Almost a year of developing the concept behind Caffea and getting approvals from various government agencies, the time had finally come to debut our coffee trailer to the public. I was happy to finally start testing the drinks I have spent so much time developing and my girlfriend was excited to sell her amazing granola.
Prepping for the Farmers Market
After receiving approval from San Mateo county only a day before the farmer’s market was supposed to take place, we had a small window of time to prepare everything.
My girlfriend still had to develop packaging, shop for the supplies, prep all of her food, bake the granola and make it look cute was a lot to ask in a short amount of time. It wasn’t easy. After realizing the packages only carried 5 ounces instead of 16 ounces which we had originally assumed, it made the price of the final product very high. It was too late to go back to the store and pick up so we just had to roll with it. For someone who is a perfectionist, it was not easy for her to put her name on something that didn’t come out as beautiful as she originally intended.
As for myself, I had a long checklist of 30 different things I needed to make sure were right before we opened the next day. This included preparing all the milks, roasting the coffee, finalizing the menu and putting the final touches on the trailer. Up until the early hours of the morning, I strangely never got tired. The excitement of finally opening and getting the certification process behind me was such a huge relief, there was nothing that was going to slow me down.
Crash and Burn
Personally, I find very little value in having expectations when doing something new. I find that people go into situations with incomplete knowledge of what their future experience should be and that leads to irrationally high expectations. I have found that this typically leads to disappointment and don’t know why I would to live a life being disappointed in myself.
Going into this event with an open mind was the best thing I could have done because the one thing that could have gone wrong, went wrong. As we were setting up, the generator wasn’t starting. I checked everything I could think of and almost threw out my back trying to yank the starter cord. Nothing was working. Without electricity to power the espresso machine, grinders, hot water tank or refrigerator we were unable to serve coffee.
All of the time we spent making the nut milks, roasting the coffee setting up the trailer was wasted. We just had to pivot as quickly as possible. Luckily we still had a lot of cold brew and bought some ice to keep it chilled. We also had the granola and were handing out free samples left and right.
Surprisingly it didn’t go as bad as I had thought. The weather was in the mid-eighties and people were more interested in the cold brew than any other drink we could have potentially served. If it wasn’t for the cold brew, we would have been a granola stand.
Even as I look back a week later, the only thing I can do is laugh. We were up all night prepping for that farmers market and 90% of it was wasted!
The main lesson I learned was to always have a backup plan in case your main energy source is not working. I will also need to tweak the menu for that specific market. The main demographic I created the drinks for were not present and I missed the mark. That’s okay though. I have a much better idea of what people will want and will make changes accordingly.
One thing that I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t previously anticipate is that people prefer ground coffee over whole beans. Upon further research, around 70% of coffee sales are whole ground and if our grinders were working, we would have sold out. I honestly should have known this but the good news is this a quick fix when we go back in the future.
In looking back on it, I have to admit that one of the proudest moments of that day had nothing to do with me. Having my girlfriend walk away happy that complete strangers gave her great feedback on the granola and most importantly, bought a lot of it, overcame any hardship the generator may have given me.
I talk about the details of what goes on behind the scenes because it is just as important to embrace the struggle as it is to embrace the good that is going to come out of this. In looking back, I am just as nostalgic for the hard times as I am for the good times.