Getting tangled up with Swizzler
Posted by Annie Johnson on Jan 30, 2014 in Feature, Featured, Life
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? The team behind the WFU start-up Swizzler, believes you can – and they’re making it their mission to teach the community a few new tricks along the way.
Swizzlers are an inventive twist on the classic hot dog. It is a spiral cut hot dog, which increases the surface area by 350 percent says Swizzler CEO, senior Jack Zimmerman.
“The spiral gives it visual appeal,” said Zimmerman. “It allows us to marinate the hotdogs and make sure every bite has crisp charred flavor.”
The idea is to “incorporate surprising flavors, that people wouldn’t expect or associate with a hot dog,” said chief communications coordinator, senior Jesse Konig. “Eating is an adventure, and we want to take them along.”
Dreaming of dogs
The concept of Swizzler was “born out of a hostel in the south of Spain,” said Zimmerman. While studying abroad in the fall of their junior year, Zimmerman and Konig dreamed up the business idea sitting on lawn chairs on the roof of a hostel in Malaga. So the story goes, when they returned to their home city of Madrid, they started cooking.
Soon they brought on fellow senior Ben Johnson as chief marketing officer who brought fresh ideas for the Swizzler. After testing several recipes out on friends, the response was “overwhelmingly positive,” said Konig.
The business of Swizzler was officially born as the final group project for Konig in an entrepreneurship class the next semester. For three days, the campus got its first taste of the Swizzler.
“We had the highest grossing venture in the seven-year history of the class,” said Konig. “People keep asking us when they can get Swizzlers again.”
Thanks to a grant from the WFU Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship, the team received the funds to get started on its website and other new developments.
The Swizzlers team is constantly working on new flavors. One of their newest creations is called the “Acropolis,” a combination of hot dog, olives, Roma tomatoes and a homemade tzatziki sauce. Johnson says they’ve also dug into a caprese dog – complete with fresh mozzarella, pesto, tomato and topped with balsamic vinaigrette. Next up? A Carolina dog – a compilation of all the comforts of the South including chili and cole slaw.
They also hope to one day mass market their original “sauwces.” Fans have gone crazy for their homemade “Moncloa sauwce,” aptly named for the Madrid Metro station that Zimmerman and Konig frequented abroad. Their newest “sauwce,” is still in the development stage, with the working title “Sweet Heat.”
“We’re trying to get away from just ketchup and mustard,” said Konig.
Emphasis on values
Innovation and healthier options are two priorities for the Swizzler team.
“We’re a value-based brand,” said Konig. “[Swizzler] stands for adventure, innovation and responsibility.”
They’re responsible for providing the freshest produce, the highest quality meats and other green additions said Konig. In addition, they’re reaching out into the Winston-Salem community to give back.
The Swizzler guys are teaming up to work with the H.O.P.E food truck in downtown Winston-Salem, which uses interfaith community networks to make meals on the weekend and deliver to underprivileged children in neighborhoods with the highest food insecurity. H.O.P.E. stands for “helping our people eat.” According to its website, Winston-Salem has been ranked as one of the worst cities in the country for hunger for the last four years.
“Many of these kids are part of the federal lunch program, but many times the food provided [through the Backpack program, which sends food home for the weekend] doesn’t last until Sunday,” said Zimmerman. “We want to make sure kids are well-fed.”
The team spent this past weekend helping to deliver food to the local community.
The future of Swizzler
The team hopes to have their own Swizzler truck up and running locally in time for the fall semester. For these three seniors, Swizzlers are the plan for after graduation. They’ve added freshman Andres Fernandez to their team as their campus representative, to keep them connected to the WFU community and spread the brand name.
Swizzler fans can look forward to more innovative eating this semester as well. Due to restrictions regarding bringing food to campus, as well as health and safety regulations, the team can only sell their product in conjunction with special events. Swizzler is planning on sponsoring an eating competition for charity, as well as selling at events like Lilting Banshees shows.