How I Sold Sandwiches out of My Gold Mercedes
Back in 2002 I was still married with two little ones when we lived on St. Eustatius. I wasn’t working and things were pretty rough with bills piling up. If you’ve read any of my first two books Guide to Good Love or Caribbeanpreneur then you know those were emotionally rough times in my marriage and I also battled with depression.
We lived in a really nice house and had a fancy 1980 something gold Mercedes Benz. It drove like a dream but I was living in a nightmare. We didn’t have any money to pay the bills. I wanted to get off that island and go back to St. Maarten where my family was but didn’t have the finances to do so.
Desperation can make you fearless, at least temporarily.
Recently returning from the UK, I’d enjoyed all of the packaged sandwiches that I could get at university. It was in the back of my head that this could be a good business to try. When things continued to get strained at home, the sandwich idea came back to mind. I thought the medical students who studied a few streets over from my house, at the university campus would like food at their doorstep. It was a no-brainer really. Statia is very small and so nothing is really far away but I could save them the five minute walk to the closest restaurant and be parked right out front.
I conducted what we now call a market survey to find out what times they were on the compound and what types of things they would like to have. Their needs also needed to match by budget. I only had enough to purchase supplies for one day and over time it became more affordable to purchase in bulk.
The local supermarket offered freshly cut turkey and ham to my delight and you can do miracles with a few cans of tuna and mayonnaise. By 5am I was up and at the bakery to get my bread fresh and before my little ones had woken up, my sandwiches were ready to go.
My eldest was at nursery and the baby would just sit in the car and wait quietly as I served my customers. Babies are always a good way to draw potential customers 🙂
It was a surprise to me that I made money from doing this and enough to buy our tickets back to St. Maarten. I’d always told myself I don’t like to sell. I can’t sell. But you would be surprised what you are capable of doing if you put your mind to it and desperate for a solution.
Being willing to tweak what I was serving, adding things like packets of chips, juices along with bottled water and sodas brought me a steady stream of customers.
I eventually had to get a sanitary health permit to serve food. I was ignorant about this when I began. However, I could get it easily and was back in business by the next day. It is important to know the rules and policies of the country in which you want to do business. Even when it is only a side gig.
What I learned from that experience:
– You can take an idea from start to finish in five days or less.
– I could sell anything if I put my mind to it.
– Planning is critical to success.
– Bite the bullet and buy wholesale. It will be cheaper and you can make a greater profit.
– While you can start a business from an emergency don’t let your life be a series of emergencies. You won’t build a business or sustained income that way.
– I can make a mean tuna sandwich with all the trimmings.
Read Don’t Panic – Do Business for more inspiration and suggestions.