Day 30: Is Cash Still King?

More and more small businesses are going cashless in London. Should we follow suit? Taking card in 2019 is non-negotiable – our secret is all in the flavour.⠀

Handling cash, counting and banking it all sounds like extra work. Only 20% of customers pay in cash and most are happy to pay on card if asked to. It’s another layer of complexity to managing your accounts and you run the risk of human error. ⠀

On the other hand customers like to have the choice, and holding a small float can be handy. We’re hardly going to tell a wide-eyed 9-year-old clutching a fiver, “sorry kid, we only take card.” That would be tragic. We’re about making dreams here, not breaking ‘em!⠀

We can change what we do but to start we’re “card only” with a sign that lets people know. But if in the small moments we can help then we will. So don’t worry, kiddo. We got ya!

Day 29: Suppliers

As you move towards the business end of opening the doors your shopping list can really start to grow. Though you may have accounted for all the obvious items, the devil’s in the detail, so they say.

One way to combat unexpected new costs is to invest time in finding better suppliers. Where you have to add £50 as a non-negotiable expense, chances are that you can steal £10 / £20 from other items to balance things out.

Anyone can improve the quality or efficiency of a product or service by spending more, or save on cost by sacrificing quality. Real innovation is finding a way to improve the quality while at the same time reducing cost. This is where great suppliers can help.

Day 28: Customer Journey

In order to finalise our plans for the shop we need to visualise our customer journey. This means putting ourselves in the mind of a customer to discover and experience our business, and then asking ourselves: How can we make this better?

The moment our customer passes through the entrance they’ll see an ice cream icon glowing down the alley. But as they come into full view of the shop they’ll see “FROZEN CUSTARD” broadcast overhead.

The natural next question for non-Americans to ask is: “What the f**k is that?” This is the moment we step in to help with a big light box that answers their question. The 10-second read will not only sell the product, but invite them to “Order this way ➡️”

They’ll look to the right to see a bright, clear menu with one simple decision to make: The Big Apple or Peanut & Honeycomb (TBC)? Both the same price, both the same size…

“Hello! 🤗 Which one do ya fancy?”

Day 27: Does Size Matter?

One conundrum we’ve had to consider is whether to offer multiple sizes – a kids size, for example, or the option to “go large”. By all accounts this is a simple enough question but there isn’t an obvious answer.

Yes // Lowers the cost to entry, attractive for parents with kids, great margins on the large size (and chance to upsell), true to American roots, large size would look better online.

No // Easier for customers to choose, simpler to handle orders, lower risk of someone over-eating (and having a bad time⛷), only one type of pot required, two regular sales > one large to share, no option for adults to downsize.

One guiding principle while you gather more data could be to err on the side of simplicity. For that reason we’re opting for the one-size-fits-all but you can bet your ass we’ll trial “Super Size” this summer 🚀✨

Day 26: Dream Machine (Part 2)

Getting picked up at 6.30am by a refrigeration engineer to travel down to Surrey and buy a custard machine from a bloke you met on Gumtree is not something you do every day. But it is an example of one of the strange adventures you happen upon by starting something new.

Andrew was from Glasgow and a first-rate engineer. His speciality was in catering equipment but he also enjoyed refurbing old vans. Andrew was the insurance policy to minimise our risk – his job was to inspect the machine before any money changed hands, give us the nod, and carry out a full service once bought.

Our man with a van then arrived, the suitably-named “Dave”, to transport us back to London. We squeezed the machine into the back of his van (fridges should travel upright) and wrapped / strapped her in place. The final destination was our friend’s bonkers ice cream kitchen – our temporary home to test and experiment until we open our doors in Lewisham.

Day 25: Site Visit

With trading location confirmed and an opening date set for 3rd May, we arranged to visit the #DessertShopOfDreams for a recce.

One of the remarkable things about Model Market is that it’s a repurposed 1950s Afro-Caribbean market that once the Lewisham community. You can still see the old shop headboards like “Superstyle Hair Studio” and “Shafiq’s Electronics” speaking to the history of the place.

The original shop front gave us loads of great lines and features to work with, including a service hatch on the right hand side that’s perfect for collection or a quick peak in. Internally we were able to get a feel for our layout and the customer journey from start to finish.

Armed with measurements, photographs and a feel for the space we could now start planning the refit. Look out for “after” shots in less than 4 weeks time.🌞

Day 24: Banking

You’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure. Whilst in one sense this stands against everything we hope to achieve, there’s also some truth to the matter.

Opening a dedicated business account is a bonafide no-brainer, especially in 2019. Imagine your bank statement if all personal and business transactions were mixed together. Now imagine that over the course of a year.

We opened a small business account with @tidebanking, an online platform aimed at people exactly like us. It has all the features of a traditional account with additional functions built in:

1. Attach receipts and invoices as you go
2. Automatically categorises all transactions
3. Generates invoices (see ya, Microsoft Word)
4. Multiple accounts (useful to set aside tax owed)

What this stuff really offers you is time, control and peace of mind. The last thing you need with a demanding child is to be worrying about money. So take the help where you can get it, especially if it’s free.

Day 23: Dream Machine (Part 1)

By far our most significant investment would be in our frozen custard machine. With the success of the business resting entirely on our ability to serve quality and consistent product, it was essential to get this step right.⁣⠀
Our mentors encouraged us to find a Taylor or Carpigiani – the best-known brands in the game. “Don’t take risks with your machine, just spend the money.” To get a brand new model would be £5-6k, outside of our budget, so we would need to track down a decent one second hand.⁣⠀
We found one on Gumtree that looked just the ticket – great pictures, reasonably priced (£2k) and little use. The issue was that it was being sold by an independent vendor (not a business) and it sounded too good to be true. To find out more, we sent through this list of questions:⁣⠀
1. What is the history of ownership?⁣⠀
2. Under what conditions has it been stored?⁣
3. Do you have experience using the machine?⁣⠀
4. Have you ever noticed any functionality issues?⁣⠀
5. Are there any visible signs of wear on any parts?⁣⠀
6. Could you send a video of the machine working?⁣⠀
7. Do you have a record of service?⁣⠀
8. If not, would you be willing to arrange a service?⁣⠀
9. If not, would you be willing to offer warranty?⁣⠀
One thing we were able to read into the answers was their willingness to engage and be helpful. Though it was still difficult to take the answers at face value, at least we got a sense of transparency.⁣⠀
Since the answers to questions 7, 8, 9 were negative, we had gained some room to negotiate. The lack of maintenance meant that we were taking on more risk, and we would immediately incur a cost to service. In the end they agreed to knock 20% off and we pencilled in a date for collection.

Day 22: Legal Stuff

Whilst we highly rate the idea of being dessert slingin’ banditos, it’s not about ending up in the clink. Here’s a few of the low-hanging hoops to jump through if you’re planning to get into the game.⠀

First you need to decide whether to set up as a Sole Trader or Limited Company, and take a few steps towards making that happen. The former is simpler and cheaper to set up, though you’ll be liable for anything that goes wrong. ⠀

Next on the list is insurance, for protection if you run into trouble. In our case we’ll need both public and employers liability, but it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. The sole trader / limited company question affects this, so call it before you call for a quote.⠀

Finally you need to make good with the council, who regulate food trading standards in the area. Send them a form and they’ll come by for a visit to make sure you’re fit to sell food. To pass the inspection you’ll need a food safety management system in place. Smash it, you’ll score 5/5.

Day 21: Trading Location

Once you’ve nailed down your vision and pitch, it’s time to find somewhere to trade. There has never been more opportunity in London but all options carry elements of risk.⁣⁣
Option A // Fixed-site operation⁣⁣ (hatch / kiosk / shop)
Pros: One-time set up, minimal logistics, storage, security, regular trading hours, easy to find, professional image, comfortable working environment, existing utilities⁣⁣.
Cons: Fixed rent liability, premiums, build costs, sole responsibility for marketing, limited manoeuvrability (if things don’t go well)⁣⁣.
Option B // Mobile stall (public markets and events)⁣⁣
Pros: Lower setup cost, no fixed rent liability (pay to trade), no premiums, 3rd party marketing, greater potential upside (with large events), flexible and agile.⁣⁣
Cons: logistics (time and cost), equipment storage, constantly setting up and packing down, fixed-fee events can be high risk (due to weather), cost for utilities (sink, electrics etc.)⁣.

With limited start-up capital, full-time jobs and little appetite for risk, neither of these options seemed attractive. ⁣⁣Fortunately there was a third way available that brought together the best of both of these worlds – London’s private night-time markets.⁣⁣
We sat down with the owners of @streetfeastldn and presented our vision and brand. Happy to say that they gave us the nod – see you at Model Market this summer.