Small Business Credit Profiles

Business success in the time of COVID

A serial entrepreneur opened a food truck during trying times and found success


A serial entrepreneur with a plan, Kim Livengood launched her sixth venture, a food truck by the name of Hamlet’s Eatery, with the help of a business credit card and business savvy.

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Kim Livengood

Kim Livengood

Kim Livengood is a serial entrepreneur on a mission: to connect high quality, delicious food with hungry shoppers. Livengood has never worked in the culinary industry before, but that didn’t stop her from launching a food truck.

Hamlet’s Eatery, Livengood’s sixth venture, opened for business July 4. Located in Sarasota, Florida, the truck is permanently parked in The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime, an indie market selling everything from artwork to succulents, collectibles, jewelry and clothes.

“It’s always good to have something to eat when you’re shopping, but there weren’t any places in our area and I was starving all the time,” says Livengood. “Since I can’t cook, I was lucky to find a partner. I explained what I was thinking, and he said, ‘Let’s do it!’ The reception has been really good. Our concept is to have a vegan option for every traditional dish. Pork tacos and jackfruit tacos, traditional hot dogs and vegan hot dog. That kind of thing.”

A food truck was right not just for The Bazaar, but for COVID demands. Seating is naturally outdoors, so she didn’t have to worry about indoor dining restrictions.

While Livengood has no culinary experience, she has a background in business and public relations. And she is using all of her strengths to make this venture successful – including wielding a cash back credit card like a pro.

See related: Delicious food, fabulous card rewards

Hamlets Eatery is so new. What are some of the issues you’ve experienced as a start-up?

We faced some challenges for sure. You don’t know what you don’t know, and we knew nothing to start this up from scratch. For example, my chef, who has years of managing restaurants, is an amazing cook but he had never done it professionally before, so there was a learning curve.

Also, we bought the food truck though Facebook Marketplace, which was easy, but in the end was far more expensive than we thought it would be. The truck is circa 1980, so we’ve had to replace many costly things already, from the battery to the exhaust system. It all cost more than we thought.

Also, we’re not located in a bustling downtown area, so getting the word out about who we are and what we offer on a limited marketing budget is tough. In the beginning, we paid for everything, including the truck, with personal funds.

And now you’re using a credit card?

Hamlet's Eatery

Yes, I have the Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card, and we’re using it for everything going forward. That includes food shopping on a weekly basis, propane delivery, electricity, Facebook advertising … everything we need for operations goes on the credit card. Some of the local venders we buy from only take PayPal, but that’s attached to the credit card, so we’re good.

I have to say I love this Chase card. I get 5% cash back on internet, cable and phone services and at office supply stores (on up to $25,000 in purchases annually) and the app makes everything really easy. I can see the rewards I’ve built up and can apply them right away. Cash back is fantastic. A couple hundred bucks? That’s free money that I can put back into the business. Anyone who doesn’t use rewards cards is wasting their time. It’s silly not to.

See related: Chase Ink Business Cash vs Ink Business Unlimited

How are you handling the financial aspects of running the business? Do you carry debt?

I hired a bookkeeper to help. I’ve always done my own accounting, but I thought it would be a good idea to have a professional on board since I have a partner in this venture.

As for debt, I haven’t taken out any loans yet, and I pay the credit card off every month. The thought of having to pay extra interest is awful to me. It’s just not my way. I work too hard to waste my money on anything that’s unnecessary.

Can you talk about your philosophy regarding building and keeping excellent credit?

I have always had really good credit and it would freak me out to get into debt. I pay my bills the minute I receive them. I’m the person who goes to the party 10 minutes early!

Having good credit is important. If we plan to expand this concept, it won’t be possible without a loan – or more credit cards. You can’t get more credit without good business credit. Plus, savings don’t always cover every possible problem or need. In business, you have to be able handle unexpected times, too, and that means having access to credit.

Outside of that, I’m trying to instill the importance of good credit in my daughter, who’s in college. I want her to be able to buy a house or condo one day. That’s why I talk to her and try to teach her about credit. I want her to do things on her own. It builds pride and satisfaction.

What is next for Hamlet’s Eatery?

Right now, we are only open three days a week, but we want to do five or six. And there’s a cute empty building adjacent to the truck where we plan to build out a prep kitchen and have inside seating space. Then we can also offer beer and wine.

We’re in Florida, so summers are brutally hot. When COVID is over, we definitely want inside seating with air conditioning for our guests.

Any guidance for small business owners who are just starting out?

We all want to make money and yes, that’s important. But if you don’t have passion for what you’re doing, it’s really hard to get out of bed and go to work. There will be slow days, slow months and slow periods. If you love your business, you’ll still get joy out of it. The money will come.

I’m out there, sweating like crazy, not just for the profit but because I love this. We’re creating a very cool experience. It makes me happy.

And lastly, what advice can you offer entrepreneurs about money and credit? 

I did my homework to find the credit card that would be best for my business, and I am very intentional with my card usage. Every entrepreneur should do the same.

There are a lot of cards out there, so find the one that’s right for you and your needs. Get one with a good app, too, because if you’re busy – and you will be – you’ll want to have easy access to the account.

Oh, and some advice based on what I do with my card? If we had a really good week, I’ll make a partial payment mid-point, so the bill isn’t so big at the end of the month. Psychologically it’s helpful. It takes the pain out of a huge balance!

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