I do that a lot.
It’s time to accept that 2018 is almost over, and that pretty soon it’s going to be two darn Christmassy to do anything round here but drink mulled wine and try to stop the kiddies pulling the Christmas tree over. But exciting developments have taken place, and the business has grown in an unexpected way.
Talking about street food is one of my great pleasures in life. I get all full of smiles and caught up in telling people how much this lifestyle is good and wholesome and full of variety. There are still moments when we walk past Queensway Court, site of our brief and ultimately doomed foray into restaurant ownership, when Barny and I reminisce about how much we enjoyed leaving that place, and how nice it is not to be working there any more and be back in our wonderful food vans.
Then there are the customers who come up to the van for a chat and a toastie because they have this great idea to sell omlettes or hash browns or burgers or pizza or [unnamed secret project] or pulled pork or have a horse box and do prosecco at weddings. They’re great to talk to as well as long as they don’t time it for the middle of lunch. So much enthusiasm.
What’s even more exciting is to turn this prodigious quantity of talking into something that could actually bring in money as well. A month or so back I was contacted by the Welsh Rural Development Agency, who are working on actively building the street food scene in North East Wales. They were holding a series of workshops, including one about starting a street food business, and invited me to lead it. And they were offering actual money in exchange.
Always up for exchanging talking for money I put together a presentation and made Barny sit through a couple of trial runs. He gave me lots of feedback and corrected some of the technical errors (like when events happened in different years) and eventually I had something we both agreed was factual and hopefully interesting. I haven’t done public speaking since university, and even then it was as a drama student, doing arty exaggerated movement and staccato monologues to an audience of hungover peers.
I didn’t have children back then either. So the prospect of a two hour drive to Wales would not have been exciting. These days that’s two hours of car time during which I do not have to listen to kids’ music or entertain people on the back seat. A whole evening of leaving Barny to do bedtime.
The journey was excellent. The M54 is a wonderful motorway and Wales is ever so pleasant to drive through outside rush hour. The venue was a converted chapel and the organisers were lovely. Everyone was keen and attentive. I waffled for the designated first half, sharing our journey from concept to present day, and then served toasties. People asked interesting questions, all of which I have forgotten, and then we tackled the second half, with the actual way to start a street food business.
It felt satisfying to talk about a subject that I’m so familiar with, and to hopefully help others start out. The groups there (currently still) have European funding to set up collectives and events, and the councils are actively trying to encourage these activities so things are looking very promising.
If you are in North East Wales and thinking about starting out, these are the folks to talk to. If you are anywhere else in the country and would be interested in a street food workshop then get in touch with your local chamber of commerce and see what they can offer or search your council website and see if they provide assistance for startups. I’m going to try and give more talks to more people about how awesome street food is, so watch this space. If there are any that you can get involved with, I will let you know.