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Boy, 14, runs successful chili food truck in Las Vegas Valley

chily barkers

La’rell Wysinger, 14

What did you do at 14 years old?

La’rell Wysinger started a food business in his grandmother’s driveway when he was 12. In the last two years, during the pandemic, the high school freshman’s driveway snacks have grown into a popular chili cupcake trailer.

He’s a translator, a big brother and a teen entrepreneur. Wysinger, now 14, owns and operates the Chily Barkers food trailer. It’s a nonstop hot spot for chili cupcakes: small cornbread cakes topped with homemade chili, sour cream, cheese and green onions. It’s a family business, but the Western High School freshman is the boss.

“This is exactly what I prayed for; you know? Me and my mom are big on praying and manifesting and speaking positivity. Whenever we speak, we say we are going to go out. We’re going to get it,” Wysinger said.

Tatiana Easley, his mother, said his allowance wasn’t enough, so he wanted to pursue his own thing.

“I tell him, I’m very proud of him every day because I think at 14, I was chasing boys and trying to do other stuff besides a business … I’m just very proud of him,” she said.

That’s why Easley hopped on immediately for the ride. Well, she drove, because Wysinger isn’t old enough to get his license yet. At just 12, he began developing the cornbread concept. When mom and son were satisfied with the flavor, they started selling his after-school snacks on his grandma’s driveway in California, sending out delectable posts on social media.

“One person blew it up back home. And then everybody was pulling up. And we had the whole street blocked off with a line full of cars,” Easley said.

When the family moved to Las Vegas, they invested in a trailer and converted it themselves. It’s a busy life running a business as a teenager, but Wysinger’s parents insist he only works on weekends and stays on the A B honor roll in school.

“Honestly, we made sure that we didn’t overload him because in the beginning, he wanted to do Monday through Sunday. And I was like, 'You have to take a break!' So we made sure school was first,” Easley said.

That was a big theme for Wysinger’s “career day” speech at 100 Academy of Excellence in North Las Vegas. Its principal, Dr. Thursenia DeHart-Porter, asked the young business owner to speak at her school of engineering and technology, hoping to inspire the children to dream big.

“You know, they were very vocal about that. ‘You know, Dr. Porter, he is one of us. We can do this. Look at what he did.’ And then he continued to say it was not an easy road, but he stayed the course. And he told them it’s a lot of hard work, and you’re going to have to be focused. Now I have many of our students running around. They want to be entrepreneurs now. They feel it. They know this is something that they can do because they’ve seen it … And we so appreciated him coming,” DeHart-Porter said.

Wysinger admits he was a bit apprehensive giving a speech about business to kindergarten through eighth grade children, some in the audience just a year younger than him, but he also understands the gravity of his unique position.

“Very important because there’s a lot of images… [of] Black men especially Black, young men, as us being rowdy or ghetto or not educated. I just think that me being what I am today and people actually seeing me ... especially the younger kids. Being a role model is so important to me,” he said. “I believe that gives them hope because whenever you see somebody doing something bigger than what you could imagine them even doing … as me being a Black male and just seeing me young … so those two categories right there already put me ahead of the game. And that’s just amazing. It’s giving them hope and just trying to push further so I can encourage younger generations like this to not only be an entrepreneur but just take on any dream you have. Be an athlete, an artist, a singer, a dancer. Just chase whatever dream you have.”

He says he’s looking forward to his future in the food business. The professional teenage cook continues to learn new cooking techniques in his high school culinary program, and he’s already got some gargantuan goals for expansion.

“He said between five and 10 years he wants to do a franchise, and he wants to grow. It’s not just the food truck. I was like, a franchise? I was like, that’s a lot, but he sees it. So I’m going to go and make sure it’s done just like with the trailer,” Easley said.

“ My mom most of all … she is my manager, my mom, and my 100% helper. So my motivation comes from my family. And I think if you don’t have the motivation or the right people behind you … support … you won’t have a feel for it … a lot of people need that push from somebody else telling them to get out of their comfort zone and go. A lot of people don’t have that,” he said.

You can find the food trailer’s schedule and locations by following Wysinger’s Instagram: @chilybarkers.

View this profile on Instagram La'rell The Owner (@chilybarkers) • Instagram photos and videos

La’rell Wysinger, owner, Chily Barkers; Tatiana Easley, La’rell’s mother; Dr. Thursenia DeHart-Porter, principal, 100 Academy of Excellence

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Lorraine Blanco Moss is the host of KNPR's award-winning Asian American Pacific Islander podcast, Exit Spring Mountain. She's also a former producer for State of Nevada, specializing in food and hospitality, women's issues, and sports.