Welcome to the Small-Business Soap series, in which we follow a start-up in real time. Getting a small business off the ground can have as many twists and turns as a daytime drama. But unlike television plots, these stories can inspire and educate entrepreneurs -- be sure to tune in every Wednesday to find out how.
last left Ima looking for a generator in the Bronx for her
Treats Truck. She didn't find one there, but improvised with two smaller generators, and, completing a process that started eight months ago, finally obtained the last city permit that allowed her truck to hit the streets on Saturday, June 9.
"We're going through ingredients like never before," Ima said as the bakery geared up for kickoff without a clue of what to expect. "These next few days will give me so much information about the way I will do business."
"People say it's retro, with a clean, modern feel to it," says Ima, describing how she and her designer generated the logo using car ads from the '30s and '40s as inspiration (think
Steak N Shake
( SNS) or
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers
"I'm not paying for any advertising," Ima explains.
Instead, she feels confident that press, word-of-mouth and email will generate enough buzz for now. "Just a description of what I'm doing seems to be intriguing to people," she says. "I'm not surprised, but I'm thrilled."
She sent out a number of prelaunch treat boxes bearing the kitschy logo to media and friends. The tactic got the Treats Truck in
Time Out New York
, generated interest at several news outlets and, if not for a last-minute change in schedule, would have landed her a gig to feed the cast and crew of a New York City movie set.
Ima uses a trick she learned from a wedding-planner friend for keeping her business focused: choosing three guiding adjectives. Ima goes by "delightful, noteworthy and well-executed."
"Not every cookie has to reinvent the wheel, but it should be memorable," she says.
Where to Peddle
Location is paramount to any business, but especially to a mobile food vendor.
"I did a lot of scouting after hours," says Ima. "I talked to every ice cream man and hot-dog-cart vendor I could find."
She walked the streets, took notes and found streets restricted to commercial vehicles.
For the first day, she kicked off her route in Greenwich Village and Washington Place.
Ima had Central Park South planned for Sunday, June 10, before a friend made her aware of the Puerto Rican Day Parade planned there that day.
Due to the nature of her moving business, Ima had to be careful not to step on anyone's toes and planned her route away from local bakeries.
Union Square looked tempting at first, but a business association that looks out for small businesses in that area acts as a sort of "bully on the playground," she says. "I'd rather find nice kids who let me eat lunch quietly."
Ima already sees the the Treats Truck outgrowing its current production, which may involve scouting for a bigger bakery space. Yet her business consultant at
Score reminds her that there's value in showing restraint. "I see the big picture, but should wait for results until I go on to the next step," she says. "We are kind of a quickly growing baby."
You have to choose where to put your energy as far as perfection, she explains.
For example, her cookies have to be of perfect quality, but the packaging can be subject to change -- more on that next week.