November 14, 2011
Questions pour in almost daily from aspiring food entrepreneurs who are thinking of starting a food truck business. While the Food On Wheels book covers most of the logistical and financial information one needs to start a mobile food business, I thought it would be useful to provide readers with some of the thoughts/fears/concerns that a new food truck entrepreneur has just mere weeks before rolling out the new business.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ian Thackaberry who is in the process of putting the finishing touches on his food trailer and getting the last pieces of his menu in order. Like many food entrepreneurs, Ian isn’t a classically trained chef but he’s certainly done his time in a kitchen and it was that time that inspired him to start his own food truck. Over the next few days you’ll get to know Ian and the process he went through to get his business to the starting line. Just as a note, in this series I’m not going to name Ian’s business or what he plans on serving so as to be respectful to the fact that he hasn’t yet launched the company. However, Ian and I have plans to meet back up in a few weeks to find out how things are going and at that time I’ll share that information with you.
The one thing you notice about Ian right away is his passion. He is a man who is starting a mobile food business because he truly and passionately believes in what he’s doing. Interestingly, Ian comes from a very strong financial background. He studied economics at University of Oregon and was recruited directly from college to become a financial advisor for a major corporation. In order to take that role he also had to pass several very rigorous financial compliance exams that tested his understanding of the domestic and international financial markets.
So it may come as a surprise that the driving force behind Ian starting his business is not actually to make millions of dollars and retire by 40 to his own private island. Ian said that after four months of working at the financial firm he realized that the life wasn’t for him. “I was valued based on the assets in my portfolio and not for who I was,” Ian said, explaining why he quit shortly after that. “I found it to be very superficial. It was jarring to realize that everything I’d focused my education on was a career I didn’t want to do.”
For the next eight months, Ian was unemployed and, running low on money, was forced for the first time to be strategic about his cooking. Ian says that he’s always loved cooking but once out of college and out of job he didn’t have any income so everything he made had to be as cost-effective as possible. Now, with an eye on funds, Ian not only focused on making delicious and healthy meals for himself, but he also made sure that everything he used would be put to good use. “I looked at cooking from a financial training standpoint,” Ian explains. “Everything I made was focused on efficiency and the ability to lower my costs by cooking cost-effective cuts of meat and reducing spoilage.”
During those eight months, Ian also drank in the Portland food culture. As you are probably well aware, Portland is on the cutting edge of food these days and is responsible, some would say, for the food truck phenomenon. It was during these months that Ian realized that food was where he found himself happiest and he thought a career in the food industry might be a better fit than the financial world.
Tomorrow Ian will get his first taste of the food industry and you can see how that has influenced all of his business decisions.