Back in May 2013, a friend and I were chatting about our plans for the summer. Both of us were interested in buying and operating a food truck, but neither knew how much it would actually cost. I knew I made great empanadas, and people were always telling me I needed to sell them! It makes sense- I have a degree in business and my major is marketing! I knew that I wanted my empanadas to be different, so I put an American twist on a Latin favorite. So good, I call them "mmmpanadas"! After some research, we discovered that each of us could affordably BUILD a food cart on our own! We set out to find the materials, and I came upon an old pop up camper in a junk yard! Ahhhh my baby! My buddy hooked her up to his truck, the break lights worked (thank goodness!), and we towed her home. For the next few weeks, with some help from some very loyal friends, the Mmmpanada food cart began to come to life. Those few weeks also consisted of nothing but rain and fog-and all of the building of the cart was done outside, as you can see in the video! But rain or shine, I was determined to get this cart built and running- and so were my friends! I'm sure they had other things to do with their time, but they unselfishly believed in me and my dream-and continued to help me achieve my goal! To tow my food cart, I bought a standard Chevy S10 without knowing how to drive standard! I quickly learned and I love it!
The first time Mmmpanadas hit the street was an experience I'll never forget- the City of Utica's Fourth of July celebration in Proctor Park. We sold out of empanadas, introduced people to our homemade shakes, and gained a ton of support from the local community- we were even interviewed for the local television news channel!
The next night it was time to hit Saranac Thursday on Varick St, a popular hangout and a must see in the summer time. The streets are flooded with hungry club goers and concert enthusiasts. still had my adrenaline rush from the previous night's success, that I didn't realize the cart had a flat tire until 3 am, and I was at a location 15 miles from home.
This is when I met John, my right hand man for the next few months, a man whom I'd never met nor seen, who came to my rescue and changed the tire at 3 am, looking for nothing in return but a smile- I was pretty upset! earlier that day I had set up my cart in front of his brownstone, and the stoop was packed with kids dressed like hippies and an older man with a guitar. From that night on, every Thursday I set up in front of John's apartment, and our friendship felt like family.
The summer was a success as far as pleasing our customers and injecting some real diversity in Upstate NY, but not without some major issues that still exist. The crank to make the camper "pop-up" has broken numerous times, forcing me to use a cotter pin and pray that it doesn't break. This has left me in situations where the camper won't crank back down, preventing it from being towed back home. (I'm smart so I keep extras now!)
BUT, if the crank is busted= no raising the roof=no business=no money!As you can see in my movie, two of the pullys that make the top of the pop up go up have broken, so I used 2X4's to keep the top up. If I'm alone setting up, which is usually the case, you can imagine that cranking up a pop up camper while propping up 2x4's isn't easy!
I opted not to enclose the camper for transportation reasons and to give it the fair effect. Well even with insulation, I'm still freezing my butt off! For operation in the winter, it is imperative that I obtain an actual food truck!
I am prepared to work by butt off to make my food truck dream a REALITY! My goal is to have the funding by April Fool's Day, but this is not a joke! I have already secured a manufacturer who lives right here in Upstate NY, and they will be constructing my new food truck (RoadKitchensUSA). They are certified professionals who want to help enthusiastic entrepreneurs like myself succeed in the food truck business! Turnaround time is quick, about two-three weeks, and I can start serving out of the truck by May 2014! I would no longer need to use a local commissary (a place to prepare the food) because I could use my truck! I'd save a TON of money on fresh ice i need to buy every time I operate my cart since I don't have a fridge. Empanadas are the next slice of pizza in America, and with the ever growing rise of the Hispanic population, comes the rise in the empanada's popularity! They're affordable, portable, and filling. Your pledge will go towards a project that has proven itself to be a successful venture- I just need to take it to the next level! This is more than just a "hobby"- it is a lifetime career choice, something that I want to work hard to make it the best it can be. I love serving empanadas, playing music and dancing in the cart, and the smiles on my customer's faces along with full stomachs! Anything that anyone pledges is a vital part of making this happen. Thank you to everyone for your support!
Risks and challenges
Possible challenges with starting up this food cart could consist of:
Bad weather sometimes hinders the turnouts of festivals and events, which could hurt my daily profits. The great thing about having a food cart, is that if the spot isn't working, I can just move it to something more active!
After my project is fully funded, and I have my truck, there are always additional cost associated with a food operation. The good part is, I've already been through the process, and it's not as costly as you'd think! I'll bust my butt to make the remainder of what I need to get this truck moving along!
Here's some questions asked to me by a local newspaper reporter:
1. you talk about setting up in Utica. Will you set up in Rome?
Definitely. I set up my purple and lime green food cart in Rome last summer, parked at a friends business on East Dominick St, servicing customers on the weekends for lunches and late nights, and during the week I set up at the circle in Griffis park for lunch. I attempted to vend at the Canal Festival but when that wasn't possible, I set up across the street and still did well. At our city's Tree Lighting last year I served hot cocoa, donuts, deep fried oreos, and empanadas to everyone's delight. I had a pretty long line, and even stayed open well after the festivities ended.
2. why use Kickstarter?
I thought Kickstarter would be a great way to try and reach my goal of owning a food truck. Kickstarter is utilized by individuals all over the world with a goal, and has become very popular. The focus of kickstarter is funding projects with the help of backers, who receive rewards for their pledge. I'm trying to get support from my community, and its a great way for me to tell my story. I believe that you don't know how something will turn out unless you try.
3. if you aren’t funded through Kickstarter, what is the plan?
If my Kickstarter project is not funded completely, I do not receive any funds that have been pledged. I won't be able to use my current food cart to generate income since there are repairs need to be made to the cart as well as the truck I drive to pull it, and I've already invested over half of the funds I need to get into my new food truck. With the cost of the repairs, vendor permits and health department fees, it wouldn't be beneficial since I would have to repeat the process including the costs of permits and fees when I obtain the food truck. As a full time student at SUNYIT, a single parent to a beautiful 8 year old girl, and with no other income, this will be extremely difficult.
4. Anything else you want to add to let people know?
The project's deadline is Sunday, April 6th. It's an easy process to "Back the Project". Any funds pledged will only be processed after April 6, and only if my goal is reached. If it is not, no monies will be deducted. Two weeks later, the money invested and details will be processed, and I could start serving using the food truck by the second week in May! My goal of owning a food truck is more than a simple project.My intentions are to make my food truck known all over Central NY, spreading diversity though out our community through the flavors of Latin culture, and continue to serve the empanadas that our fellow Romans so much enjoy. I am truly greatful for all of the positive feedback I have received from my hometown as well as from my surrounding Central New York counties, families visiting from out of town excited to try something new, and from individuals thankful that we have a unique food cart right in our city that is different from any other food cart around Central NY. I hope that I can receive that same support in the form of helping me reach my Kickstarter goal and continue to serve my community. This food truck is not a just a hobby, it is a way of life, and it is a way to teach my daughter that with hard work and dedication, you can do anything in life. If I do not reach my goal, I will not be able to continue to serve the empanadas this summer. With the popularity of the food cart, I need to be able to serve my customers in a timely fashion, and a table top deep fryer will not be time efficient, and I enjoy giving excellent service.I love serving the people, playing music in my cart, and making them smile along with a full stomach!
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