fattening, you could spend it any way you wanted to.

[00:12:34] Burt Rosen: You’re going to have to account for the funds, but there are no restrictions. You need to travel somewhere? Go travel. Do what you had to do. And one of the reasons that we’re talking with Liz is because she was so innovative. She was so creative. And I can remember sitting in the judge’s room, because now we’re at presentation day, Tommy.

[00:12:56] Burt Rosen: Our entire boardroom, which you have been in, went from its usual setting as a boardroom. We converted the entire thing to a shark tank stage and so if you’ve seen the show, I’m sure you have the person walking in down the hallways with the music in the background. They stand on their little X on the spot and they say good evening sharks. That’s exactly what was happening here. Our panel of judges was set aside just like the Sharks are and there was enough stage space for each person to come in and present their idea.

[00:13:32] Burt Rosen: And so as we got through, they all did amazing work. And it was one of those things where you’d say, this could go in any direction. These ideas are so great, but I would have to say, even though I loved all the ideas, Liz took my heart away and I’ll let her tell you what she did, how they got to where they were, and what she actually did the day of the presentation.

[00:13:58] Liz Galloway: Oh my gosh. The nerves and the excitement and everything through the whole process. And it went over several months. And so there were highs and there were lows and there was all the anxious moments. And, finally, the day came to present, Shark Tank style ,and you’re just like, okay, here it goes.

[00:14:21] Liz Galloway: It’s all or nothing. Jump in with both feet. It is what it is here. Here’s the day. So I had actually, through all of my research and development and everything, I’m like, how do you present a food truck idea? I don’t have a food truck.

[00:14:35] Liz Galloway: I don’t have a truck. Am I going to go in with a presentation or, I need something tangible to get their taste buds going. And so I found what you would call a child’s size play food truck made out of cardboard. And so part of the spending that I did was to get this model food truck with our logos on the side with everything. It was the vision for what I had for the food truck. And it was, oh, I don’t know, Burt, it was probably two, three feet high by, maybe three or, three or four feet long. So it was a good-sized food truck. And I turned the food truck into  a food cart, more or less, and entered the boardroom with my food truck, pushing it along. We had food to serve off of it for the sharks and then started into the presentation about the idea. And we had about 20-25 minutes to present our idea.

[00:15:43] Liz Galloway: The whole time, you’re just a bucket of nerves. I knew what I was presenting was something that could change the way food service was seen in the ministry and how it could help others in the community. And that was what my heart was really wrapped around and what I was so excited about presenting this food truck. It was a great feeling to be done once the presentation was over. Burt can tell you I’m not one that likes to get up in front of people and talk, but it was a great feeling to have it done. I was very excited about the next steps to come after.

[00:16:20] Burt Rosen: With that, Tommy you’re welcome. I think your listeners will only hear the audio of this. If we were to put up the pictures and the video, because we videoed every single presentation to continue our purpose for training and presentation skills. Liz comes in with Howard, one of her chefs.

[00:16:42] Burt Rosen: They’re walking in and you had to simultaneously push the truck and the food tray cart underneath. And then they’re going around and placing a food sample in front of each of the six panels six judges on the panel and everybody’s tasting. I would dare say she could have gone on to the real shark tank and probably sold this idea. It was that good. And when all was said and done, we got to a place where, what’s the idea that’s going to be implemented? And the food truck was great because it was not easy. But compared to some of the others, you could say this could be up and running pretty quickly.

[00:17:26] Burt Rosen: And because we had set aside the funds for this and escrow we didn’t have the budget limitations. We weren’t going to find ourselves in a position where, gee, Liz has come up with this great idea. But guess what, Liz, we’re a little short on funds. We’re not going to be able to follow through with it.

[00:17:42] Burt Rosen: The day that Liz was told let’s go she was off and running. Liz, talk just a little bit about what happened from there and then maybe take us all the way to the day when you took a team of people to go bring the real food truck back to KARM as we all stood underneath the expressway waiting for it to actually pull in.

[00:18:07] Liz Galloway: Just to backtrack, when I found out that I wasn’t ultimately, I think Burt had shared with you earlier, Tommy, that ultimately I wasn’t the top number one winner. And in that moment when they announced the winner and like we said this process went over several months.

[00:18:28] Liz Galloway: Emotions were high, emotions were low, we were stressed, everything was all over the place. And, at that moment when they announced the winner and I wasn’t the winner, I was crushed. I was deflated. And I don’t even know, Burt, if I’ve shared this with you, but I was ready to leave the boardroom.

[00:18:49] Liz Galloway: I wanted to go to my car and just cry, right? Just let it out. It’s over with. It’s done. And I remember we were leaving the boardroom and Burt tapped on my shoulder and he said, hey, Liz, you got a minute. And I’m like, I just wanted to say no, I need to get out of here. And I said, yeah, and he goes, I need you to stay back for just a minute.

[00:19:11] Liz Galloway: And I’m like, okay. Meanwhile, the board is still, the board members, the sharks are still in the room. And so everyone else had left and, they just sat me down and just said, we just wanted to share with you what a great idea that you have come up with the food truck.

[00:19:30] Liz Galloway: We don’t see that it takes a million dollars and we feel like we’re ready to go ahead and let you move forward with plans to see this come to life. In a matter of five minutes, I was at the bottom of the barrel and then I was on top of the barrel again with my emotions. And in the next few minutes, literally after leaving the boardroom, you hit the ground running, you get your strappy boots on, and you go you’ve been given this great opportunity.

[00:19:58] Liz Galloway: So where do you start? And so, I had been talking to and researching with a company out of New Brunswick, New Jersey Vending Trucks Incorporated, and had chosen them to be our builder. And, because it sounded like a great idea to work with someone that’s 700 miles away from you while you’re building a food truck.

[00:20:20] Liz Galloway: But they were rated highly and I had worked with them through the process and spoken to them and they were a great company to work with. So, during all of this Tommy, there was something else going on – the COVID pandemic – during this whole process of building this food truck.

[00:20:38] Liz Galloway: So, a typical build on a food truck, three months. It took us almost 15 start to finish to get this project done. You can only imagine the string of calls that, this piece of equipment is not available. This piece of equipment is going to be an additional four months if you want that one.

[00:20:59] Liz Galloway: So, it came with its challenges for sure. But we finally got the call that, hey, the truck is ready. Come get your keys. You’re ready to roll. So there was a team of us that took off to New Jersey to pick up the truck and to get it back home. The day that we pulled onto their property, the truck was just sitting out front.

[00:21:28] Liz Galloway: It was, you couldn’t miss it. And my heart just sank. I was just, beside myself, like, oh, my gosh, I had not. I had seen pictures. I had seen the process. We’ve done many video calls throughout the process of building. But there it was. It’s sitting in front of me. I can touch it, right?

[00:21:52] Liz Galloway: So before the car even got stopped, I’m like, I’m unbuckling. I’m getting out of the car and I’m running to the truck and I’m just like, oh my gosh, there, this is it. This is it. It’s been an idea. It’s been on paper. It’s been, in video calls. But here it is. So, the folks from Vending Trucks came out.

[00:22:12] Liz Galloway: We did a full day’s training on the truck and before I could even start anything, I just went in the truck and, for starters, you just thank God for the opportunity that I had to be able to make this idea come to life. It was just such a moment. You just go, oh, my gosh, what?

[00:22:39] Liz Galloway: How many lives can this truck change? How many mouths can this truck feed? And it was just a surreal moment to be in that truck. And I asked, I said, I need five minutes in here by myself. And then we’ll start the training. So it was just a wonderful moment and to see the truck driving, driving up to it took us a couple of days to get back.

[00:23:04] Liz Galloway: But once we actually got back to the main campus here at KARM, when we were pulling in at 418 North Broadway the entire staff, the entire team here at KARM was literally lined up on the sidewalks under the bridge, cheering us as we pulled in. It just melted me. It was quite a sight.

[00:23:28] Liz Galloway: It was wonderful.

[00:23:29] Burt Rosen: So I think it melted all of us, Liz. And I can recall being part of that group standing out there that day and we’re just like cheering the truck in. We’re seeing the fruition of an idea that’s resided in Liz’s heart for who knows how long that this process that we went through allowed it to get from dream to ideation to implementation.

[00:23:57] Burt Rosen: And in a minute, I’ll ask Liz to just share briefly some of what the food truck, they named it and what it’s actually doing now as far as ministry is concerned. But before doing that. I don’t know how I can describe the feelings for me, because this idea of fostering innovation, not being afraid to fail, and then actually seeing Liz’s idea come, and Liz and I have visited a lot of places together as we’ve talked and dreamed about ideas, but this one was all hers all the way, and so it was an innovative concept, and now you’re seeing it come to pass, and I’m reliving that moment just as we’re talking about it because it’s so special, but all of the ancillary benefits with other employees, the way it fostered further innovation, the way it created cross pollination and training and so on and so forth was what was worthy of replication.

[00:24:58] Burt Rosen: But that’s for another time. And maybe as we close, I can say a word or two about that. But let me turn it back over to Liz now so she can share with the listeners what has come out of that dream and maybe just a few sentences or so about the name of the truck and what it’s now doing. 

[00:25:19] Liz Galloway: The name of the truck was a contest within itself.

[00:25:23] Liz Galloway: Like Burt put the idea out to us as a full staff, I put it out to full staff too. So let’s get creative with the name. So you can imagine when there were 75 employees and I probably ended up with almost 150 different names of the truck that people had submitted. We actually went through a name change and we finally landed on Urban Table.

[00:25:49] Liz Galloway: Urban Table, the tagline is, so all may be fed. And that is the true purpose behind the truck. So, all may be fed again if it was for profit. There it is generating money to come back into the ministry to help feed those here at the main campus, or if it is the outreach piece of it, getting into the communities where folks are in need and feeding them as well.

[00:26:13] Liz Galloway: We’re feeding their hearts, their minds, their souls and just really being just being the hands and feet in the community where. Where people might not realize what KARM does and what KARM has to offer for their guests in the community.

[00:26:30] Tommy Thomas: We’re recording this in February of 24.

[00:26:33] Tommy Thomas: What’s the truck doing today?

[00:26:35] Liz Galloway: So yesterday we had our first rollout for this season. And very excited. You look at February and you just think, oh, February is just not good, it’s just, it’s cold, right? Nobody wants to go to a food truck. But people have been reaching out left and right, trying to get us on the books, and just very excited to see this year coming up.

[00:26:56] Liz Galloway: The first year was a huge learning process. For myself and my staff, right? A food truck has always been an idea, right? It’s always been in my head, but when you get it and you learn about this, it’s a new business, right? Yeah, it’s food service, but it’s a totally new business.

[00:27:13] Liz Galloway: So the first year had a lot of learning opportunities for us a lot of challenges. A lot of failures, and a lot of successes. We are back on the road as of yesterday getting the season kicked off and we are excited to work with folks and different organizations and churches, even in the community for events, as well as getting into those communities in need and just loving on people and meeting them where they are and feeding their souls for sure.

[00:27:47] Burt Rosen: It’s been a great ministry to watch it unfold and Liz has taken it to where it is now. We hear talk about food deserts.

[00:27:58] Burt Rosen: And so, the truck is going to places where the homeless are living in camps, and no one’s being charged for any of that food. So, you have an interesting model where a for-profit piece that can cater for income is offsetting the cost of being able to go to places where people can’t afford to pay for their food.

[00:28:18] Burt Rosen: But it’s not only a brag on Liz. She has done this in amazing fashion, but it’s also a little bit of a brag on the process and the KARM staff. And one of the lessons learned, at least for me, and all of this and I think for others along the way, is that if you can figure out how to tap the hidden treasures that are in the hearts of your employees, you quickly realize it’s worth it.

[00:28:46] Burt Rosen: That all the great ideas don’t reside in the senior leadership team. They all have ideas as well, but when an organization can mine all of that and commit funds to R&D too often, nonprofits don’t have the money set aside to do that, but you either have to grow or, if you’re not busy changing, you’re busy dying.

[00:29:11] Burt Rosen: Sooner or later, you’ve got to figure out how to innovate and bring new ideas to the table. So, we were really excited about this and Tommy really excited that you gave us an opportunity to talk about it a little bit today.

[00:29:24] Tommy Thomas: This is just, this is fascinating. This is the first time we’ve ever done anything like this on the podcast.

[00:29:29] Tommy Thomas: And I just think it’s been a great episode. I hope our listeners are taking note and if anybody else has done anything like this please let me know and we might tell your story. But Burt and Liz, so grateful that y’all could come out and join me today. And I’ll put a link to this in the show notes and put a link to the, just a great ministry that KARM does in the Tennessee Valley.

[00:29:50] Tommy Thomas: Thank y’all for being my guest today.

[00:29:53] Burt Rosen: Thank you, Tommy. And if I could just in addition to thanks, let you know that there was a lot of behind-the-scenes work on this, a lot of preparation for all the judges, all of which we’ve kept. And if anyone was ever saying, hey, could you help us replicate that in our organization?

[00:30:10] Burt Rosen: I’d be delighted to do that. You have my contact information, and they could just reach out to me. We’ve got all the forms, everything we did the whole step of the way. 

[00:30:20] Tommy Thomas: Yeah, with your permission, I will share your contact data in the show notes also. So, we’ll wrap it up from here, and just good luck and Godspeed on the rest of y’all’s activities there.

[00:30:32] Liz Galloway: Yeah, thank you so much, Tommy. It was a pleasure. Thanks, Tommy.

“This was a great training opportunity.  We had to do a budget for the idea.  We had to do letters of intent.  We were starting a new business venture, and we learned as the idea became reality.” -Liz Galloway

Links and Resources

JobfitMatters Website

Next Gen Nonprofit Leadership with Tommy Thomas

The Perfect Search – What every board needs to know about hiring their next CEO

Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM)

Liz Galloway – Senior Director of Food Services

 KARMs New Food Truck – Urban Table – Serves Knoxville’s Entire Community

Urban Table – so all may be fed


[email protected]

Follow Tommy on LinkedIn

Contact Burt Rosen for help on how you might use the Shark Tank idea in your nonprofit organization: [email protected]

Follow Burt on LinkedIn


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