How to Start a Mobile Coffee Truck with Different Start up Budgets...

Hey there Internet,

So recently I was talking with a gal who wanted to start a coffee truck but had concerns about start up budget. So, I wanted to put out a blog on how I would start my coffee truck if I had different budget options. I hope this helps anyone who is thinking about getting started but not sure about the financing. Remember, you can always re-invest your profits as you grow. I know a lot of us have "Perfection Paralysis" where we want something to be so perfect that we don't act. You have to remember that in enterprenaurship, nothing is going to be perfect. There is no perfect timing. You just have to jump. So, without further delay, here's some info to help your jump.

Start Up Items

(things you will need to buy to get yourself started, remember I have a blog for each of these showing how much I spent)

  • Appliances
  • Supplies
  • Permits
  • Truck/Trailer
  • Insurance
  • Advertising
  • Floorings, Counters, Walls
  • Paint job
Minimal Start Up Budget ($5,000- $10,000)

Appliances: I would start with just drip coffee or cold brew. You won’t have to spend money on the espresso machine, refrigerator, grinder or generator. This would save you about $3k. Also, because you are not using a large amount of electricity for these, you can get away with powering them off of marine batteries and inverters. This would also be something to consider solar with. Cold brew by itself is even cheaper, but I can tell you right now, it's not going to sell in the winter. So depending on your location, consider adding in drip coffee.

Supplies: I would have a 16 oz cup and lid only. That will keep your cup supply low. As you grow, you can expand. Also, you can use single serving creamers for now. Once you have enough extra income, you could reinvest into a fridge.

Trailer: Trailer is the cheaper route to go because you’re not buying an engine along with it. But you’ll need to tow it with something. With a small enough trailer, you can pull it with a 4 cylinder. Tow hitches are pretty easy to put on. I've seen cheap trailers on Craigslist for $1K. They need fixing up, but they would do the job.

Flooring: Linoleum for the floor or vinyl tiles. PVC panels for the walls. Search your local Craigslist for counters and shelving. Try to get free stuff. Put a "Wanted" ad up. Consider doing the same for the local paper.

Paint: Outside paint job is optional. I’ve seen some food trucks airbrush painted by local artist, so that’s always a cheap option. Contact some graffiti artist around town. You'll have to pay for the paint, but many of times these guys and gals are willing to paint for free or very low cost.

Advertising: When you sign up for Google Business they give you a free $100 for advertising. Same with Yelp. Social Media is free. Flyers are cheap to make and easy to hand out.

Average Start Up Budget ($10,000-$20,000)

Appliances: I would definitely get the espresso machine. Also, a nice blender will increase blended drink sales during the summer. I get a lot of blended drink request during the summer. At least 50% of my income comes from blended drinks during the summer. With these, you’ll need a way to refrigerate your milk.

Supplies: With these funds you can open up your menu to any size drinks you would like. A few suggestions, I originally bought creamer containers that were pretty large. They turned out to be a mistake. Hard to clean and too big. I now use smaller creamer container. Also, when I first bought my cups, I apparently got the wrong sized lids. They were both Solo. But when they came in, they didn’t fit. I had to resend for them.

Trailer: You’ll have to choose between a truck and trailer. Please see my blog on trailer vs. truck…

Paint: With these finances I would definitely get a nice paint job. This is what’s going to separate you from all the other Roach Coaches out there. My paint job cost me $1,200. I could have elected for a cheaper job. The cheapest I found was $800, however they’re online reviews stunk and I didn’t want a junky paint job. So, I elected for the nicer paint job. I don't regret it.

Advertising: If you have extra funds after, consider running a pre-opening marketing campaign. Depending on where you are going to be, you can run a Facebook Grand Opening Ad. Perhaps you can flyer the route you plan on starting. Billboards would be another great way to brand your name if you have the extra cash.

High Roller Start Up Budget ($20,000-Above)

Appliances: If I had extra cash when starting up, knowing what I know now, I would buy a inline water filter to my fresh water tank. Every morning I have to stop at a water filter station and fill up 5 gallon bottles to fill my fresh water tank. It’s a major pain in the butt. Having an inline water filter means I can attach any potable water hose to my unit and have amazing water. Remember, good coffee is in the water.

Ice maker: This would be another add on appliance that would rock. Ice is part of my daily pick up task and having an automatic ice maker would cut that out. Plus, in the summer, I’m limited to the amount of ice I purchased that morning. So, unless I run out to the store and get more ice, I’m stuck with what I purchased. An automatic ice machine would crush that problem.

Larger Fridge: I currently can hold 4 gallons of milk. It limits my sales to about 100 transactions before I have to run out and purchase more milk. Larger fridge would allow me to have more milk. Remember that 50% of your sales are from milk.

Trailer: If I could go back, I would definitely have a truck instead of a trailer. It’s way more easier to set up every morning. The nice thing about the trailer is its eye appeal, but I think there are ways to generate eye appeal with a truck. Of course, having a truck means that if there are any engine issues, you are out of business until it’s fixed.

Paint: Get a nice paint job. Something that stands out. I went cheap on the color of paint, but expensive on the coatings. Meaning, I spent more on the clear coat then I did on the paint itself. Also, I purchased decals and looking back I would have had my decals professionally done.

As always, if there is any questions, you can comment here or email me directly. I'm always happy to help!!!