LEHIGH ACRES, Fla — When Dwight Perkins looks at his new food trailer and thinks about the business he’s about to start, he can’t help but think of his family. The support he’s gotten from his wife and children. And the inspiration from his grandfather.
Dwight’s story is part of our SWFL Reinvented: Moving Forward series. Every Thursday, Fox 4 Morning News Anchor, Chris Shaw, introduces us to a new small business owner. We get the story about what drove the person to take a risk and open up, then we follow their ups and downs of getting started.
Dwight’s story starts when he was a child, watching his grandfather cook for the family. He says it wasn’t just the way the food tasted, it was also how people lit up when they ate it.
“He shared his love through the food,” Dwight says. “There are no words for how his food made me feel.”
Dwight started cooking himself when he was 8 or 9 years old. And he kept cooking in college.
“I was on a full football scholarship at UCF and I started cooking for myself,” he says. “And then I started cooking for teammates and stuff like that. I think that’s when I found the love of cooking for other people.”
After graduation, Dwight dreamed of opening a restaurant. But he got married and started a family, and it wasn’t a good time to take the kind of risk that goes along with starting a new business. He got a job at Publix in the meat department and cooked for his family in his spare time.
And that’s the way it was for 15 years. Until Hurricane Irma changed his outlook. His home took a lot of damage. And when Dwight thought about how quickly life can change, he decided he wanted to do something special.
“And I said, I’m going to take this money aside and I’m going to invest it in something I love to do,” Dwight says.
So he started saving up and shopping for a food truck. He says he’ll always remember the night he brought it home.
“I pulled up and my wife and my kids started celebrating and jumping with joy, ‘Daddy’s home with the trailer,’” he says.
It needed some work. It took Dwight another year and a half to get it ready. And at the times when it seemed like he would never finish it, Dwight kept pushing toward his dream.
“It stems back from me playing ball from back in the day,” he says. "And we had to have that dedication and commitment. When you commit to something, you have to fully commit.”
So that’s what Dwight did. In May, he will open up Da Meat Man food truck. And his goal is to bring people the same kind of joy his grandfather’s food brought him.
“It’s very easy to give up,” he says. "I’ve got drive. I’ve got commitment, I’ve got family. And I can cook.”