Is Future of all Local Retail Mobile?

Originally written July 29, 2021

Reinventing the food truck itself to be more affordable, energy efficient, and flexible can allow new generations of people to start retail businesses that serve their neighbors and feed their children. Especially beyond selling food.

Can trucks be made VERY energy efficient and super affordable? (Without tax incentives.)

I love food trucks!

Real estate prices, both sales and rental costs, will continue to rise for decades to come. We are already at a point where a new entrepreneur who wants to start a brick & mortar retail business must plan for three locations at the start plus revenue beyond traditional sales. Such as online sales and wholesale business models. (Ex. Coffee shop that is also a roaster who sells wholesale beans to local retail stores and online.) Gone are the days of the modest one location store in a building where the owner and their family live on top.

Other retail startup options involve purchasing commercial real estate. Owning has its challenges but can control costs and act as collateral for loans. But this is a very different business than selling goods. Plus the upfront costs are enormous and interest expenses from loans can keep people and families chained to debt for their entire lives.

The food truck resurgence of 2008 in the United States has continued and grown. Many entrepreneurs see it as a start up ramp towards physical static building locations. Others work on and on in their panel vans.

Reinventing the food truck itself to be more affordable, energy efficient, and flexible can allow new generations of people to start retail businesses that serve their neighbors and feed their children. Especially beyond selling food.

This concept is a necessity for the future of the lower and middle class retail entrepreneur. Mega corporations like Amazon are radically changing commerce itself. The pandemic is forever changing the labor force and how we interact in person. Global wealth is changing banking which owns most commercial real estate. Some may believe their kind of growth is endless. But the chasam between the lower/middle class and the so-called upper class is not. There will be a fundamental breakdown of economics as we understand it if human labor and service is eliminated. Because the demand for scale and the future of human viruses is demanding automation on a new scale of AI powered machines. These smart robots will replace all retail positions at some point in the near future.

We must reinvent the simple entrepreneurial opportunity with simple physical sales for every woman, man, and child. 

Is this to be done with a new product that most can not afford? Or is it a method of using existing cheap used technology? Can the food truck be reinvented to accommodate ANY retail business idea?

5 Books to help you discover successful business models

When I was in the thick of it as an entrepreneur I was fortunate to learn about the customer development methodology pioneered by Steve Blank. One of the benefits of Coworking is being around a lot of smart people you can learn from. Fellow coworker Dante Cassanego told me about Steve Blank’s book The Four Steps to the Epiphany. Reading that book and learning about the new concepts of Lean Startup totally changed my perspectives on business. There really are clear paths to success. It’s not that they are any easier just more logical.

So last night I had a great conversation with a friend. I recommended using customer development ideas to create a business model hypothesis and to test it. I sent him part of this list of books. So I figured I should share it here for others and to augment my poor memory.

(The words in all caps are my short descriptions of what these books are. There are no affiliate links in this post.)

Thanks again Dante!

BIG PICTURE
The Lean Startup, Eric Ries

A PRACTICAL HOW-TO
Running Lean, Ash Maurya

ORIGIN STORY – “Customer Development methodology, [book] which launched the Lean Startup movement.”
The Four Steps to the Epiphany, Steve Blank

A VISUAL MANUAL
Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, by Alexander Osterwalder

LOOKS AMAZING haven’t read it …
The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company, Steve Blank

Yellow Cargo Bikes

When i was in Mexico last I saw these yellow tricycles everywhere. They where used for all kinds of street vending. I wondered what models they where. Just a bit of googling later and I discover the word Mercurio on a yellow frame. It looks like Mercurio sells the Triciclo de Carga.

Then I found the HUSKY MODEL T-370 CARGO TRICYCLE YELLOW. Looks pricey and tricky to ride without a ton of stuff in it.

Check out the flickr search results for the words cargo bike mexico. It shows how creative people are with these things.

Location, Location, Location

When I was doing my original business market research for CCC I discovered that place is very important. This is the case for most physical businesses with public space. (ex. retail) Experienced business people express this with the refrain, “Location, Location, Location”

As I got into the day to day of running a coworking space the assumption about where our space is located seemed to be validated. I believe that being close to where people live, shop, and play is essential. But can coworking spaces exist in other places?

This is why I created the following survey. If you work at a Coworking space I’d really appreciate it if you could take it. The results are located here. You can even download the data and use it how you want.

I feel its essential we have big numbers of survey participants to validate or disprove this assumption. Once we’ve made it over two hundred participants I’ll elaborate more on why I think this is important.

Thanks!

The Journey to Build a Coworking Space

More specifically its a journey to build a sustainable coworking space. By sustainable I mean it should financially support itself and its operator (me) plus employees. I’m doing the best I can to document this unique journey. Mostly on the biz blog at carrborocoworking.com.

So far I’ve recorded five videos. Hope to do more. You can watch them here carrborocoworking.com/category/topic/video

This one is the latest.

Green Business in Orange County

I’ve just added a few posts to this blog about Green Business. I’m espcially interested in seeing it grow in Orange County, North Carolina. (That includes Chapel Hill and Carrboro.) So you’ll see on the top right of this blog a link to all the posts in the Green Business category. I hope this becomes a resource for others.

I define Green Business as socially and environmentally sustainable economic activity. Wikipedia defines Sustainable Business as:

A business is sustainable if it has adapted its practices for the use of renewable resources and holds itself accountable for the environmental and human rights impacts of its activities. This includes businesses that operate in a socially responsible manner and protect the environment.

I’m really just learning about this and trying to fit my business into this mold as much as I can.

Create Green-Collar Jobs in Orange County

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of seeing Van Jones speak. He co-founded the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and is founder and president of Green For All. He spoke convincingly of a future of increased equality and how one of the roads to this future is green jobs. Green-collar jobs are employment in the environmental or agricultural sectors of the economy. [Source: Wikipedia] But they also include any work that will help transform our society into a more environmentally sustainable one.

One way our local government leaders could participate in this national movement is to sign the Green Jobs Pledge. Its goal is to "rebuild American competitiveness and environmental leadership by growing a green economy that fights global warming, pollution and poverty at the same time." Here are the five steps this pledge asks our leaders to agree to:

  1. Commit to Action
  2. Create a Green-collar Jobs Taskforce
  3. Identify Goals and Assess Opportunities
  4. Create a Local Action Plan
  5. Evaluate, Leverage and Grow

So far the the U.S. Conference of Mayors has agreed with Green For All that this pledge is good idea. Mayor Martin Chávez of Albuquerque, New Mexico and County Executive Ron Sims of King County, Washington have put there name on it. You can download the Green Jobs Pledge Packet here. [PDF]

Let’s discuss ways we can build a green economy from the ground up, and see if we can get our elected officials to take the pledge.

This post was first published on OrangePolitics.org.