One of the things about not knowing what you’re doing in a brand new industry is that you keep changing your mind on things, especially the order in which things need to be done. I’ll do this first, it will allow me to do that, no, that needs to be done before I can do the first thing etc etc. There is little advice out there to help with the step by step setup and I found it quite difficult to prioritise as different people tell you different things.
A location had always been first on my list. Find a location, then you can do the operational side of it. Makes sense right? Wrong. I made the mistake of not looking at the detail in the market applications which state they require you to be HSE registered before submitting an application. When I first spoke to the HSE they told me I needed to have everything set up and ready to go (and I mean everything from the type of surface sanitiser to the exact amounts of water to have on site), they would then come out and inspect the stall prior to trading and register the business. So now I had to shift my priorities and start the actual set up of the stall, so that I could get registered, so that I could put in market applications, find a location and actually start trading!! By the time I did all that it would be months, and you don’t just submit an application and get in, it can take a long time, if at all. The time lines for actually selling my product seemed very far away and it was a pretty bleak feeling.
In America, I’m pretty sure you can just apply for a licence to trade on the street and off you go. It’s near impossible to do that here. There are only five places in Dublin that are available to trade on the street and a lot of people try to get licences and fail. It’s no wonder more people don’t try to set up businesses, they make it incredibly difficult for us to start. Okay rant over.
I was also looking into possible funding and support at this stage. I was in touch with the local enterprise office in Dublin city centre who told me that they didn’t give funding to any food businesses unless they were developing products as there was too many of them. They suggested I look into mentoring and directed me to the website but I spent about half an hour trying to find the info without success. There are some supports but mentoring is pretty much the only one that’s free. I had heard of a couple of other schemes – one with the revenue and another with the social welfare where you have to submit a business plan. Again, I couldn’t find anywhere official to get advice on what the best option for me was as they are all different agencies.
Writing a business plan had been on my list for a while and if I needed it to get possible funding, I’d better get going on it. I was eager to at least start trading before deciding where I’d be in five years but I also knew it was important for the direction of the business. I looked at Enterprise Ireland and a few other templates but happen to come across an American guy called ‘Dave Lavinsky’ from a company called Grow Think. He’s got a pretty impressive bio – he’s a successful entrepreneur, writes for Forbes and his tips for writing a business plan have been recommended by the New York Times, Forbes, Wall Street Journal etc. He presents these tips in a video with animations showing you what’s important to include and makes it look so easy. I am hooked. I not normally one for American enthusiasm but it’s compelling to watch…
After about 15 minutes you’ve heard half of it and it’s so good you really need to hear the rest…..then, BOOM. He presents you with an offer you can’t refuse – just pay €80 for his template and all you have to do is fill in the blanks!! He gives you all the financial spreadsheets you’ll ever need with this ‘fantastic offer which only takes four hours to fill out’. I’m not a sucker and have never been influenced by this hard core kind of sales so I can’t believe it when I am actually considering this. He’s got hundreds of companies investments with this business plan. I’ve hit pay and entered my credit card details before I really know what’s happening. When I fill Spencer in, he just shakes his head laughs. After having some time to think about what I’ve done, I’m ashamed. I’ve spent €80 that I don’t have but convince myself it’s a good investment. In the back of my head I start thinking I can sell it to someone starting up when I’m finished which is just ridiculous and definitely will not happen!! The next day I miss a call from a weird number and listen to my voicemail….have a guess who’s on the other end of the line, none other than Dave Lavinsky himself. He’s congratulating me on purchasing the business plan and trying to sell me about a million other things which just enhances my mortification! Only in America.
I’ll fill in the plan in the next few weeks but I still think my priority is to get registered as a food business. So, I begin the setup of the stall…