Just three LONG months ago, I opened my very first business with excitement and high expectations of myself. I grew up in a family that encouraged being an entrepreneur, as I’m a daughter of a self-made auctioneer and a mom with her own cleaning business. I’ve always been taught to “do it yourself” if at all possible. You shouldn’t need to hire an accountant if you can do math and you don’t need a lawyer if you can read rules. I am still a firm believer that you shouldn’t have to hire someone in order to run your own business. However, that doesn’t mean that you can not ask for help when you need some advice, and there are a lot of people out there willing to help you, if you just ASK.
The last 15 years I have spent teaching in the classroom both in the United States and 7 years overseas in Yemen, Kazakhstan, and Nigeria. I think of myself as a highly educated person, so the idea of starting my own business seemed like no big deal. Never would I have imagined the amount of time researching, marketing, planning, paperwork, and endless phone calls I would have to make, in order to get myself going. It is hard work. Never would I have imagined that I would be running a coffee truck, just 6 months ago.
I did know that I wanted to work with my daughter, and I wanted to be involved in the arts at the same time. Knowing that my daughter would pretty much be the coffee expert, and that I would do all the business paperwork and get the fine arts part going, had always been part of the dream. Then, Covid 19 hit and all our dreams had to take a sharp turn. I went from having a dream of a singing barista coffee shop, to owning a coffee truck. I remember thinking to myself, “Did I really quit my teaching career to run a coffee truck?”
Starting a business can be an overwhelming task, especially if you really want to make sure that you are personally protected. The first step was to create a Limited Liability Company or LLC, so that anything that happened with the business would stay in the business and not interfere with my family personally. There are many different types of LLC structures and I chose the one that made me sole proprietor and created my own structure to protect my assets. I did not do this all on my own. I called the Tennessee government offices to get help, called my brother in law, and researched different examples of company structures online. There are people out there that do these types of things every day and are willing to answer your questions…..for FREE. There really is no reason to hire a lawyer or accountant to help you get started with a small business.
After creating my business, I called the City of Knoxville to find out everything I would need to get started with my truck. All the people in the health department, city and business department were all willing to help answer my questions, no matter how ridiculous I felt they explained everything to me. Did the paperwork seem endless?….yes! Time consuming?....yes!
It’s not just paperwork, permits, insurance, health codes, and government registration. Endless hours are spent finding vendors, setting up the truck, getting supplies and stock, cleaning, and completely learning a whole new set of skills. Coming directly from teaching fifth grade to running a mobile coffee shop required a steep learning curve that I am still trying to desperately measure up.
So many things have gone wrong so far in our business, and I am still learning on the job. The most frustrating has been making decisions on the weather and breakdowns of my truck or my equipment. The most embarrassing has been from giving out bad food or drinks which has happened twice. Humans make mistakes, and I appreciate the customers that have let me make up for my error in their purchases.
I write all of this to tell you that although the task is daunting, success is not worth it unless you have to work hard to get there. I have to constantly remind myself of the phrase that I would use with my students……”make mistakes” that is the whole point of life. Learning from your mistakes makes you a stronger person.