BELOIT – “People are much happier when you feed them.”
That is what Jalen Ponder, a 19-year-old Hononegah High School’s 2020 grade graduate, said about the company he founded called Evendtor.
Developed to book food trucks for events, Evendtor is growing along with the trend towards food on wheels. Ponder, who works with 30 food trucks in the area, helps book birthday parties, graduation parties, corporate events and more. His company has sponsored Rockton River Market and events for Frito Lay and the Phoenix Apartments in Beloit, as well as schools like Hononegah High School and Willowbrook Middle School. Further information can be found at https://www.evendtor.com.
When Ponder receives a request for an event, he begins notifying his growing fleet of food trucks in the area. The choice of truck type depends on availability and the type of food requested by the host.
Ponder said he started his unique business when he was 13 while living with his aunt in Detroit.
“I wanted to find a way to help my family, but I was too young to get a job. I didn’t mean to make the wrong money, ”he said.
While considering ways to earn a respectable income, he discovered a food truck operator selling hot dogs with a specialty chili sauce and fried cornbread nuggets.
“He always had people giving him money and I asked how I could help him,” said Ponder.
The seller told him he could help post on his Facebook page. People responded well and started sending messages to the site to find out where the truck would be.
Ponder still has fond memories of the man and his food truck willing to take a risk and give him an opportunity.
Ponder’s adventures continued as a 13-year-old when the owner of a food truck called him one night to tell him that his truck exploded after a stove caught fire.
“I felt like I was in a James Bond movie,” said Ponder. “It looked like a bomb went off and that put him out of business.”
Chili Sauce and Dogs owner Benjamin Welch fondly remembered his days as a mentor to Ponder before the truck died. Welch, who moved into real estate, said he met Ponder through Ponder’s uncles. Which admits when he first saw Ponder he thought he was much older than he was because he was so tall. When he was later deposed by his grandmother, Welch realized how young he was.
“I could not believe it. When I found out how old he was, I decided to give him a chance, ”Welch said. “I have a marketing background myself. I took him under my wing to help me while he learned how to start a marketing company. He just got better and better. “
Welch said Ponder was always awake.
“When I met him, I was very impressed. He was eager to learn. He is the true definition of an entrepreneur. Working with him was fun and was mutually beneficial, ”said Welch. “He’s great at taking feedback and making adjustments, and he’s not afraid to go out and learn something new.”
After honing his booking skills in Detroit, Ponder decided to try his hand at Bookin in the Stateline Area and started working with Pizza Fresca. Over the years he brought the olive branch and other food trucks to his offerings.
Patrick Anderson, owner of Pizza Fresca, which offers wood-fire pizza and homemade ice cream, was thrilled to meet Ponder. Anderson said his truck was struggling to secure well-attended events when he hired Ponder.
“We’re fine, but if you have a good audience, you can do a lot of transactions quickly. Almost 10 percent of sales came from three big days, ”noted Anderson.
Anderson met Ponder at a Starbucks and started talking.
“He was trying to get food trucks into high schools to make lunches for the teachers. He worked hard and I was very impressed. He was a junior at the time. He was very busy making sure we had what we needed and leaned back over to help, ”said Anderson. “I was very impressed with his work ethic and his flexibility to work with us and find creative ways to synergy.”
Over the years, Anderson said that Ponder Pizza brought Fresca to high school events and weddings.
“He tends to get us things everywhere. We’ve worked with Jalen quite a bit over the past year, ”said Anderson.
Ponder explained that food truck operators are busy cooking and don’t always have time for marketing and sales.
“I’m in a sales position. I go out and go to these corporate offices and new markets and help sell their services so they get bookings, ”Ponder said.
The demand for food trucks continues to grow as their food is unique, fresh and affordable.
“Apparently people want food trucks and their wedding, and I’m not going to tell them ‘no’,” Ponder said. “It’s a bargain and they just love it.”
Ponder, who said he always liked parties and food, says he loves making memorable experiences for people. The nice thing about food trucks is that people don’t have to stray far from their business or their gathering.
“You don’t have to go to get food. You can have a food all about party, ”he said.
Ponder, who took a break from Beloit College during the pandemic, continues to flex his entrepreneurial muscles. He and five others started a digital marketing company called Evolution DMA (Digital Marketing Agency).
“We do digital marketing mainly for black and Latin American companies. We have a photographer, copywriter and graphic designer. I focus on running the operations and customer updates and making sure our customers are happy, ”said Ponder.
Ponder plans to return to school to study business, although he admits that after so much hands-on experience, he’s struggling to make things out of a textbook.
He joked that one of his colleagues in Evolution DMA got an “F” in a business class when he proposed the business idea, and the instructor said it wasn’t very realistic.
“The grading is partly subjective,” said Ponder.
Ponder plans to continue his business ventures. He hopes one day to run a large event company that will not only offer food trucks, but also DJs, florists, decorators and other offers for larger weddings and events.
One day he dreams of having the resources to fight climate change and opening a child development center in Detroit to give children more opportunities.
“Some of the children we knew in Detroit have died or are in jail. It really shows that in some cases it’s not about the person but the environment. I want to give these children a start, ”said Ponder.