Run Food Business Full Time

Believe it or not, many food truck owners get started part-time on the weekends while holding down a full-time job. There are a lot of benefits to taking this approach. First, most of the profitable events are held during the weekends so you won’t miss out on lucrative gigs. Second, it allows you to get started slowly and make mistakes without taking a big risk.

In the past few weeks, I’ve talked with a lot food entrepreneurs who are running their business on top of a full-time job. And I’ll be the first to say that it’s hard.

I did it for 7 years (4 of those I was a full-time college student). I took phone calls for Vermont Teddy Bear, did account management for a large web design company, and then online marketing for a small web agency. While I’m still a contract worker, I’m not full-time anymore.

But, full time jobs pay the bills.

They put a roof over your head, food on the table, and allow you to go to the doctor at low or no cost. They provide security for your family, a stable income, and somewhere to be at least 8 hours a day (even though you might not want to be there).

But, then you’ve also got your food company on the side. You work on it during nights and weekends. You take occasional calls on your lunch break.

It’s what you really want to do. But, it’s too small to provide for your family. You want to grow. To take your company to the next level, and ultimately work on it full-time.

So, how do you feel like you’re getting something done and growing your company?

I have a couple of tips that I used when I worked on my mustard company until 11pm (heck, I still do). It helped me stay focused and get stuff done after I’d get home from my full-time job.

1. Use being small to your advantage

Consumers don’t want to buy from huge brands anymore. Hershey bars are being replaced by small bean-to-bar operations. Sauces and condiments, like Heinz and French’s are being replaced with small condiment makers. Use being small to your advantage. Let customers know you work full-time, only produce 12 jars at a time and sell in three retailers. That makes your products that much more special.

2. Make your to-do list manageable

When I was working full-time, I drowned in my to-do list. I’d cross one thing off and add ten. It’d never get shorter. Until I cut down to three things each week. I picked three things to complete during my evenings. All of a sudden, I felt more accomplished, less stressed, and took any forward momentum I could get into the next week. And sometimes, it’d be 5 things. Those were great weeks.

3. Use family & friends

Surround yourself with creative, driven people and they’ll want to help you out every step of the way. My parents fill in for me at events, ship online orders, and act as a sounding board for when I just need to spew growth strategies at them for an hour. And my friends? They let me know when product is low at local stores and they find new retailers. Plus, they’re an awesome focus group for new flavors (the best part). Your family and friends want to help you. They want to see you succeed. Let them ask if there’s anything they can do because there’s likely a huge list.

4. Outsource small tasks

This tip blows some people’s minds sometimes. I outsource what I don’t have time to do. For example, I paid a woman in Colorado $50 to call all of my retailers to verify they still carried our products. I’ve outsourced website work, too. If only I could outsource washing the dishes! Use oDesk or eLance to find someone in America to help you for a reasonable hourly rate.

5. Know when to work and when to have fun

I struggled with this for years. When you work full-time and run a business, you have two full-time jobs. I never shut my mind off. It wasn’t until about two years ago I started to realize I needed to have more fun. I picked one night a week where I didn’t do any “food business work”. Whether that meant I did some writing, read a book, had dinner with friends, it was something to take my mind off my schedule. Bottom line: have fun. Don’t run yourself into the ground. I’ve been there. It’s not pretty.

What tips do you have for working full-time and running a food business on the side? Is it tough for you to do, too? Let me know by leaving a comment below.