The first challenging decision

I wanted to make sure I had covered as many areas of research as possible so that I could conclude (objectively) that this idea had potential. I created an online survey to get feedback, asking friends to send it around to colleagues so I could get an unbiased view. From previously working with super smart analysts, I know that for a meaningful analysis I am supposed to prioritise the things I want to know and cross reference them with the responses to find the biggest opportunity to intervene. I’ve done the best I can here but let’s just say I don’t think I’ll be employed for my analyst skills alone!! I do get a really positive reaction from people on the important questions though and it also makes me think about the detail of challenges I face, e.g. Keeping the omelettes warm enough in the winter so that people can take them back to the office and serving them in a way that people can eat them on the go. If anyone reading this did the survey, thanks for being so honest, it really, really helped.

I also felt I should be getting out on the streets to talk to my target market so I enlist the help of a friend who owns her own business, (Plug: SALT, Speech & Language therapy clinic) and is the furthest thing from shy! Our strategy is to pitch the survey so it took up only 10 seconds of people’s time with quick and easy to answer questions. We head out with our clipboards intact thinking we look quite the professionals. And we are literally burnt left right and center. People won’t even talk to us and it is full on rejection!! I can tick that one off the list because I won’t be doing that again! I’ll stick to online I think.

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I continue meeting whoever I can in the industry to see what they think about the idea. It turns out there are a lot of people who know someone they can put you in touch with. After meeting or talking to about ten people all from different areas of food, there’s not much more I can learn at this point. I have a good sense of the challenges they faced in the beginning and they all think the idea has merit and is worth pursuing so it’s time to move forward with it.

I need to find out more about the lunch time markets I’m launching myself into so I meet one of guys from ’00 pizza’ (savage pizzas by the way). He gives me a real dose of reality. He explains that the physical side of it is really underestimated and would be especially tough for a girl. He also tells me that you really only get a one hour 15 minute window to trade (I was thinking three). Costs are much more than you think too, he has a van plus insurance etc etc. I had been thinking of looking into a mobile unit as that would eliminate a lot of the physical side but it’s a big initial cost when you have no idea whether people will like your product. I think about the time you put into one day at the lunch time markets for what you get out of it. How many omelettes can you sell in one hour? Would this even cover the cost of rent, staff etc? Is this time well spent or would it be better somewhere else? He suggests looking into indoor markets as it’s coming into the winter and that would eliminate some of the physical side, i.e. putting up the gazebo and trying to stop the gazebo blowing away. I do that but unfortunately it doesn’t look like there are any that have high enough footfall, plus I’m cooking with gas and that’s an issue inside if there are no mains to connect to.

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He also suggests working in a full time job and doing the markets at the same time…uh oh, bit late for that! I could go and look for a new job but I really don’t know how I would do both, especially since I made the decision I was going to do this on my own. I am totally deflated about the whole thing and immediately start to question what I’m doing. I think it’s just hard because it hits you on such a personal level which is so different to dealing with challenges you face when you work for someone else. After about a day, I realise that this kind of thing is going to happen a lot and you have to find a way around the barriers, not crumble in front of them, otherwise you’ll never last. You just need to give yourself the time to digest the problem, get used to it, then find a solution.

I get back on it and start looking into gyms and events etc, alternative options where I can trade but I really feel I need a permanent fixture to at least get going. I eventually decide an all day market is the best option, obviously Dun Laoghaire or Marlay Park would be ideal but there are a few others out there to look into as well. I’m just going to have to suck it up and embrace the physicality, as well as the freezing Irish winter! I just need to be as minimalistic as possible with my equipment. Right, well at least that’s decided; sometimes that’s the hardest part. It doesn’t mean I can’t come back to lunch time markets in the future but for now I think I’m making the right call. Thanks to Karl and the 00 pizza guys, I probably would have gone a different way if it wasn’t for your advice.

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