Mobile businesses—that is, companies on wheels—aren’t just for serving up tacos and Korean barbecue to lunchtime crowds anymore. They have become such a hot business model that many other types of entrepreneurs are trying to bring their products and services on the road.
Milo’s Kitchen Treat Truck, a mobile eatery for dogs serving chicken meatballs and grilled burger bits, is making its way across the United States and will start in San Francisco on Friday. Beyond selling dog treats, it will also have a photo booth in which people can take doggie selfies and a “Lapdog Lounge” for relaxing, according to the SFGate blog. The truck already has a Twitter page for fans and prospective customers to track its whereabouts.
Milo’s, of course, is still technically a food truck--albeit one for canine clientele. But with the American Mobile Retail Association (AMRA) estimating that it takes a mere $20,000 to $30,000 to get a mobile retail boutique going, many other types of businesses are trying it out:
- Last year CNBC told the story of Trevor and Colin Lyman and their CrackedMacScreen business. The brothers run their company from a Toyota Prius and Scion prominently displaying their business logos as they drive around Washington, D.C. The company’s website describes it as D.C.’s No. 1 Apple device screen repair company.
- Clothing has also gone mobile. One example from AMRA involves Jessie Goldenberg of New York's Nomad Boutique. Goldenberg curates the entire selection on board the Nomad truck, which travels around lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. She features “handmade jewelry by local NYC- and USA-based designers, along with a variety of fair trade accessories, and bohemian threads for casual urban fashionistas.”
- Flowers are on wheels, too. Jenifer Kaplan turned an aging Dodge ice cream truck into The Flower Truck, which travels Los Angeles-area streets selling a wide array of flowers, according to Entrepreneur. Kaplan uses Twitter to help her customers find the truck.
The National Federation of Independent Business thinks three things are making mobile businesses so attractive: the low overhead that comes with no rent or mortgage, the customer satisfaction that comes from bringing the business to them and the “virtually free marketing” that comes from the signage on the vehicles. Many stationary businesses, including restaurant owners, think mobile businesses have unfair advantages. They can travel to where the crowds are and open or close shop whenever they choose. This flexibility, however, is only likely to make them more popular.
However there are some downsides—most notably the maze of local municipal codes, licenses and fees that may be needed to keep the business legal, according to the Small Business Administration. (AMRA recommends startup mobile businesses hire a lawyer to ensure they’re following the rules of the road.)
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Photo: Courtesy Jenifer Kaplan