Tags Posts tagged with "Small Business"

Small Business

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Marketing is an integral part of a food truck business’ growth. Yet to afford a marketing campaign, most food truck vendors feel pressured to grow their businesses first. It’s easy to see how a vicious and counterproductive cycle develops from here. You mobile food business growth and marketing must go hand-in-hand; to achieve one, you must have the other.

Cost Effective Marketing

 

But how is a food truck supposed to do any marketing if there’s no budget to support traditional marketing efforts? No worries, this article provides a few do-it-yourself ways you can grow your mobile food business without spending the big money you don’t yet have.

Marketing Solutions for a Shoestring Budget
      1. Network within the Community. You should never overlook the power of networking within the communities you operate in. Attend networking meetings; if there aren’t any in your area, talk to other business owners and start one. Chances are there are other people who would like to share and discuss marketing techniques.
      2. Be a Guest Blogger. Many website owners *cough* mobile-cuisine.com *cough* welcome guest bloggers who can write content that’s relevant to the mobile food industry. This is an excellent way to market your business by discussing something related to your business and building a relationship with other like-minded businesses and in return driving traffic to your website.
      3. Offer Incentives. Existing customers are often happy to help spread the word about a food truck they enjoy frequenting. Offer a discount or small freebie to current customers who bring a new paying customer to your service window.
      4. New Customers Exclusive Offers. New customers enjoy incentives too. Attract consumers with offers that are exclusively for first-time customers. This is a great way to convert a consumer into a frequent visitor.
      5. Conduct Free Workshops/Classes. Today’s food truck customers are looking for value in many shapes and forms. Offering cooking workshops or classes that teach your customers how to prepare a dish from your menu or something similar can attract new customers and increase sales. They don’t have to be long; even 30 to 60 minutes are sufficient if what you’re offering during that time isn’t fluff.
      6. Use Social Media Consistently. Social media marketing is one of the best ways to market your business for free. Choose three social media venues you or an employee feels comfortable with and post to them at least three times weekly. As you build followers, you’ll be able to lead them to your truck. If you do it right, you could end up in our Most Influential Food Truck list next year.
      7. Add a Blog. A website is something every food truck owner should have. If it’s not in the budget to have one designed for you, there are plenty of sites that offer free or low-cost templates that can be used for now. Be sure to add a blog to your website so you can regularly post about what’s new in your mobile food business, as well as on any other topics you feel would be relevant to what you have to offer.
Slow, Steady Progress Brings Results

Eager food truck vendors would love to see overnight growth, but things seldom work out that way, and that might be a good thing. Too much growth too soon can be hard to prepare for and could result in poor quality food and customer service. By using the tips above, you can slowly and steadily build your customer base and gain exposure for your food truck business. Consistency is important, so use these marketing ideas regularly to keep the momentum going. Over time, you’ll learn which ones work best for you and your customers.

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Startup food truck owners often worry that someone else will steal their best ideas before they get on the road. That’s understandable, but it’s the wrong thing to be afraid of.

Questions and Answers signpost

The bigger danger is that these culinary entrepreneurs won’t share what they’re doing behind the scenes with enough people, especially early on in their food truck menu development.

You’ll likely need to examine many promising menu ideas before you find one that you will be able to covert into a successful new food truck business. So your goal should be to examine and discard the bad ideas quickly in favor of the good.

So how do you obtain the information you need to make these decisions? Here are five strategies to pursue:

Interview your market

Find potential customers and ask them about the local food truck industry. Find out what they think is missing from your area and how important it is that this void is in need of filling. And please remember; I said, customers, not just friends or family who might answer your questions in a way that will make you feel great about your concept.

Find experts

Find people who have or are working in the industry, or who have tried similar ideas in the past. Unless you’re going to be their direct competitors (which most food truck owners won’t see), you’ll be surprised at how many knowledgeable people are willing to give you their time.

Conduct focus groups

These don’t need to be formal events with everyone seated around a table and you behind a one-way mirror, although there’s nothing wrong with that except for the potential expense. By asking several potential customers or others and getting them to interact with one another, you can often learn more than just by asking directly.

Private tastings

If you really want to find out if your recipes are spot on, or fall on their faces…find out. Look for local foodies who will sit down for an informal tasting party. Roll out your menu ideas and watch for the reactions of your guests. At the very least, you can gauge people’s interest in your menu and find out where you may want to tweak things. In a best-case scenario, you might wind up with customers offering you catering gigs before you’ve even invested in your food truck. This is some of the best information you can possibly get.

Ask for investors

Even if you aren’t ready or even planning to take other people’s money to build your food truck empire, people who may invest their money in your concept are almost always going to ask hard questions. Better to force yourself to examine the answers early, before you get started.

Remember, you’re looking for feedback but more than that, you’re looking for feedback that demonstrates that customers in your target market will be excited for your launch.

If they aren’t it is a pretty good indication your best ideas will need to be found elsewhere. This can be discouraging but isn’t better to learn this very early and very cheaply?

 

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San Jose Food Truck Microloan
(Marcio Jose Sanchez/(AP Photo)

SAN JOSE, CA — A daycare provider needed cribs and high chairs. A coffee truck needed a generator. A couple renting party supplies needed to move from a garage into a storefront.

When these Silicon Valley small businesses needed an influx of cash, and fast, they didn’t find help at a bank. They turned instead to a type of financing more commonly associated with buying a sewing machine for a Guatemalan tailor or a tractor for an African farmer.

Microlending, a decades old form of financing for the world’s poorest, is now booming in Silicon Valley. The region leads the country for microlending as a growing echelon of would-be businesspersons who can’t qualify for traditional bank loans meets money from cash-rich techies and firms, including eBay and Microsoft, who want to donate in innovative ways.

“Our clients are entrepreneurial people, but the mainstream financial system doesn’t work for them,” said Eric Weaver, founder and CEO of the San Jose, Calif.,-based Opportunity Fund, which invested a record $7.6 million in loans to small businesses last year, creating about 1,900 jobs.

Beneficiaries range from dry cleaners to barbeque joints, and the lender is now believed to be the largest financer of food trucks in the state. “A food truck or a hot dog cart is a U.S. equivalent of a cow in a developing country,” he said. “It’s something a family can support itself with.”

Paul Cruce tried banks, and even the high tech crowdsourcing route to get his Holy Cow Coffee Company to join the “upscale food truck brigade” before turning to Opportunity Fund.

Today, with a new generator powering the refrigerator, espresso machine, coffee brewer and crepe griddle, the Holy Cow truck is a popular attraction at farmer’s markets.

“I borrowed from Opportunity Fund rather than a bank because they are more in tune with the needs of small business and have more favorable credit terms,” said Cruce.

Microlending was devised by Bangladeshi banker Mohammad Yunus, who won a 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for developing the financial instrument that supports would-be business owners too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.

Today, the global microfinance industry has more than 200 million clients with $73 billion in outstanding loans, according to the London-based Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation. Just a small fraction of those—about $165 million—are in the United States, where about 400 institutions offer microloans.

Those firms typically give about 45 loans a year, compared with a record 1,200 from Opportunity Fund last year. The program, which is nonprofit and sustained by donations, has extended to Los Angeles in recent years. And this summer, Opportunity Fund teamed with Pacific Coast Ventures to target loans to Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.

Because microlenders work closely with recipients, providing financial education and business support, the microloans in the San Francisco Bay area have a delinquency rate of under 1 percent, compared with loss rates of about 5 percent for more typical loans. Rates range from about 8 to 12 percent, well below the 30 percent credit card rates many entrepreneurs use to try to launch businesses.

Despite a booming tech industry, the region faces growing inequality, stagnant job growth, soaring housing and transportation costs and widespread low wages. Small business owners who are largely immigrants point to their microloans, usually around $15,000, as a turning point for “making it.”

Argentinian chef Manuel Godino had no credit but lots of demand for his empanadas, which he cooked in an industrial kitchen and sold to cafes and restaurants. A microloan helped him launch his own storefront Venga Empanadas in San Francisco’s Mission District, where he employs another eight people.

Confectioner Cristina Arantes tapped Opportunity Fund to support her Kika’s Treats, making chocolate shortbreads and caramels. Tina Ferguson-Riffe turned her $20,000 loan into a barbeque joint, Smoke Berkeley, where she employs seven others.

Yale University economics professor Dale Karlan said domestic microlenders should strive for self-sustenance, rather than depending on charitable dollars.

“Overseas, they figured out how to make this work, and for-profits stepped in,” he said. “If they have to lose money to make these loans, then this is a subsidy, not a loan, and then we have to think about the most important things to subsidize, which might not be a small business.”

John Kohler, director of Impact Capital at Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society, said microloans can be a crucial source of funding for the 20 to 30 million people in the U.S. who have no checking accounts or credit.

And although microlenders like Opportunity Fund operate as non-profits, philanthropists like the model because their money goes further, recycling loans as they are repaid.

“We are not going to have enough dollars to donate our way out of the grip of poverty that exists in this country,” he said. “Large corporations know this, and are increasingly preferring evergreen programs that loan the same dollars again and again instead of just handing over charitable capital.”

Sid Espinosa, director of Corporate Citizenship for Microsoft Corp. in the Silicon Valley, said they chose to give to Opportunity Fund because it solves a problem for people seeking to launch a business and meets their strict requirements about who they give to, including providing relief to the poor.

“It’s that extra kick they need at this point in their lives,” he said. “And they can turn that loan into a business, into savings to raise a family, into an education.”

By Martha Mendoza, Associated Press

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Start a Food Truck Business

You are thinking you want to start a food truck business but you aren’t sure if you should. Perhaps, the very fact that most people today are willing to experiment and try food outside their homes is reason enough for you to venture into the mobile food industry. Here are some useful steps to start a food truck should you choose to enter the mobile food industry.

The first and most important thing you need to do before you even think about investing money in a truck, is to research in-depth to find out if your local area even allows food trucks to operate. Now if you do, you need to find out what types of trucks or carts are permissible. You don’t want to sink a load of cash into a truck you can’t get an operators permit for.

The next step should be to think about the type of cuisine that you are interested in serving in your rolling restaurant. This will help you figure out what type of equipment you will need as well as the methods in which you will cook and serve your tasty dishes.

Apart from researching for your own truck, you need to research about the restaurants and  other food truck vendors in your area too. This will give you a good idea about the kind of competition you are likely to face in the future.

From being a menu planner to an efficient accountant, a responsible manager to a culinary expert, you need to play myriad roles. There is a lot of hard work and dedicated efforts that you need to put in before you see your food truck set up and earning enough to sustain and then making profits over a long time to come.

You must look at the following steps to open a food truck if you are aiming to turn your mobile food service business into a profit making enterprise within a few years of being set up.

A good business plan is a must to start a food truck business. This plan must include everything from use of funds, estimates of expenditure, the truck’s unique selling points, and the profits that you expect to make out of the business and why you think this business plan reiterates the fact that you are a good businessman.

The next thing to do is to find the right location for your truck to park. Everything about these locations must be right to get your truck rolling. The wrong locations or irregularities in the legal documents of the truck could lead to problems that will keep you busy for years to come. On the other hand, good locations can ensure a steady flow of customers and a good reputation as well.

You must also plan the concept of the food truck after you identify the target market. A great deal of thinking is necessary in planning the menu and type of cuisine for your customers. All the efforts that you put into your food truck will go a long way in bringing customers to your service window for a long time to come.

The next important thing in the steps to open a food truck is to maintain perfect accounts. Maintaining accurate bookkeeping will help you understand how much you are spending and how much you need to monitor your funds. A good accounting system with the use of computers and professional accountants will ensure you are always in control of your finances and know exactly your financial position at any point of time.

Here is a basic breakdown of the steps to start a food truck business you will need to cover:

  • identify a market to target
  • research market
  • create a concept to address the market that is unique and appealing
  • plan your menu
  • write your business plan
  • create your financial projections
  • recruit experienced food truck advisers
  • raise the capital (money) required to open
  • secure locations to operate
  • install a truck wrap
  • install necessary equipment
  • get required permits
  • secure a commissary, commercial or shared use kitchen
  • sign up with vendors
  • get your food truck website
  • begin pre-opening marketing
  • get business insurance
  • set up business bank account
  • set up credit card account
  • install point of sale equipment
  • hire and begin training food truck staff
  • buy initial inventory
  • have a soft opening
  • have grand opening
  • become the next food truck success story!

For a complete rundown on what it takes to start your own mobile food business and the order to do things, check out Running a Food Truck for Dummies where I give you the nitty gritty details you will need to cover to open your own food truck.

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OTTAWA, CANADA — Four out of seven food carts that were expected to hit the streets in May have been delayed.

ottawa food cart locations

Philip Powell, the city’s manager of licensing and permits, said three carts have been delayed because they are waiting for a safety inspection.

The fourth cart has been delayed because its business owners are searching for a facility to prepare their food after the one they lined up backed out.

“It’s a new enterprise, a new business for these folks and they are just working through the process,” Powell said.

Gavin Hall hopes to operate BoBites, a cart that has been approved to sell organic baked potatoes with seasonal toppings near Metcalfe and Sparks streets. He said the process of getting up and running has been a roller coaster.

“Everything looks good and then it’s a no,” Hall said. “It’s just these teeny little obstacles.”

Recently he was delayed because he didn’t have a safety certification sticker on his oven, he said.

An oversight by the company Hall bought the oven from led to the delivery of the appliance without the sticker.

Find the entire article by Meghan Hurley at The Ottawa Citizen <here>

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Dawn Brooks-Rapp
Jack Foley|Herald News

TIVERTON, MA – Aspiring food business owners now have a new commercial kitchen to rent in Tiverton at the Sandywoods complex.

Dawn Brooks-Rapp, a food business owner herself, and the manager of the kitchen that recently became available for rent, said she’s had inquiries about renting the kitchen space from a variety of aspiring and current food business owners including caterers, bakers, a candy maker, and one person who is interested in starting a boxed lunch program for an area marina.

Brooks-Rapp said the commercial kitchen in the Meeting House at Sandywoods was built with idea of using it as an incubator kitchen for food business start-ups. The roomy kitchen has amenities to suit most food business needs including a commercial mixer, a grill, a six-burner gas stove, a double convection oven, a flat-top griddle and a commercial dishwasher.

Rental of the kitchen costs $20 an hour with additional fees for a cleaning deposit and a security deposit. Commercial kitchen users can also rent shelf space in an adjacent storage room and refrigerator space.

“The kitchen is perfect. It’s great for a small business,” said Brooks-Rapp, who uses the kitchen to do the prep work for her food truck — Acacia Cafe. “Our hope is that people will be interested in starting a business and they’ll join the farmers’ market here (to sell their products.) It’s a great place to try out a new product, and it’s not expensive — you don’t have to rent a brick and mortar facility. And it’s a great community event.”

Find the entire article by Linda Murphy at Herald News Life <here>

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Only one third of small business owners (including prospective food truck owners) were able to obtain all of the credit that their businesses need, a recent National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) survey shows.

difficulty getting loans

The survey’s finding is not surprising. Many economists, policy makers and food truck advocacy groups have long explained that mobile food vendors have a harder time obtaining credit than restaurants (their larger counterparts). When it comes to accessing capital, size definitely matters.

Even among food truck businesses, the smaller the company, the lower the odds that it has a loan or a line of credit. Only 15.7 percent of businesses with one or fewer employees have a business loan and only 33.7 percent have a line of credit, the NFIB survey shows. By contrast, 56.8 percent of businesses with between 50 and 250 workers have a business loan and 65.4 percent has a line of credit.

Rather than reveal some sinister motives among bankers, however, these patterns simply reflect the economics of business credit. Fewer small businesses have access to credit than larger companies because lending to them is riskier and more expensive than extending credit to larger companies.

Default risk is higher in the mobile food business loan market. Small businesses fail at higher rates than big businesses and changes in the business cycle have a larger impact on their profits. Because lenders cannot always charge interest rates that are commensurate with a borrower’s default risk, the most risky small business borrowers are often unable to get credit.

Lending to a food truck business is more expensive than lending to big companies. Part of the problem is the fixed cost of making a loan. Some costs are the same whether you make a $50,000 loan or a $5 million loan. Therefore, profit margins are higher on bigger loans. Of course, larger companies are more likely to need bigger loans than their smaller counterparts, which leads lenders to focus on larger customers.

Additionally, evaluating food truck business loan applications is often expensive. Little publicly available information on the financial condition of food trucks exists, and these mobile business owners rarely have financial statements that are very detailed. Food truck owners’ personal finances are sometimes intermingled with those of their businesses. The very large variety of small businesses and the way they use borrowed funds make it tough to apply general lending standards. Finally, monitoring the financial condition of mobile food businesses often requires lenders to build personal relationships with the food truck owners.

These economic principles have important implications for those seeking to boost small businesses’ access to credit. Encouraging more lending will require policies that take into account the greater cost and risk of lending to food trucks — and why these mobile food small businesses have trouble getting credit.

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intuit love our local businessFood truck owners wishing they had $5,000 to expand their mobile food empire now have their chance at 15 opportunities Intuit is offering to small businesses. So how do you enter your truck’s wish?

Step 1:

Tell them your wish (in less than 600 characters).

Step 2:

Share your wish and get your followers/fans to vote for you.

Step 3:

Sit back and wait. Intuit will begin announcing winners on May 6th on their facebook page.

Enter the contest <here>

Find the rules to the contest <here>

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Since the 2008 boom of the mobile food industry, the primary reason that food trucks continue to pop up across the country, is due to the desire of culinary professionals to start their own small business. In most cases, a food truck has been much easier and less expensive to open than taking the time to find banks to provide loans or investors to help finance their dream restaurant.

5411 food truck restaurant

The food truck has put many of these small business owners on the map locally and in some cases nationally. We speak with vendors on a daily basis and when asked why they started their truck, the most common answer is that they found it too difficult to finance or too expensive to start a restaurant, so the truck was their next best option.

For the last few years, food truck owners have begun to spark a new phase in their business careers, they are parking their trucks in favor of setting up shop in a brick and mortar establishment. Over time, these same truck owners have not given up on their dreams of some day opening a restaurant in their area, but running a food truck doesn’t offer these individuals a lot of time to work on the dream. But how are they doing it?

It’s rather simple…the long hours and hard work that they have put into their food truck businesses have garnered them a lot of attention. The brands they created have grown, and the food they served was on par with any restaurant in their area.

These mobile vendors have been able to parlay their personal or food truck’s brand into brick and mortar locations. While most have transitioned and expanded the menus created for their trucks, some have decided to start an entirely different concept for their restaurant. Many of these food truck moguls have kept their trucks operating with the help of their staff, others have parked their trucks for good, so they can concentrate on their new food service business.

So how do you know when the time is right to take the leap? There are three common common areas you need build or investigate prior to taking this next step. They are:

Brand

If you’re running a successful food truck, you’ve already built a brand that resonates with your customers. Capitalize on the success of that brand by carrying it over to your restaurant.

Everything from decor to atmosphere to the menu should be consistent with your street brand. It’s a big jump to go from the street to a restaurant, so keep as many things consistent as possible between the two. If you deviate too much, it could become confusing to your customers and ultimately may diminish the value of your brand.

Location

Flexibility is one of the best parts about the food truck business – the ability to pick up and move if your product isn’t selling. With a restaurant, you won’t have that option anymore, so choosing the right location is essential. The good news for a truck owner is that you already know exactly where your product sells the best. Utilize this information to choose your new restaurant’s location. You can even use your truck to advertising the restaurant opening long before you plan to open the doors for the first time.

Operations

Adding a restaurant to your food truck empire makes good business sense from an operational standpoint. The ability to have two revenue generating areas is ideal. You may have excess ingredients that you didn’t sell on your truck that day, you can utilize those ingredients in your restaurant. The best part is that you will be able to stop paying someone else for the use of their commercial kitchen. You can do prep work for the truck and the restaurant at the same time, so your staffing needs for the prep are now cut in half.

In addition to these benefits, by continuing your food truck operations, you will have a fantastic place to introduce new menu items and experiment without as much risk as you might if you use them as specials for the restaurant.

We hope you consider these points when considering whether or not to expand your food truck business into a permanent location.

 

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The 2013 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award honors America’s small businesses who embody the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. Now is the time to recognize your food truck business achievements.

2013 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award

Here’s how to apply:

Submit an application for your business: Any small business can apply for the award online here. Applications are due January 7. View eligibility and award criteria.

The winner of the DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award will receive a $10,000 cash prize, courtesy of the Chamber. Check out these insider tips when filling out your application!

All award winners will be recognized during the Summit on April 30 in Washington, D.C. Blue Ribbon Award winners will receive one complimentary registration to attend the summit, courtesy of Sam’s Club. Read a testimony from two-time Blue Ribbon Award Winner, Tyson Viniard.

Eligibility & Criteria | Timeline | Application Process FAQs 2013 | 2013 Application Information | Official Rules

View the full list of 2012 award winners.

About the Community Excellence Award:

The Community Excellence Award is designed to highlight a business that has found success in the eyes of its community. All Blue Ribbon Award winners were eligible for this award that celebrates a small business’ commitment to their community.

The Community Excellence Award winner will be presented with the award by U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue, during America’s Small Business Summit. The winner will also receive a free two-night hotel stay at the Omni Shoreham Hotel during the Summit.

 

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