IOE Lecturer Debra Levantrosser is making the world a more delicious and healthy place with her vegan food truck, Shimmy Shack. Debra, who has taught IOE 201, 421 and 425, has been running Shimmy Shack for three years now. In that time, it’s been featured on several local news stations, blogs, newspapers, magazines and in 2015 was named one of PETA’s top ten food trucks in the country.
Debra’s interest in lean started early. She says she was raised in a lean household where her parents used the principles and her father used them at work. It was a natural fit for her once she began working in college and after graduation. Throughout her career she’s worked as the Executive Director of Lean Thinking & also the Supply Chain Change Leader for Johnson & Johnson, Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Executive Director of Lean and Business Strategy at Exide Technologies. Shimmy Shack was the perfect place for her love of vegan food and her knowledge of lean to mesh.
“I have been vegan for 26 years and knew that one day I would open a vegan restaurant,” she says. “The idea for a food truck was raised by a colleague and I recognized it as a less expensive way to enter the market and a much more lean way – – – lean is all about the customers so what could be more lean than going to the customers rather than having the customers come to you!”
Debra says the year prior to opening was spent planning and completing tasks like designing the menu, designing the truck, naming the business and creating the logo (“Shimmy” is the blonde on the side of the truck). The first year in operation was focused on learning the business. She had been a waitress and owned a catering business in college over 25 years ago but that was the extent of her food service experience. Year two was all about strengthening the business and increasing brand recognition. This year it’s about having a social media strategy and launching their cookies in stores.
She has big plans for Shimmy’s future too. “Shimmy Shack will be the first franchised food truck in the country. Shimmy’s face will be the seal of veganism on vegan products,” she says.
Debra also has a consulting firm, Arbed Solutions, which does work ranging from training to strategic planning to facilitating leadership teams to implementing lean. She says her work experience can be a helpful tool in the IOE classroom.
“I regularly use examples from my experience in corporate America, my consulting work and Shimmy Shack in the classroom,” she explains. “It’s always different, never the same in two classes depending on where discussions take us. I may talk about the work I am doing at creating dashboards/scorecards at a client and I may talk about the importance of standard work on the truck. I think (at least I hope!) the real life experiences enhance the classroom learning.”
Her work is extremely rewarding according to Debra, “I am impacting the world in a positive way. For the consulting work, I am helping provide direction to companies and helping to identify areas for improvement. At Shimmy Shack, it is my small way of reducing the horrific nature of factory farming and showing people how tasty and shimmy-licious vegan food can be!”
For students looking to a future in entrepreneurship, she has this advice, “If you decide to be an entrepreneur, no one will love your business as much as you do so don’t expect anyone to. If you decide to work for an entrepreneur, be ready to wear different hats and be interested in jumping in to make the coffee one day and create a strategic plan the next.”
More information about Shimmy Shack is available at shimmyshack.com.