How we started a successful street food pop-up with just £1,000
Miranda Roberts and Stefan Buschbeck started mobile seafood stall Shrimpy back in 2013 and their lean start-up approach has paid off...
Names: Miranda Roberts and Stefan Buschbeck
Started in: 2013
Company description: We’ve been trading across London’s markets for four years. Our aim is to make amazing seafood accessible to everyone, for people to have a platform to try out different seafood in a very casual way all without breaking the bank.
Describe your start-up barrier:
We had very little money to begin the business with. We had just £1,000 in savings, which made us streamline the business and buy only what was really necessary.
What were the practical steps you took to start a business on a tight budget?
We bought cheap, small equipment at the start. Then, once we had an idea of what we actually needed, we spoke to other traders to get more advice before investing the money we made into that equipment.
It’s very important at the beginning to live within your means as a business. You may have big dreams, but we’ve seen others come in and spend a lot of money on loads of equipment, half of which they end up never using – it’s just money down the drain.
If you start small you get a much better idea of what you actually need and where to get the best deal.
The same goes with new sites and staff – only do what you can afford. Do the maths, see if it’s feasible. We learnt what was and what wasn’t through experience and sharing experiences with other traders.
Once you’ve made one bad investment in an area where the rent is too high, you learn pretty quickly what to look for in a site: where is it, what are the costs that make the rent high, how many staff will you need to be there, what are the times you can trade there, have they done it before, how are they marketing it, who are the other traders there, etc.
It may be worth considering seeing if you can get a Start Up Loan (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) to help you with financing, and mentoring to start this business idea. You'll also need to think about registering your business, either as a sole trader or as a company - if a company, then Smarta Formations (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) are an organisation that can help you set up.
The list goes on, but it shows how many different factors go into finding good trade in a location.
Having a good idea of your numbers is important too. We used accounting software FreeAgent, which clearly showed us where we were overspending and helped us become profitable week by week.
What was the outcome?
Three years later we have carried on with this format with every investment we do.
Whether it’s equipment, new market sites or new suppliers we take our time and do it methodically, ensuring that we’re providing the best service we can whilst still running a healthy business.
What three questions should cash-strapped entrepreneurs consider when investing in sites, equipment and staff?
- After all your business costs, have you got the money to spare?
- How much do you need it, whether its a new location, new equipment or a new hire?
- How much longer can you go without having a new site, equipment or extra staff?
What one piece of advice do you think entrepreneurs should take on board?
Live within your means as a business. You’re not a hero by taking on more debt or higher rents than you can afford.
Is there anything you would do differently?
At the beginning we said yes to too many things, which resulted in being at markets where the rent was far too high for what it was.
You learn from experience.