It's been a while since I've written a business related update; and given the current challenges I'm facing, I thought it might be good to write an honest account of owning a business.
If you're reading this because you're thinking you'd like to convert a vehicle or start a street food business; do think carefully! It is very seasonal... so, if you have friends or a partner who'd happily travel around with you during your quieter months, it could be perfect. Or, you could be lucky and find lots of indoor winter work - it's way too cold to be messing about outside! If not, you'd need to guarantee that your summer is action packed to enable you to justify having those months off. Somehow, I got it right. MYO is generally booked out from April - October and we've just secured a contract for events in the NEC during the colder months.
I often feel like I have the best job in the world; I meet great people, I get to eat so much delicious food (food trades are the best!) and I get to go to some amazing places. I also get time off to go shopping or catch up with friends during the week, when the shops are quiet; which is a small luxury. I also feel more in charge of my life; everything is my decision and if I don't want to work; I don't have to. I am my Boss, and that's all I've ever wanted. However, it's funny because this is the biggest thing I struggle with. I'm a sociable person so working on my own is actually quite lonely. Sometimes I like having decisions made for me and sometimes, it would be nice to sit back and be told what to do! It's also very hard to focus on business expansion when it's just you. My creativity can only get me so far!
Staff are SO hard to find. If you find a good one; chances are that they'll do their own thing, and because the work is seasonal; you lose a lot of them the following year because they've found a more secure, year round job. I'd been looking to recruit a full timer for a while, and it had proved near impossible to find the right fit. You need to trust them completely, they need to be enthusiastic and passionate, and you need to get on with them (most importantly!) I've interviewed over ten people and no-one was quite right. However, as always, just when I'd stopped looking - Rachael came along. She seems spot on to who I've been searching for, but I'm constantly living with this dread that she'll leave and find something less 'mobile'. Travelling all over the country isn't for everyone. The best part of having someone on board is the renewed energy its given me! We bounce ideas around and I really feel like the business can truly develop. Rachael - don't leave me!
As many MYO followers will know; I recently moved up to Northamptonshire. I was a little wary of having to essentially start the business again; however, the quieter months came in handy for that. You have to become a bit of a salesman in many ways; calling various venues up and selling the brand and half begging them to say 'yes, we'll send a booking form'. There has obviously been a fair share of rejectment (mainly thanks to being too late to the Northamptonshire party), however, thanks to my inability to admit defeat; I've now landed up with quite a full calendar of local events. We're regulars at Towcester Mill Brewery, Northampton FC, Leicester Cricket Club and have secured a regular pitch at some local business parks. And it's only March. Onwards and upwards!
Now, let's talk about the vans. My beloved, challenging vans! As I've mentioned in previous blog posts - I decided to add a mobile bar to the MYO fleet. Yep, despite all of the breakdowns and horrors, I couldn't help myself and still went on to my buy another Estafette. I thought I would have learnt numerous lessons from the previous conversions; however, it appears not. I've struggled with people more than anything - workmen promising the world when you first give them your business, and then 6 months later, still not delivering. It's the biggest challenge - making people that don't want to work, work! I've also had problems with the mechanics (as always) - it seems that this time I was sold a van in even dodgier condition than the previous two combined. Steering box needed to be place. Exhaust system needed to be replaced and pretty much the entire braking system needed to be redone. And let's not talk about the chassis - I had to fork out over £1000 on welding, just to make the structure safe. It's awful really - you put so much trust in people, especially those you do business with regularly, but ultimately, they're just out for themselves. So, I've had to endure disappointment from people from all angles.
Six months after the initial conversion began; the van is NEARLY there. The conversion company still need to perfect everything, the brakes need re-looking at and the graphics need to go on. Realistically, if people worked hard on it - it could be finished within a week. However, its taken me almost shouting down the phone and visiting the garage on a daily basis for anything to be done. I hate to nag, and to be a pain, but what else do you do?! Apparently being nice and patient doesn't get you anywhere. You start wondering whether you should slander them on Facebook; but ultimately, things can be deleted and it wouldn't make me feel any better. Oh people, I hate you sometimes!! Anyway, thinking positively - soon MYO will have another gorgeous, safe van which will soon wow the UK with its burgundy beauty.
We've already had quite a bit of interest for Monty - also to be known as MYO Aperitivo. This van will be our mobile bar; serving every drink with a perfectly paired snack (taken from the Italian aperitivo concept). We're so excited about getting him on the road and getting to some events where we can show him off. We're currently planning how the concept will work; so we're researching everything from suppliers to packaging, staff, menus and pricing. I think I have a habit of making out that I get bored in the winter months; but maybe, I just get bored of admin.... because there is always, always something to do... I guess I'm just not a big fan of the 'office' side of the business!
Summer is fast approaching; which means my 'office' role will soon be shared with the more exciting customer facing, serving role. We have so many new opportunities and I'm looking forward to showing Northamptonshire what MYO is all about. In previous years, I've found the summer incredibly stressful - van breakdowns and staff let down (See, people, again!!!) - so I never know what the next summer will bring. However, I feel like I get more and more resilient by the year and I'm wiser to potentially unreliable staff and and am a lot more on top of the break-downs. The vans now get serviced regularly and I can tell pretty quickly if something isn't right with them. I think though, in the grand majority of businesses - staff are always your make and break - but fingers crossed, this year will give me some decent staff!
I think that's enough for now... hopefully I've given you a little insight into the reality of running a business! On a happier note; I'm off to Italy in a couple of weeks to show Rachael where aperitivo is from; and to pick up any more tips or recipes for the business.