Sean McKiel, born and raised in La Porte, got his start working at county fairs at a young age. Every year, McKiel would visit the La Porte County Fair and sell newspapers. While he was walking around the fair, he had the opportunity to meet and get to know the vendors. At age 13, he was invited to help a long-time vendor, Isaac Orme, make popcorn and sell it at his stand.
“I hit it off with him and became really good friends. I started working with him every year at the county fair. Once I started driving, I would work at the state fair and as soon I as I got out of school, I started going to different state fairs ” said McKiel.
McKiel completed a welding program in Ohio and was working a factory job in Michigan City for about five years. Each year he would take a few weeks off at a time to work at the fairs with Orme. He quickly realized that working full time in concessions was what he wanted to do and decided to start saving for his own stand. McKiel decided to branch out on his own about seven years ago and started Trust Fam Concessions. He then began traveling to county fairs across the country to sell popcorn and other fair treats and doing other events whenever he could. He credits his friend Danny Caldwell for helping him get his business off the ground.
“He was my first employee. He stuck with me for two years and I try to thank him all the time. I don’t think I would have been able to do it without him. I needed somebody and knew I wouldn’t have been able to do it by myself,” says McKiel
McKiel also sells popcorn online during the holiday season to keep his business growing and enjoys creating a new and exciting flavor each year. McKiel faced a few challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and found ways to adapt his business to the sudden closures that the fair industry faced during the 2020 season. He notes that he was getting ready to open his stand at the biggest event of the year in Miami, Florida when everything shut down.
“I had all of the product and nothing to do with it. I opened my stand in my driveway and sold deep fried Oreos from there. It got a ton of shares on Facebook and I was very surprised at how busy I was. I started setting up at the corner of two main highways a couple of times a month and it got me through.” said McKiel
When McKiel is not traveling to a fair, he is working in disaster relief for Storm Services. He got involved with disaster relief through his fair community. An owner of a food service company that provides food to a lot of vendors in the community saw an opportunity to help after Hurricane Katrina and partnered with others in the community to start Storm Services. McKiel deploys with the company to help set up trailers for sleep quarters, laundry, mobile kitchens, and other needs for those who have traveled far a wide to help with cleanup and relief.
“We will be out for a week to a month depending on the extent of the damage. We come in with maybe 20-40 tractor trailers and set up in the middle of nowhere. We make them breakfast and dinner and try to make them feel at home while they are working 12-14 hours a day,” said McKiel
McKiel also loves being outdoors whenever possible and is an avid runner in his off time. He has participated in ultra-marathons and is currently training to run a 100-mile marathon this year. McKiel notes that running is easy to do when you travel so much.
“I like to run a lot. If I am somewhere warm it’s easy to run. I try to run five to ten miles each day.” said McKiel
Although McKiel doesn’t get to spend much time in La Porte due to his travel and work schedule, he still loves coming back home every time.
“People need to not forget how beautiful La Porte can be. Living there, you can take it for granted. Seeing different places across the country, I still always come back to La Porte. The people are nice and the outdoor activities are great. You just don’t see that everywhere,” said McKiel
McKiel is looking forward to opening a store front in the near future to sell his popcorn flavors year-round.
“My five year plan is to have a retail location in La Porte. I think it would be nice to build something local. It’s something that my family can help me run,” said McKiel.
For more information on Trust Fam Concessions visit https://trustfam.square.site/