We sat down with Trina Perez, owner of Buzzed Coffee Truck, about her business journey. Meet Trina in person at our Recipe for Success Kick Off.
DID YOU ALWAYS THINK YOU WOULD BECOME A BUSINESS OWNER?
It came about for two reasons. I moved to the Rose Park neighborhood 7 years ago, was working in the community and got fed up about not having any place to get a decent cup of coffee. I was also burnt out and unhappy in my current career and I didn’t see myself being able to do it for much longer. I always thought having a coffee shop would be so much fun, but I think everyone thinks that. I wanted to open a coffee shop in the Rose Park neighborhood, and started to explore that option and quickly realized there was not a chance. I did not have the capital and no one was going to give me the money to open a brick and mortar. I thought…I never have seen a coffee truck around Salt Lake, and the food truck scene is healthy and happy. So I bought a FedEx truck and did it.
YOU COMBINED A FOOD TRUCK WITH A CAFE, AND IT BECAME A MOBILE COFFEE SHOP. WERE THERE A LOT OF OBSTACLES YOU HAD TO GO THROUGH TO PUT THE TWO TOGETHER?
It’s still a learning process. I got a lot of help from other people who own food trucks in the community, and I reached out to a guy in New Mexico who owned a coffee trailer and got a lot of advice from him. He told me his mistakes and what he would and wouldn’t do. I think talking and getting advice from people who have done what you want to do is very insightful.
CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE COFFEE YOU IMPORT? IS IT FAIR TRADE?
Most people love coffee, and I don’t ever want to live in a world without coffee. We rely heavily on coffee farmers: if people aren’t wanting to grow the crop it will go away, and there are environmental factors affecting the growth of coffee as well. Coffee farmers are getting out of the profession to grow other crops where they make more money. The fair-trade agreement ensures that farmers can make a decent wage. We work with another farming organization called El Feminino. It’s a non profit that specifically focuses on empowering women farmers. We always have an El Feminino coffee on the truck and it is a way to empower women and make sure they too are getting a fair wage.
HAVE YOU HAD TO EXPERIMENT WITH THE COFFEE–ITS RATIOS AND METHODS–TO GET THE PERFECT CUP?
Oh yeah. It is really fascinating how many different things go into whatever cup of coffee you are drinking, and how many factors can affect your taste. You can have the same bean that is roasted by the same roaster, give it to different coffee shops and it will still taste different. The grind, the barista preparing it, the heat and temperature… everything affects the taste.
WHAT ARE YOUR DAY TO DAY RESPONSIBILITIES?
I have to do all the accounting, bookkeeping, stocking, booking events, scheduling events, and sometimes I’m on the truck making drinks and cashiering. I am fortunate enough now to have a few really awesome employees.
WHEN DID YOU START WORKING THE DOWNTOWN FARMER’S MARKET?
We didn’t get into the farmer’s market until June 2017. I’m so grateful to be a part of the farmer’s market, it has been a game changer for the business and they do so much for farmers and food-entrepreneurs.
HAVE YOU NOTICED A CHANGE IN COFFEE PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION OVER THE PAST THREE YEARS?
The specialty coffee industry is blowing up not only nationally, but along the Wasatch Front. We have lots of amazing micro-roasters popping up, and they are doing amazing things. It’s a very healthy community right now. There is a lot of camaraderie and it’s definitely friendly and doesn’t feel competitive. There are a couple of coffee trucks around and I have gotten drinks with them and commiserate about winter. There is plenty of business to go around and I think we all view it as a rising tide: it raises all ships and it will only be good for all of us.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE ANOTHER PERSON WHO WANTED TO START A MOBILE COFFEE BUSINESS?
I would recommend seeing if there is a food truck or coffee truck that would allow them to intern or work for a little bit because there is a lot of work behind the scenes they may not think of. We have to think about where our water is coming from and dumping the waste water, which is not a glamorous or fun job, but it has to be done… you can add that to my list of daily responsibilities. It’s hard work and takes a lot of time; ask yourself if you are willing to put 60 to 80 hours of work in a week.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE COFFEE DRINK?
In the summer, I love the nitro or cold brew. In the winter, I enjoy a black cup of coffee or, if I am wanting something sweet, our Mexican mocha is one of my favorites.
WHAT MAKES YOUR TRUCK DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER CAFE OR MOBILE TRUCK?
I think our customer service is great–we truly do love our customers and create relationships with them and get to know about their lives. Some of my customers from the beginning have become really good friends. We also make a few things from scratch like our vanilla syrup. Our Mexican mocha is so great, and is a special blend. You are not going to find anything out of a package. My hope is that you are going to have a good product and a good connection with whoever is working the truck.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE IN GOLDMAN SACHS | 10,000 SMALL BUSINESSES?
It wrapped up in November and it was amazing. I cannot think of anything negative to say. Except for that I miss my classmates and having that connection with them on a regular basis. I saw my sales in December of last year to this year significantly increase. That’s the advice I would give: there are so many resources out there, just go and learn.
When I first started, it was January of 2016. I was thinking of quitting my job and SCORE had a “Jumpstart Your Business” courses. That was the first thing I took, and in that class they told you about all these awesome resources. I used a SCORE mentor to get set up, attended the Women’s Entrepreneur Conference, met a lot of people and made a lot of connections before I even opened. I even have a mentor from SBDC.