This post is going to ignore food safety regulations – so do your research before you take my advice. If you decide that you still want to pursue this idea do some more research on how your campus deals with student entrepreneurs and their crazy ideas. If you go to an University, it would probably be more complicated to get away with what we did, but if a small liberal college is where you are at, then you probably already know that putting up a food cart on a Sunday afternoon is not a problem at all.
So this is what we did:
It was late summer of 2009, Jax and I were driving a gigantic green and purple bus back from Ragbrai, a bike ride across Iowa. We were seated at the helm, it was a finicky machine to drive, plus you really felt it could break at any point and since Jax had converted it to run on veggie oil he was the only one who knew how it worked. As I fulfilled my childhood dream of sitting right against the windshield of a huge vehicle, Jax and I talked about life, which eventually brought us to the realization that unless we wanted an un-sailable sailboat to cruise the waters upon graduation, we would have to save some money to buy our boat. This meant we needed to start another “company”, one that was more profitable than Beloit General, Jax’s online general store, Beloit Tea Source, his tea business, and Yapa, my recycled-crafts line.
Towards the end of the eight-hour long drive we decided that we would use our last week of summer break to build and furnish a crepe and bubble tea cart. The Spring before we had quickly put together a cart called “The Peanut Stand” where we sold donuts and bubble tea to students. Having had tested the idea, this time we were going to go all out. With a drawing, that would insult any engineer in-hand, Jax, I and fortunate help Jaxon’s dad who is an architect started building the cart. We designed it to include a mini fridge, two crepe griddles, space to store all of the toppings, a cd player to play french music, hanging lights and a space to deal with the money.
It took us about 3 days to build the cart in Jax’s dad woodworking shop. We called a friend’s dad who we knew had closed his coffee shop and offered to buy his cream whipper, coffee thermos and syrup flavors. We read about crepe making, purchased the tapioca bubbles online, along with cups, straws and huge mixing bowls. When we got to school we painted it, assembled it and drew the terrible logo that would mean that no one knew it was “The G Spot” rather than the SPGT (pronunced by people spigot) or the Crepe Stand.
Our first night was a complete success.
We hauled the cart to the middle of a concert in campus and had a constant line from when our lights went on, at around 6:00 pm until around 1:00 am. It was a summer night, so the bubble tea sold as much as the crepes. After we had exhausted most of our ingredients we hauled it back to a basement kitchen that once, many years before, had “probably” passed FDA inspection and spent the next 3 hours meticulously cleaning every inch of the cart with bleach water. We really did not want anyone to get sick.
The next day was a Saturday, we spent most of our day buying ingredients, preparing the batter, preparing the cart and at around 9:00pm we went to our college’s main street, where all the fraternities hosted their parties. Somewhat intoxicated students would roam the street looking for food and we were in the perfect place to please them. One crepe, two crepes, some singing and a generous tips later, most student would be on their way. We stayed up until 12:00 to 1:00 am, most nights we sold out. Then we would clean for about two hours, walk to our apartment and go to bed at around 4:00 am, only to start the whole thing again the next day. We ran Spigot G-Spot every weekend for about three months, almost every night we made a profit, but by the end of the season we were sick of Nutella, crepes and having the same conversation every weekend with the same drunk student.
Intoxicated student who bought crepes from us last weekend: Wow! Crepes! I’ve never seen you here before! This is an awesome idea!
Us: Hehe, thanks! What would you like today?
Intoxicated student who bought crepes from us last weekend: What do you recomend?
Us: I bet you’ll love Nutella with banana
Intoxicated student who bought crepes from us last weekend: Yes!! How did you know that? I love Nutella and banana.
We parked the cart in our driveway and said goodbye to the G-Spot. With some savings under our mattress and a business that had made more money than any of our previous had, we decided that we loved our weekend nights too much to continue with this venture.
So, that’s what we did… Now, this is what I would do differently:
I would replace the crepes with pomme frites. For those of you who do not know what pomme frites are, they are pretty much a snobby way of saying french fries, although some would argue that they are much longer and delicious – I agree. Anyway, drunk college student do not know that. So, I would buy two deep fryers like this one, a bunch of sauce containers like these and fill them with delicious sauces like bbq, ketchup, mayo, mustard and siracha (if you felt so inclined you could even look up some recipes and make your own – yum!). Instead of the crepe griddles I would put the fryers, make sure the cart is extremely stable and that no drunk college students can get to the hot oil, as to avoid any accidents. I would serve them up on these, add some salt and voila you are done.
Let the people get all excited about the sauces, they – for the most part – are drunk and hungry and fries are much more fulfilling and cheap than crepes, so they will eat. You would need an initial investment to buy or make the cart and furnish it, but most colleges would be happy to fund their entrepreneurs. The cleaning would also need to happen, but hey, you are running a food business you better be into cleaning if you do not want to get shut down or even worse sued.
To test out the idea you could go to Cosco or any of those destroyers-of-small-businesses stores and buy some frozen french fries, that way you minimize the amount of time you spend peeling and cutting potatoes. Once you think you have a profitable business in hand, probably the cheapest way to have a bunch of fries would be to buy them and cut them with something like this. If you are into locally sourcing ingredients, you could talk to a local farm and ask them to give a deal on a bunch of their potatoes.
Anyway, just an idea…
…for any dedicated college-aged entrepreneur who is willing to work rather than party their weekend nights. Although to be fair, you could always be the party. Put some good music on and your friends will stick around – at least until it gets cold, then move inside.
I am posting these against my better judgement! But I just want to show you how not legit you can look and run a business! And even make a profit!
I know the short-hair is not my best look! But I apparently lacked friends to tell me at the time lol!
Yes, the logo was that bad! Yes, Jaxon warned me that it would not read G Spot, but I won…
Below: The awesome veggie oil beast of a bus!
2. The Peanut Stand! (Validating our idea)
Yes people did this for us! I’m so sorry dude! We didn’t know better!!