Five Years on (pt.2)

A couple days later I saw the kitchen space and when I signed a lease two weeks after that there was no turning back.  The days of procrastination were now officially over and I already had my first customer lined up.

My original plan for Zuppa was to do two things.  Sell soups wholesale to Portland cafes and have the soup equivalent of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  On January 3rd, 2006 I went into my kitchen and cooked up one gallon of soup for Red Star Café on Belmont.   I soon picked up a few more cafes and was doing a weekly delivery of soup to about twenty people who were mostly friends and the friends of those friends.

After a month things were going well, but I was still not making enough to quit my day job which was actually also a night job bussing tables at a restaurant.  I’ve made quite a few pretty bad decisions along the way, but deciding to quit my part time job and devote all of my energy to Zuppa turned out to be one of the best decisions I made. 

Of course I can say that now, but at the time it was pretty stressful.  There are a lot of expenses associated with running a small business.  Some are monthly costs, some are yearly and other things like replacing kitchen equipment are ongoing.  Tupperware is always getting lost and potato peelers and knives are accidentally scraped into the garbage can on a weekly basis. 

Here are just some of the expenses a small food business may have to grapple with.

  1. Rent
  2. Liability Insurance
  3. Car Insurance/gas
  4. Fees to the Health Department
  5. Kitchen supplies (Tupperware/pots/pans etc)
  6. Food costs – vegetables, meat, spices, beans and grains.
  7. Laundry (washing rags and aprons)
  8. Office Supplies
  9. Phone and Internet charges
  10. Accounting software
  11. Computer printer
  12.  Building a website
  13. Advertising
  14. Health Insurance
  15. Disposable containers

And of course Taxes.

A lot of these costs I was aware about when I did my business plan, but unless you’ve run a business before (which I hadn’t) there is no way to accurately predict what you will have to spend to keep things going.  I think it was Donald Rumsfeld who said it best in his speech about unknown unknowns.

Even though things were picking up, I needed to do something to boost sales and save me from going back to bussing tables. In early February I decided on a whim to drop off some samples of my soups at the offices of Portland Farmers’ Market.

And so I was slogging along several weeks later when I answered a call from the manager of the Saturday PSU farmers’ market asking me how I would feel about selling soup there for two months in April and May

Stay tuned for part three……