How to Start a Sustainably Sourced Coffee Truck Like Mo’ Joe A Go-Go | FTE Episode 039

matt drewMatt Drew’s story began not unlike other mobile food entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed in the past. Drew was employed as a marketer in a corporate setting and found himself less and less passionate about the work overtime. He had also daughter on the way and started to question the point of putting in 12 – 16 hours per day for someone else, and ultimately wondered what his legacy would be if he continued down this path. So Drew made the decision to change the trajectory of his life in a big way.

Growing up in the Pacific North West, Drew had a hard time finding a really good cup of specialty coffee in the Dallas area and started his education on how to bring a really great cup of coffee to Texas. Drew reached out to Coffee del Ray in nearby Plano, Texas, offering to work for free in exchange to learn the business model. In exchange, Drew would share some of his marketing / branding expertise with the organization. And so began Drew’s journey toward owning the Mo’ Joe A Go-Go coffee truck.

In this interview, you’ll learn how Drew created a one-of-a-kind brand for the Mo’ Joe A Go-Go coffee business. From sourcing of product to the equipment used on the truck everything is 100% unique. You’ll also get a glimpse into the day-to-day operations of a coffee truck (hint: very early hours) and the importance of establishing a unique brand with every element of the business.

business-kit

Quotes from the Show

 You want to be able to say, “We’re doing something that nobody else is doing. We’ve got something that nobody else has and this is the only place you’re going to be able to find it.” Because if you can’t say that there’s really nothing compelling to be able to talk about with your brand. – Matt Drew on the importance of branding for mobile food owners. 

My mornings typically start at about 3 a.m…. and that sucks. – Matt Drew on owning / operating a coffee truck. 

What You’ll Learn

  • An overview of what it takes to start a coffee truck
  • Why finding unique beans and coffees that are unique to your area can be an important branding component
  • The reasoning behind Drew’s focus on sustainably grown coffees and no GMO products to maintain brand consistency
  • Why fair trade is so important in the coffee industry.
  • An introduction to sourcing specialty coffee growers. Really interesting stuff.
  • How identifying these specialty growers and establishing relationships can give you a unique marketing advantage over other coffee shops in the area
  • Learn about the less consistent rush periods for a coffee truck versus a food truck.
  • The difficulty of establishing a local presence without a strong brand
  • Some of the equipment needed to start a coffee truck, including an espresso machine (in case you’re a coffee geek Drew uses a UNIC Stella Di Cafe) and drip coffee maker.
  • Why a low price point shouldn’t the the main reason for you selecting a piece of equipment for your truck.
  • The importance of being flexible when you launch a mobile food business. Don’t let it derail you. Don’t let it get you down.

Mentioned in the Episode

Mo’ Joe A Go-Go –  This is the official website of Drew’s coffee truck. Check out the calendar, story, and menu here.

Facebook – Like Mo’ Joe A Go-Go on Facebook.

UNIC Stella Di Cafe – The model of espresso machine used by Mo’ Joe A Go-Go.

Heifer International – An organization that fights hunger worldwide. This is one of the organizations that Mo’ Joe A Go-Go actively supports.

Coffee del Rey – This is where Drew got his education in the coffee business. Coffee del Rey is a for profit organization that supports a variety of charities. The concept of using of business funds to help support philanthropic organizations is something that appealed to Drew.

Ultimate Food Truck Case Study – Want to start your own food truck? Check out this case study to learn what the process is like.

Want to be featured on an upcoming episode of the podcast? Call our voice mail hotline at 206.309.4660 to ask a question or provide feedback.

  • Vincent LaVolpa

    I own and operate Green Joe Coffee Truck out of Albuquerque, NM. Similar story. Built the truck from ground up and am now making a decent living working part time hours. I’m super interested in helping anyone out there if they’re looking to make the jump. Its a tough jump, but the freedom is totally worth it.

    • Shane

      I’m a college student but my fiancé is graduating next fall in nursing. She has been wanting to do this for a long time. Any tips? We are from Montana.

      • Vincent LaVolpa

        Hey Shane,
        Lots of tips! Do you guys want to do festivals, set up everyday, both? Power is going to be a big concern. So knowing where you will be, will help make the decisions on how to power easier…

        • Shane

          I was thinking both

          • Vincent LaVolpa

            Cool. Well, I’m just going to take it from the top and you guys can decide which way to go. The game changer when it comes to power is the espresso machine. It’s a power hog. So, you’ll have to decide if its something you want to carry. I feel comfortable saying that everything else can be ran off of marine battery/inverters. But as soon as you add in the espresso, you’ll have to either go to a generator or propane heated espresso machine. If it helps with your decision, last month espresso drinks made up 2/3 of my beverages sold and the other nice part is that you’re adding milk, which is marked up as well. My average ticket price for an espresso drink is $5, my average ticket price for a coffee is $2.25.

            Powering the espresso machine can be done by propane or generator and you will have to search for an espresso machine that is specific to those power sources or you will have to convert it yourself. If you don’t have experience, I would suggest just getting one made for those needs.

            Generator:
            Pros: Generators can create a lot of power. Much more than propane. They allow you to hook other appliances into the generator. They are more fuel efficient than propane and generally the prices for gas are a bit cheaper.
            Cons: They are also noisy as hell and stinky. The exhaust has to be pointed away from your establishment. They are heavy to lug around. They require maintenance.

            Propane:
            Pros: Quite. Easy to lug around. Odorless.
            Cons: Carbon Monoxide threat. Less power, which means longer recovery time (recovery time is the length of time it requires for the water in your espresso to heat up again before you can pull another shot).

            Personally, if I were to do it over again, I’d probably go propane. Right now I have a electric espresso machine, which is awesome at how quickly it recovers. It never leaves me waiting, however, carrying that generator around is a pain and I’m thinking about franchising, so I just don’t see an employee doing it. But your situation might be different. The downside to propane is you will most likely lose sales due to a long line. But I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, because long lines are good advertisement and you’re going to have to lose a lot of sales before you can counter balance the cost of generator plus equipment.

          • Vincent LaVolpa

            You’ll have to pick between trailer or truck. There’s pros and cons to both. I have a blog post that covers the specifics on this, but to summarize:
            Trailers you pull behind your truck. Its nice because if you ever have engine failure, you can just rent a truck and still go to work. It sucks because you have to hook it up every morning.
            Trucks are awesome because they are just grab and go. But if you have any engine issues, you’re not making money until that’s taken care of.
            Tax wise, you can deduct the entire trailer, but you can only deduct 20% of the truck you pull it with.
            If you do a truck, it’s entirely deductible.

          • Vincent LaVolpa

            Estimated cost: If I did it over again and went the propane route, I could probably get it done for less than 10k (assuming I would get a good deal on the espresso machine and the truck as those are the 2 most expensive). But I would have to have a long conversation with my permit department to find out exactly what’s needed so I don’t “overbuild”. I was talking to a guy last week that put in stainless steel floors ($1,000) because he misunderstood the code. To put in perspective, my floors are a checkered vinyl tile and cost me $100 bucks at Home Depot. So, pay close attention to your code and if you are unsure, call the guy at the permitting office and ask. A 5 minute phone call can save a lot of money and headache.

          • Vincent LaVolpa

            Lastly, I wish you the best of luck. If you have any further questions, would you be so kind to email them to me? This way I can use the question to generate a blog post for my website….Most likely others will need to know the answer as well.

            It’s fun as hell. Running the coffee shop. We’re always experimenting. We make good money (profit reports are published on the website) and we take off time whenever we want. Not a bad gig to have. The initial investment is a bit costly, but it pays off in the end…

          • Brett@FoodTruckEmpire.com

            Hi Vincent – Thanks for adding the great tips. Here’s a past interview the covers the truck VS trailer question as well: https://foodtruckempire.com/podcast/truck-vs-cart/

          • Vincent LaVolpa

            Hey Brett,
            Thank you so much for this. This podcast looks amazing. You guys really found an expert. Someone who has been building these things for years. Wish I would have stumbled across this before I started mine!!!

          • Brett@FoodTruckEmpire.com

            Thanks Vincent! Really appreciate your comments.

          • Sara Shimel

            Hi Vincent, I checked out your website and I am totally inspired. I recently graduated with my bachelor’s and all the areas I am interested in are incredibly low paying and it’s really bumming me out. I’ve thought a lot about it, and it is really my dream to start up a small operation like this (5 – 7 years down the road when I am more comfortable paying off student loans, my car, etc.). I subscribed to your news letter and I would LOVE to check out your eBook.

            Thank you so much!

          • Vincent LaVolpa

            Hey Sara! Thank you sooo much! I just posted a blog especially for you on how to start a coffee truck with limited funds. I hope it helps. We’d love to get you on the streets. With the passion you have, you’d make an excellent coffee truck owner!!! Lets make this happen!!!

          • Braxton

            Hey Vincent I joined this site so I could pick your brain I am in desperate need of some advice with a coffee start up anyway we could chat through email?
            Thanks sir

          • Vincent LaVolpa
          • Vincent LaVolpa

            I also have a cost breakdown of all the supplies, equipment, floors, electric, plumbing on my website (www.GreenJoeCoffeeTruck.com). That can be real useful. Anything with an “*mistake” was something that I looked back on and could have done without.

    • Linsi Hastings

      I am an underground Business student and our project to starting a Mobile Coffee truck from the ground up. We do have actual backers as this is a real business start up for a student. my contact info is linsihstngs@yahoo.com. any info appreciated.

    • tiphani Lu

      Hey! I am currently in the process of researching things for a Coffee Truck/trailer and was wondering what kind of advice you could give me? Also, what kind of espresso machine do you think we should get? I tried to go to your website but I think it might be down for some reason, or my computer is being weird!

  • Crystal Lyon

    I am a barista and artist passionate about the craft. I would like to start an espresso truck and only have traditional espresso beverages, pour overs, and specialty teas. This would also be a traveling art gallery. I understand what I need to do in the coffee aspect of things, but not so much on how to get started and creating the sustainable business. Just have the vision!

  • Adan

    Here is a unique opportunity a rolling business with income already, I am selling my coffee truck I have being offer a coffee shop and Italian deli. I can not do both. see listing in ebay. http://www.ebay.com/itm/192067668155?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1558.l2649